Friday, July 30, 2010

Five Random Questions with KENT HARRINGTON

My friend and client Kent Harrington is the author of six crime novels, including THE GOOD PHYSICIAN and RED JUNGLE. His latest book, SATELLITE CIRCUS, is the first to be published to the Amazon Kindle by Get-Back Editions, a new venture of the Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency. Kent's best-known novel, the cult classic DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, will be available in Kindle format from Get-Back Editions on August 3.

1. What was the first car you owned, and how long did you have it?

I traded some stuff when I was a junior in high school for a 1959 VW bug with that small round window in the back pre-1960 VW bugs have – classic. This was in the '70s and the car was in bad shape when I got it. But I loved that car! It had no front windshield, so when I passed cops I would turn the windshield wipers on like I was running the washer! Of course in the winter it was a real drag, and I couldn’t always drive it. But I got it in the summer and until the rain started that winter, it was a blast. I used to go up on the fire trails we have here in Marin, and the thing was like a jeep. You couldn’t get it stuck if you tried.

The hippie girls I dated (I was a jock, so this was unusual as the two camps didn’t mix back then) seemed much more interesting than the bra-wearing girls; they read books and liked sex, didn’t hold it against me that I was short-haired for some reason, and they were interested in the larger world so we actually talked. Anyway, they noticed my funky little green bug, which gave me game in their eyes. But obviously the VW was hard to get to know each other in! I would have to remember to bring a blanket! I still think about that car and the interesting girls who rode in it. It was a good time to be young. The car was repossessed by the guy I’d bought it from, as I failed to make the necessary payments and he was the kind of older guy you didn’t argue with. So I just handed him the keys, but it hurt. I miss that VW’s cool Blaupunkt radio to this day.

2. What's the best book you've read this year?

It’s a cookbook I bought in Italy this summer. I’m like the kid in the movie Breaking Away right now. I’m in love with all things Italian since I got back, and am cooking from this book. It’s called The Italian Diet by Gino D’Acampo. I highly recommend it, as it’s all easy but delicious recipes that are very authentic. One of the mind blowing things I learned in Italy is that the Italian food we get here in the Bay Area — which is very good, mind you — and Italian food you get in Italy are not the same. The food in Italy is beyond anything I’ve ever had.

3. Who plays you in the movie of your life story?

Colin Farrell, because of his don’t-give-a-damn attitude. I am, fortunately or unfortunately, possessed of that attitude. It’s what you get — in my case — when you mix Latin and Irish together and shake!

4. What's the worst job you ever had?

It was working selling life insurance in Daly City, California, the foggiest place in the world, and making “cold calls.” I was the worst salesman in America; I finally got fired. My father was a great salesman — truly gifted. I couldn’t sell ten dollar bills to you for five dollars. I don’t know why, as I did try to live up to my dad’s gift. I did get a novel out of the experience, though.

5. For Bouchercon registrants, what's the one thing every first-time visitor to San Francisco must do?

I love this question because I love San Francisco. I am, on my dad’s side, a fifth-generation San Franciscan, and was born there. (My mother rushed home from Guatemala so I would be born in the States.) I think there are many neighborhoods that have retained their characters despite the inroads corporate architecture has made in the city, especially along Market Street where my dad’s office used to be. (He had a great view up Market Street.) However, the Ferry Building is very cool now, as it was redone well, and visitors should stop in and check it out. The Mission District, for example, retains much of its character; so do North Beach and Nob Hill. They are pretty much the way they were forty years ago.

But I think the most important place to visit is Coit Tower because it is not only oddly evocative of what San Francisco was, but perhaps — because of the important murals on the ground floor — evocative of what the greater Bay Area was like, which in turn will help you understand modern San Francisco. Whatever you do, do not miss the WPA murals on the ground floor, please.

San Francisco is unlike any other city in the US. It’s always had a special air and sense of freedom, I swear it’s true. People are just more open-minded here. Thank God I was born here!

The view from the top of Coit Tower (after you ride one of the most interesting old-time elevators in the world) is breathtaking, and if you look to the south you’ll see hills with the kind of views that made San Francisco so famous. That view of the hills from Coit Tower is a education and a wonder. There is a profundity to the experience, believe me. Then of course you have the bay, and the views towards Berkeley, etc., that are mind-blowing. The views from up there put the city in a context I don’t think you can get from anywhere else. (And are a good orientation for your visit.) Go. Afterwards, the parking lot below the tower is a great place to view the Embarcadero, Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, etc.

October is the very best time in San Francisco, too. We usually get an Indian summer in October, and everything is soft and delicious. Everywhere I’ve been — in and out of the US — when I tell people I’m from San Francisco, they smile! Really.

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