Sequim author closes book on series' hero

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — In his latest mystery novel, Aaron Elkins jets his readers off to Tuscany, where the sun shines, the wines pour and Michelangelo's art projects preside.

Dying on the Vine, set in Italy's countryside with forays to Florence, is Elkins' 18th book starring forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver.

This time, the “skeleton detective,” as he's known, looks into the apparent murder-suicide of a wine-making family patriarch and his wife.

But Oliver figures out that this was a double homicide — and is thrust into a morass of family antipathies and mistrust.

Elkins, a longtime Sequim resident, will give only one reading from Dying on the Vine, this Friday.

He's finished with this hero, having written about 1.5 million words about Oliver's adventures since 1978.

The character inspired a TV series in 1989.

“I love the guy,” Elkins said this week. “[But] I'm running out of things to say without repeating myself.”

Elkins took care to add that while Oliver is retiring, the author himself is going strong.

He just finished a follow-up to A Dangerous Talent, a mystery starring art expert Alix London in a series he created with wife, Charlotte Elkins.

As for Oliver, “I just didn't have the heart for doing a sort of melancholy farewell tour. Port Angeles is different, though,” since readings on the North Olympic Peninsula are like get-togethers with old friends.

Elkins will read from and sign copies of Dying on the Vine at 7 p.m. Friday in the Raymond Carver Room of the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

As always, admission is free.

One of Elkins' old friends and readers is Alan Turner, owner of Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles.

Vine is set in “one of those locales we've all heard about, dreamt about,” Turner said.

“You know you could go to Florence,” he said, “and find the obscure alley, that shuttered door he writes about, and it would be exactly as Aaron described it.”

This book is classic Elkins, he added: delicious comfort food for a wintry night.

“You know what to expect, and you have fun,” said Turner, who just started reading Vine a second time to pick up more of the clues Elkins sprinkles among the pages.

For Elkins, Tuscany was, of course, a lovely place to conduct a couple of weeks of research.

“Your notebook and camera are never out of your hands, and you're jotting, jotting, jotting endlessly,” he said.

“Still, for me, the best part of Dying on the Vine was the same as it's been for every other book: the writing,” he said.

“Doesn't sound like much, sitting alone in a room all day long staring at a computer monitor and being frustrated three-quarters of the time because you can't get it right.

“And yet, like every other novelist I've ever met, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. I guess it's because every now and then, you do get it right, and what a pleasure that is.”

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

Last modified: December 05. 2012 6:05PM
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