Writers Reading, Readers Listening

Inkwood Books is on a hot streak. The charming independent bookstore, nestled on the corner of Armenia Avenue and Platt Street, hosts two acclaimed novelists in successive weeks: Thomas Sanchez at 7 p.m. on May 8; and National Book Award finalist Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban, at 7 p.m. on May 15. (For more on Garcia, see this week's Top Pick.)Thomas Sanchez's new novel King Bongo is a story of desire and political danger set in the glamorous and corrupt Havana of 1957. Rogue Cuban American musician King Bongo is hunting the terrorists who set off a bomb in the famous Tropicana nightclub, while also looking for his sister, Panther, an exotic showgirl.

Sanchez writes textually dense novels in the fashion of Steinbeck and Hemingway, laboring for years over details of language, landscape, atmosphere and architecture.

His literary debut, Rabbit Boss, chronicles four generations of a Washo Indian family in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In Zoot-Suit Murders, an undercover agent investigating the murder of two Feds in L.A. falls in with a beautiful apostle of a bizarre religious cult. Mile Zero, perhaps Sanchez's best-known novel, is a suspenseful comic masterpiece set in the cultural powder keg of Key West. Then there's Day of the Bees, which tells of a Picasso-like painter's obsessive love affair with his mistress/muse during World War II.

Typically at Inkwood, authors sit in a space cleared among the bookshelves, read about 15 pages of their latest book and then field questions — everything from "What do you think about Cuba's political future?" to "Where did the idea for this book come from?"

It's a cozy setting and allows authors to get comfortable, to riff and to offer all sorts of writerly insight and humorous nonsense.

Sanchez, who currently resides in San Francisco, has lived for many years in Key West, Malorca and Paris.

Surely he has no lack of great, yet unwritten tales to tell.

Inkwood Books is located at 216 Armenia Ave. S., Tampa. 813-253-2638.—Cooper Cruz

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