(The following was my Sunday column for The News Herald. See photos and video here.)
PANAMA CITY — I was down among my people last weekend: the evil and the good, the destroyers and the creators, the dead walkers and the live writers. The zombies had assured the public that they would not bite; the authors made no such promises.
The morning of Oct. 29, the Bay County Public Library launched its inaugural Local Books Alive with presentations from several full-time authors who make this area their home. The meeting room was packed; I counted 63 folks during the time I was able to attend.
By that afternoon, the inaugural Panama City Zombie Walk participants were packed together in a similar fashion but dripping with considerably more corn syrup and food coloring than the writers had been. I’d estimate more than a hundred walkers shambled from the Marina Civic Center northward on Harrison Avenue as the sun sank low.
“They say it’s dead downtown,” said an event organizer speaking into a bullhorn. “Today it is.”
There were bride and groom zombies, punk and redneck zombies, trumpet player and food service zombies, pregnant zombies and little kid zombies, nurse zombies and superhero zombies. All walks of walkers were represented, and the street was lined with the uninfected shooting photos and video with their cameras and phones. Many of the undead lingered around the McDonald’s downtown, sipping sodas and munching fries.
However, the pale shamblers dragging themselves into the library early the next morning had more on their minds than brains as the second day of Local Books Alive began. Novelists, poets, historians, military buffs, children’s writers and more shared their work with readers and networked with one another.
Throughout the room, authors shared stories, sold books, and talked with browsers. Michael Goldcraft explored the challenges of horror fiction; poet Sharla Shultz caught up with old friend Martha Spiva, who is in turn helping her husband Ernest prepare his memoir, “Growing up on Grace.”
T. Marie Smith launched her literary career that morning, selling the very first copy of her very first book; meanwhile Ken Tucker continued his success story — a memoir about his time as a B-17 tailgunner in World War II is going into its third printing. Both are new writers late in life; across the aisle was “Princess” Yterie Milliona DeValt, 8, who was there to market her self-titled activity book.
Any way you look at it: