Category Archives: Tacoma Books

5 Question Friday With Richard Wiley

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When I originally registered the domain name TacomaStories.com years ago I was glad it was not already taken. It’s simple and easy to remember. Despite this I was still surprised when I learned a few months ago that Richard Wiley’s new book was called Tacoma Stories. My first thought was that I did not want people coming to this site and learning nothing about the book even if I had nothing to do with the book. My next thought was that I did not want people thinking the book was connected to the website since it isn’t.

I decided the best way to deal with this potential confusion was to contact Richard Wiley and see if he would be interested in participating in a 5 Question Friday. This way if you end up here because of the book, you get a quick interview with the author. And if you’re a regular reader of this site, you get introduced to a new author with a book you should really check out.

Thankfully, Richard agreed to do it. Here’s Richard:

1. Can you give us a bit of background on your writing for those who are unaware?

I started writing more than 40 years ago.  My first novel, Soldiers in Hiding, was set in Japan during World War II.  It was lucky enough to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction in 1987.  After that there were seven more novels, almost all set abroad, in Korea, in Japan again, in Nigeria, Kenya, and in 1899 Alaska.  A novel of mine entitled, Bob Stevenson, was set in New York City and came out in 2016.

2. What is your history with Tacoma?

I grew up in Tacoma, at Brown’s Point.  I went to school there, and then, after my family moved to North Jackson Street, went to Wilson High School.  I graduated from UPS, in 1967, then left Tacoma for a decade, came back to work at Tacoma Public Schools – both of my children were born in Tacoma – then left again for a few years in Africa and a twenty-six year stint as an English professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  My wife and I moved back to Tacoma in mid-2015.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book, Tacoma Stories?

The stories are linked, but can also stand alone.  All of the characters meet up at Pat’s Tavern on North 21st Street (now Magoo’s Annex) on St. Patrick’s Day, 1968, in the first story.  Over the course of the next thirteen stories, not in chronological order, we follow one or another of those who were in Pat’s that night, into their pasts and also into their futures.

4. You’re going a bit of a book tour at the moment, where can people catch you?

I will be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, in Seattle, on Friday, February 15, at 7 p.m.  After that, I’ll be at the Tacoma Public Library’s Brown’s Point branch at 2:30 on March 2; at King’s Books, in Tacoma, at 7 p.m. on March 7, and signing books at The Pacific Northwest Shop on Proctor Street, on March 9 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

And if anyone is in Las Vegas on April 11, I’ll be reading at the Writer’s Block Bookstore at 7 p.m.

5. What is your next project?

I am just now completing a third “Japan” novel, entitled “Cornelius, on Love.”  It is set in Kyoto in 1972.

I’d like to thank Richard Wiley for joining me for 5 Question Friday and for writing a book set in Tacoma. I know I am biased, but I am of the opinion that this city is ripe for storytelling. If you think you or someone you know might be a good guest for 5 Question Friday, let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com

  • Jack Cameron

Tacoma Pill Junkies, A Review

FrontCoverLast night I watched an old episode of the Chris Carter show, Millennium. The episode started with a church in Tacoma and a priest being burned at the stake. Of course it wasn’t really filmed in Tacoma. And the only reason I could see that they set it in Tacoma was due to its proximity to the main character who lives in Seattle (though the whole show was filmed in Vancouver). My point here is that the episode could have started just about anywhere and nothing would be different. This isn’t true with Joshua Swainston’s debut novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies. Tacoma Pill Junkies has Tacoma in its veins.

I first became aware of Tacoma Pill Junkies when I saw a poster downtown for it months ago. I’m someone who enjoys reading and writing crime novels and this site can attest to the fact that I love Tacoma. So a crime novel set in Tacoma is really something I have no choice but to purchase.

If you’ve spent enough time in Tacoma, you’ve met people like the characters in Tacoma Pill Junkies. There’s the hard working single mother. There’s the working man who gets high from time to time. There are the scheming junkies. And the loser with delusions of grandeur. If nothing else, Tacoma Pill Junkies is populated with authentic characters.

It’s difficult to pin down the plot of Tacoma Pill Junkies as it actually has about three or four inter-connected plot lines with overlapping characters and events. This too, feels so much like Tacoma to me that I can’t help but enjoy it. A woman gets robbed in the Tacoma Mall Parking lot. A guy starts selling his grandmother’s pain pills. A serial killer is strangely stalking and killing janitors. These unrelated things drift through the novel occasionally bumping into each other along with a few other subplots.

Tacoma Pill Junkies is a meandering crime thriller with a lot of humor. It’s less an edge of your seat nail biter and more like hanging out with some strange and occasionally dangerous people. (I don’t want to spoil too much so I’m deliberately being vague.)

Swainston’s writing is conversational and inviting. He doesn’t spend too much time on being overly descriptive. His dialog is witty and full of humor. He also manages to convey the thrill of the high along with the underlying desperation of being a pill addict. It’s never glamorous.

For locals who enjoy a good novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies belongs on the shelf next to Mark Lindquist’s King of Methlehem. For those outside of Tacoma, I recommend it as a glimpse at part of the underbelly of our fair gritty city.

You can find out more about Tacoma Pill Junkies and read a sample chapter at http://tacomapilljunkies.com

–          Jack Cameron