Remembering a happy time one year ago. It took place at that little oasis of culture in Carson City—Morley’s Books on Curry Street. Michael sold, and I signed, many, many copies of my latest book, Wicked Virginia City. Sadly, this was the last event that Michael Morley (1955-2021) hosted. He and his wonderful store are sorely missed. Rest in Peace, my friend and fellow bibliophile.
And a good time was had by all. Last Friday I gave a talk in a private home (Lake Shore House) in Glenbrook, Lake Tahoe. Here’s the flyer from that event, as well as an archival photo of the house.
I went to the South Lake Tahoe Public Library last night to hear local author Todd Borg discuss his latest book. One thing I love about his books–and Tahoe Jade is #19 in the series–is the setting. Fiction writers pay attention to other elements of the craft, like character, plot, dialogue, etc., but for me Borg’s mysteries are special because they are all set in the spectacular Lake Tahoe Basin.
The Historic Reno Preservation Society recently asked me to record a lecture on “Lake Tahoe’s Rustic Architecture” for their Neighborhood Stories series 2021. It’s a PowerPoint presentation with voice-over that aired on July 24th. Hope you like it.
This past Tuesday I gave a talk on Wicked Virginia City as part of the Tahoe History Talks on the Beach series sponsored by the Lake Tahoe Historical Society. The venue for this speaker series is Lakeview Commons, and who needs a PowerPoint presentation when you’ve got beautiful Lake Tahoe as backdrop!
Last week I went to historic Valhalla on beautiful Lake Tahoe for a gathering of the Tahoe Writers Works. We celebrated being fully vaccinated (I have been since Feb. 27th) by having a nice picnic on the beach and attending an Improv performance in the Boathouse Theatre. A good time was had by all!
With the sudden popularity of the Netflix movie “The Queen’s Gambit,” based on the 1983 Walter Tevis novel, I thought I’d share this piece I wrote called “The Reno Chess Club.” It was published in the Delmarva Review Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 32-33 (2007) and describes an experience I had 30 years ago.
The Reno Chess Club
With its world class casinos and proximity to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra, the city of Reno has a well-deserved reputation as an entertainment and recreational destination. Ask anyone about Reno and they’ll tell you that the place is also known for airplane races, hot air balloon ascents, chili cook-offs, bowling tournaments, wedding chapels, classic car shows, and big-time rodeos. Surprisingly, this city of quick money and quick marriages is also home to the slow and cerebral game of chess.
Soon after moving to Nevada [in 1991], I read in the Reno newspaper about an upcoming chess tournament [the Western States Open]. This was no ordinary tournament where a local club sets up rows of boards on the long tables of a school cafeteria. Instead, the venue was the elegant salon of one of Reno’s biggest casinos. What’s more, the ad said that this was a nationally ranked tournament and some of the country’s best players—chess masters and grandmasters—were expected. I hadn’t thought abut this game in years; probably not since the sensational 1972 Fischer-Spassky world championship match, so I decided I’d go just to watch.
The scene was surreal, for a casino that is. Absent were the blinking lights, the tinny staccato of paying slots, the echoed call of “Keno,” and the crowds. The large room was well lit and nearly silent, and with the tournament already underway when I arrived, there was little motion. Spectators like myself looked on from the sidelines as players, many with head in hands, focused their gaze on the opposing armies before them. At each board, minutes would go by until one player made a move, hit the button on a small dual-faced clock that kept track of elapsed time, and then recorded the move in chess notation on a small spiral-bound tablet.
The elite grandmasters played in a special cordoned-off section at one end of the room. These were the stars of the show, and their games were displayed, move by move, on a large vertical board behind each pair of players. I noticed the person next to me had a compact chess set that he used to follow the game of his favorite grandmaster. Everyone stood in silence out of respect because chess is a game of concentration. Those who wanted to discuss games in progress left the room, and, even then, spoke in whispers. Chess is a wonderful spectator sport, but the fans are of a different sort; their enthusiasm is expressed in hushed tones.
That Reno chess tournament rekindled my interest in the game. I was pretty good once. In fact, I held the titled of middle school champion and still have the plaque that Mr. Ginsburg, our gym teacher, made for me. I joined the Reno Chess Club confident that I would soon emerge as its top player, but after a few games I knew the strength of my opposition; I was not the one uttering that potent word “checkmate!” The club president consoled me with one of his favorite sayings: “Win a game, give a lesson: Lose a game, get a lesson.” I got plenty of lessons at the Reno Chess Club!
Last Friday, Oct. 16th, was my Book Launch for Wicked Virginia City, and it was only fitting that it took place in Virginia City, Nevada. More specifically, at the Canvas Cafe, an artsy-with-Western-vibe eatery on historic C Street. Here’s the author posing on the sunny east-facing front porch. A good time was had by all (mindful, of course, that we’re in the midst of a pandemic).
Well, here it is. I finally got the cover (front, spine, back) from The History Press. Wicked Virginia City will be published Oct. 5, 2020, For those who judge a book by its cover, here you have it. I love it, especially how the caricature of Sen. William Stewart is almost pointing to my name as author. Ha!