Many people first learned about Dennis Lehane through the film version of his book Mystic River, but Lehane was always focused on being an author, especially during his days studying creative writing at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. He'll speak at his alma mater's commencement this month and will also be guest of honor at the Friends of the Selby Public Library's Spring Book and Author Luncheon May 24 (call 365-5228 for ticket info).
Q. How did you make the leap from student to published author?
A. My professor at Eckerd, after I had graduated, read my first book and said he thought it was good enough to get an agent. I rewrote the book a few times, six months later an agent called, and two years later it [A Drink Before the War] was accepted.
Q. You set your stories in Boston, and you always come back to live there.
A. It's so small, so dense, you can cross such a wide variety of social and ethnic strata in a small area. The world I grew up in-this sort of Northern European blue-collar neighborhood-is unique, and it's vanishing. Whenever I would leave that, I became more aware of how rare it is. I'll always have a place here. I need it. I'm a Bostonian through and through.
Q. You visit some pretty dark places in your books.
A. I always say to students, that's the job, and it's so much easier than selling shoes or what most people have to do. We're getting paid to play. When you're writing about something dark, something painful, you owe it to your audience to go as deep as you can. Parts of Mystic River were excruciating to write. So sometimes you do step back, go dead creatively for a couple of weeks, and wait for the battery to recharge.
Q. I know some of the authors who've influenced you, like Elmore Leonard. Who do you read today?
A. When I'm writing I don't read fiction; instead I recently finished reading a nonfiction book about the plague. Lately I've been reading everything by J.M. Coetzee and Cormac McCarthy. As far as influences on me, Leonard definitely, but also Richard Price, William Kennedy, Hubert Selby-urban novelists. I don't read mysteries as such, but I do read the crime stories of George Pelecanos and Michael Connelly.
Q. What did you think of the film Mystic River?
A. I thought it was wonderful. The performances were great, the direction wonderful, and the adaptation extraordinary. I couldn't have done it.
Q. Any future films based on your books coming up?
A. Two in different stages of development, but I don't believe a thing until the cameras roll.
Q. What are you writing now?
A. A historical novel set in 1919 during the Boston police strikes. It was a very explosive time in so many ways, from the end of World War I to 1921.
Q. Some would say that's the story today as well.
A. Absolutely. A book isn't about the time it's set in but the time you live in.
Q. What do you do to relax?
A. I'm not very good at that. Writing is my hobby, and it became my life.
A Practiced Portrait
Good portraiture does more than capture the likeness of the sitter; it allows the viewer to engage with the personality of the subject. That's evident in the portraits Truman Adams has been painting of his daughter, Aurora, since she was very young. His work has an elegance associated with John Singer Sargent and the relaxed formality of Joshua Reynolds and John Singleton Copley. And he also has a simplicity that deceives us into not recognizing immediately the complex structure of the composition.
In Aurora at the Beach, brush strokes of oil paint in shades of honey to rich brown suggest the young girl's water-soaked hair. Her pale pink suit contrasts subtly with her sun-toned skin, dusted with crystals of sand. Her gesture is relaxed, not stiff or posed. Adams applies the paint to the canvas with a confidence that assures us he knows how to paint the figure. His work can be seen at his Towles Court studio, 1810A Morrill St., or at Trumanadams.com.-Mark Ormond
Manatee Community College Fine Art Gallery. The annual art student exhibition continues at the Bradenton campus through May 2. Information: 752-5690.
Galleria Silecchia. The landscape paintings of William Berra continue on view through May 5. Opening May 6 to run through June 2: an exhibition of hand-painted glass chandeliers by Ulla Darni. Information: 365-7414.
Selby Gallery. The Best of Ringling: Annual Ringling School of Art and Design Student Competition closes May 6. Opening with a reception at 5 p.m. May 13 is a community exhibition presenting works by the Suncoast Watercolor Society, along with a show of the work of Ringling alum Judy Axe. Through June 3. Information: 359-7563.
The Gallery in Towles Court. New York as a Three-Dimensional Experience: Photographic Constructions by Giovanni Lunardi continues through May 10. Information: 308-1986.
Gallery of Colleen Cassidy-Berns. A "Painted Lady" furniture exhibition continues through May 31 at this space along South Tamiami. Information: 924-1200.
Longboat Key Center for the Arts. On view through Sept. 25: the Spring Fling exhibition in the Durante Gallery; while the Volunteer Exhibition remains through Oct. 30 in the Glen Gallery. Information: 383-2345.
Salvador Dali Museum. Continuing through May, Traces, a video installation by Catalan artist Jordi Colomer. Also on view, throughout October: Dali Revealed: Land, Myth, Perception and God. Information: (727) 823-3767.
Ringling Museum of Art. Duane Hanson: Portraits from the Heartland continues through July 31 in the West Galleries, focusing on Hanson's life-size sculptures. Information: 359-5700.
Palm Avenue Gallery. Sculptures by Peter Swedenborg are on view May 1-31 here. Information: 953-5757.
Apple & Carpenter Galleries. On view at the Palm Avenue space May 2-June 30: Age of Elegance, American and European paintings from 1850 to 1950. Information: 951-2314.
Art Center Sarasota. A Florida Photo Show occupies the Main Gallery May 10-June 11 (reception at 5 p.m. May 12), with the Petticoat Painters exhibiting in the Front Gallery. Also scheduled is a lecture on "Combining Digital Techniques with an Organic Aesthetic" at 4:30 p.m. May 15. Information: 365-2032.
Alexander, Who Is Not.Going to Move. An adaptation of Judith Viorst's story that features young Alexander in an uproar about moving to a new city. At 10:30 a.m. May 7 at Van Wezel. Information: 953-3368.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales, brought to life through May 8 at Venice Little Theatre, in a Theatre for Young People production. Information: 488-1115.
McCurdy's Comedy Theatre. The club presents Rich Vos (the "Everyman's Everyman") May 1, Kevin King May 4-8, Sean Morey, May 13-15, Tony Rock, May 20-22, and Reno Collier, May 25-29. Information: 925-FUNY.
South Florida Museum. Shells: Gems of the Sea ends its run May 8 at the Bradenton museum. Information: 746-4131, ext. 37.
Corvettes on the Circle. The third largest classic 'Vette show in the state, featuring more than 200 of the automotive beauties dating from 1953 to the present. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 7 on St. Armands Circle. Information: 388-1554.
Sarasota Pet Expo. Sarasota's first consumer pet show includes products, services, seminars and entertainment, including a fashion show and presentations on pet parenting and dog jobs. Woof! From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 21 and 22 at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center. Information: (813) 966-5505.
Efest 2005. An event dedicated to demonstrating ideas and technologies that promote earth stewardship. There'll be music, a Kid-e-Zone, more than 100 exhibitors of innovative products and services, and talks from speakers including CEO of Audubon International Ron Dodson and restaurateur Judy Wicks. Efest begins at 7 p.m. May 27 and continues all day May 28, at the Van Wezel. For more info call 861-5652; for tickets to the opening night talk and reception, call 953-3368.
Selby Gardens Outdoor Sunday Afternoon Garden Music Series. Three concerts in the series this month: Brazilian and jazz classics from Thomas Carabasi Samba Jazz Quartet, May 1; blues and jazz standards from The Venturas, May 8; and Dixieland from Len Wyatt's Uptown Dixieland Band, May 15. For times and other info, call 366-5731, ext. 4.
MCC Jazz Ensemble. In concert at 8 p.m. May 3 at Neel Performing Arts Center. For more information call 752-5690.
Courtyard Concert/Cocktails at Cà d'Zan. Two Ringling Museum musical events, the first set for May 5, the second for 6 to 9 p.m. May 19. For more info call 359-5700 or 358-3180.
Sarasota Youth Opera. This year's production, Benjamin Britten's The Little Sweep, follows a boy named Sam who's indentured to two cruel chimney sweeps-and the method of his escape from their clutches. Performances are at 5 p.m. May 14 and 1:30 p.m. May 15 at the Sarasota Opera House. Information: 366-8450, ext. 1.
Festival Latino. Dance the beat, feel the heat of Latin music, at 7:30 p.m. May 5 and 6 at the Players Theatre. Information: 365-2494.
Florida String Quartet. The quartet presents Music of the Americas, including works by Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos and Ginastera, at 4 p.m. May 8 at Holley Hall. Information: 953-3434.
Artist Series of Sarasota. Soprano Emily Martin and baritone Jeff Morrissey are "Looking for Love" in concert at 7:30 p.m. May 10 at Holley Hall. Information: 388-1188.
Florida West Coast Symphony Spring Fest. The orchestra's ensembles take turns providing springlike music, with pieces by Previn, Dvorak, Britten and Ravel on the bill. At 7:30 p.m. May 13 at Holley Hall. Information: 953-3434.
Patriotic Pops. Florida West Coast Symphony artistic director Leif Bjaland leads his musicians in a tribute to Armed Forces Day and the music of American independence celebrations. At 8 p.m. May 21 at the Van Wezel. Information: 953-4252 or 953-3368.
Smooth Jazz on St. Armands: Fourth Friday with Style. Music on St. Armands Circle, from 6 to 9 p.m. May 27. Information: 388-1554.
Sarasota Music Festival. The 41st annual begins May 30 and runs through June 18, with festival concerts, artist showcases, free student concerts and more. Venues include the Sarasota Opera House and Holley Hall; more details to come in the June issue. Information: 953-3434.
Sarasota Ski-A-Rees. A free water skiing show on City Island May 1; call 388-1666.
Make-A-Wish Tennis Tournament. Set for May 1 at Bath & Racquet to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation; call 926-9474 for more information.
Physicians' Golf Tournament. To benefit the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation's Physicians Endowment (offering education opportunities for SMH staff), this tourney takes place May 6 at Misty Creek Country Club. For full details call 917-1286.
Pat Lonsdale Invitational Golf Tournament. The Humane Society of Sarasota County is the beneficiary of proceeds from this event, which includes two parties and an 18-hole tourney, May 6 and 7 at the Longboat Key Club. For more information call 955-4131, ext. 101.
Sports Legend Weekend. DVA Sports and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast present 100 years of "Little Moments, Big Magic" with a reception and dinner featuring NFL'er Lynn Swann (May 20 at Michael's on East) and a celebrity golf tournament (May 21 at Laurel Oak Country Club), where amateurs can swing with guys from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. For ticket info, call 331-4376 or 488-4009.
Friends of the Selby Library Spring Book and Author Luncheon. Writer Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island) is the guest speaker at this luncheon, which includes a book signing. Starting at 11:30 a.m. May 24 at Michael's on East; tickets are $35 for members, $50 for non-members. Information: 861-1140 or 365-5228.
The Front Page. The classic Hecht-MacArthur play wraps up May 3 at the Asolo. Information: 351-8000.
The Smell of the Kill. This comedy about three desperate housewives hatching a murderous plot ends its Asolo run on May 5. Information: 351-8000.
A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare's romantic romp continues through May 8 at the Asolo. Information: 351-8000.
Cats. The long-running megahit comes creeping into the Golden Apple on little cat feet, through May 8. Information: 366-5454.
The Exonerated. True stories of innocent people wrongly condemned to death, running through May 19 at Florida Studio Theatre's Stage III, Gompertz Theatre. Information: 366-9000.
Three Friends, Two Guitars and a Broken Tambourine. A folk music revue, running through May 28 at FST's Goldstein Cabaret. Information: 366-9000.
Runaway Beauty Queen. Singer-actress Rhonda Coullet in the story of her life-more or less-running through June 4 on FST's mainstage. Information: 366-9000.
Disney's On the Record. A new musical showcasing more than 50 songs from hit Disney films and stage shows, running May 3-8 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Information: (800) 955-1045.
Drinking Alone. A comedy-drama by Norman Foster about-what else?-a dysfunctional family. Onstage at the Lemon Bay Playhouse in Englewood May 4-22. Information: 475-6756.
Always.Patsy Cline. The legendary country singer meets a fan, and a friendship is formed in this sentimental two-hander, running May 5-22 at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre. Information: 748-5875.
Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie. David S. Howard is Morrie, David Breitbarth is Mitch in this adaptation of Albom's popular book, onstage May 6-29 in the Asolo's Cook Theatre. Information: 351-8000.
Les Misérables. Victor Hugo's sweeping masterpiece of crime, punishment, love and revolution, onstage May 10-15 at the Van Wezel. Information: 953-3368.
To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee's classic about a Southern town roiled by racial prejudice during a criminal trial, onstage May 10-28 at Venice Little Theatre, in a collaborative production with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Information: 488-1115.
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery. A comedy mystery, onstage at the Island Players May 12-22. Information: 778-5755.
Larry Alexander and Friends. A cabaret show at Venice Little Theatre's Stage II, running for selected dates May 13-June 5. For more details call 488-1115.
Menopause The Musical. The Asolo tackles this once taboo subject in a musical comedy fashion, May 14-June 12. Information: 351-8000.
Florida Studio Theatre New Play Festival. Play titles were yet to be announced, but you can count on seeing new works May 14, 21 and 28 at the theater. For complete info, call 366-9000.
One Mo' Time. A musical revue featuring such hits as "Kitchen Man," "After You've Gone" and "Muddy Water," onstage May 26-June 4 in a Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe production at the Gompertz Theatre. Information: 363-9300.
Proof. David Auburn's drama presents a young woman dealing with possible madness and the memory of her genius father, May 27-July 3 at American Stage in St. Petersburg. Information: (727) 823-PLAY.
Footloose. The stage version of the movie about a repressed town transformed by the joy of dance, onstage May 31 through July 24 at the Golden Apple. Information: 366-5454.