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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 2, 2003

"Live from Prairie Lights" Oct. 13-17 Includes Writers' Workshop Grad Tom Piazza

Tom Piazza, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, will be one of the writers featured on the "Live from Prairie Lights" during the week of Oct. 13-17. The 8 p.m. readings, hosted by Julie Englander, will be broadcast live on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910, from the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The full schedule for the week will be:
--National Book Award nominee Edward P. Jones, reading from his new novel, "The Known World," on Monday, Oct. 13.
--Former Clayton County Deputy Sheriff Donald Harstad, reading from his new procedural thriller, "A Long December," on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
--Piazza, reading from his debut novel, "My Cold War," on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
--English historian Andro Linklater, sampling his new tome, just in time for the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, "Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy," on Friday, Oct. 17.

Listen to the Prairie Lights readings -- America's only radio series of live readings -- on the internet at

Edward P. Jones' collection of stories, "Lost in the City," was a surprise nominee for the National Book Award in 1991. His new novel, "The Known World," addresses slavery, the unhealed wound of American history.

Peter Matthiessen called the book "An immensely moving novel that manifests quite marvelously the irony and sorrow, the joy, pain, mystery, and poignant humor of our transient human existence in the known world."

Donald Harstad, who was an Iowa deputy sheriff for 26 years and now lives in Elkader, is the author of "Eleven Days," "Known Dead," "The Big Thaw" and "Code Sixty-One."

In "A Long December," he once again gives life to Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman, who is this time tracking terrorists poisoning meat at a kosher packing plant. A preview in Publishers Weekly concluded, "his laid-back Midwestern voice and descriptive skills carry the story and prove again that he has the tools to carve a niche of his own in crime fiction."

Tom Piazza is both a fiction writer and a jazz historian/critic, and his previous books are "The Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz," "True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass," "Blues Up and Down: Jazz in Our Time" and the short-story collection "Blues and Trouble."

Critic Deborah Donovan wrote of "My Cold War" for the American Library Association's Booklist, "In his thought-provoking first novel, Piazza takes his readers on a nostalgic tour that includes his own version of growing up in Long Island's postwar suburbia. John Delano is the sole faculty member in the department of cold war studies at Hollister College, and his classes are wildly popular, focusing on personalities and big moments, what his critics call 'History McNuggets.'

"John is writing a book on these themes, but after his father dies he is stuck in 'a big mishmash of history, myth, my own personal experience.' He decides that to write about the Kennedy and King assassinations, Castro, fallout shelters, Kent State, even Bob Dylan going electric, he must first confront his own past, starting with his estranged brother. John returns to his hometown, where they grew up with a bitter, anticommunist father, and, surprisingly, finds some positive memories lingering among all the sad ones. Piazza's journey down memory lane is enlivened by his witty take on competitive academia, and deepened by his poignant tale of a family broken, it may be, beyond repair."

Andro Linklater's new book traces the origins of the American Customary System, the uniform system of weights and measurements that made the surveying of the Louisiana Purchase possible.

Linklater has written for magazines and newspapers including the Spectator, the Times of London, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, Reader's Digest and the Daily Mail. His reporting assignments have taken him from Patagonia to the Arctic Circle.

He has written frequently on science and technology, including coverage of the Chernobyl disaster for the Telegraph Magazine, and an investigation of genetic engineering for the Reader's Digest. His previous books include "Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade," "Wild People: Travels with Borneo's Headhunters" and "The Code of Love."

Linklater wrote about "Of Measuring America," "Like most visitors to the United States, it was the shape of the place I first fell in love with -- the spectacular grid of city blocks, the squared-off, American Gothic farms, and the long, straight, section roads that caught the imagination of Kerouac and every drive-movie director you can think of. During the time I lived there, I never questioned why this should be so, it simply seemed American. Since then, however, I have returned frequently as a visitor and each time I came back, it always struck me as utterly astonishing that such a coherent pattern could have occurred across a 3000 mile-wide continent. How did it happen? Who shaped this gigantic land? Measuring America is my attempt to answer those questions."

David McCullough, the author of "John Adams," responded, "This is the way history and the adventure of ideas ought to be written."

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