by Steve Haruch
When the festival kicks off today at noon, it does so with an embarrassment of literary riches. Here's Captain Ridley from our day-by-day reckoning of the festival's highlights:
Even though noon Friday is the SFB's first slot, it's already studded with tough choices — proof this year's fest doesn't plan to make it easy on local readers. Taylor Stevens arrives with the festival's most compelling backstory: From age 12 she spent her adolescence separated from her parents in the apocalypse cult the Children of God, pressed into service as a globe-trotting beggar and "worker bee child" until she escaped in her 20s. She's gunning for Stieg Larsson's readership with her new thriller The Informationist (noon, Room 12, Legislative Plaza).
• Scheduled opposite her are acclaimed Nashville historical novelist Brenda Rickman Vantrease, who re-creates intrigue in the time of Henry VIII in The Heretic's Wife (Room 16, Legislative Plaza); A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler (House Chambers); the "Southern Light" panel of 12 contemporary Southern poets led by best-selling Gap Creek novelist and poet Robert Morgan (Old Supreme Court Room); and one of the city's best songwriters and live performers, David Olney (Chapter 16 Stage).
• Best of all at that time, though, may be the pairing of veteran lyricist turned novelist Joe Henry (Lime Creek) with National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell, whose novel Once Upon a River received one of The New York Times Book Review's most glowing summer raves (Room 29, Legislative Plaza).
Before you head out to the festival, be sure to check back with the official festival site for any last-minute changes, as the lineup is subject to change. But most importantly, be sure to head out to the festival. It's free, and you know what happens when we don't support books, right?
UPDATE: Saturday's appearances by The Night Circus author Erin Morganstern have been canceled. According to the SFB's Twitter feed, she hopes to reschedule for a later event.