In Marin / READING LIST
MM: Your works center largely on
death and its aftermath. What draws
you to this topic?
JB: As executive director of a nationally certified crisis center for 16 years, I
learned a lot about death, about some people’s desire to die, and about grief and loss.
When I started writing in earnest, it was
natural to write about what I knew. My
first book, Building Hope, chronicled some
of my experiences at the center. Several
families in our grief counseling program
had loved ones who jumped off the Golden
Gate Bridge, and that was how I met
[Marin County coroner] Ken Holmes.
MM: What’s one of the best stories
you heard from Holmes?
JB: My favorite story is about a well-dressed young man whose body was found
on land underneath the Marin side of the
Golden Gate Bridge. He didn’t have any ID
on him, no one reported him missing, his
fingerprints weren’t in any federal data-base and all of the labels had been torn out
of his clothing. The only clue was a business card for a limousine company that
Holmes found in one of the man’s pockets.
That led him on a 20-year chase involving
masseuses, high-end restaurants, foreign
embassies and Interpol.
MM: What do you think readers who
aren’t necessarily drawn to the macabre
can glean from this book?
JB: I don’t consider the subject to be
macabre. What most readers will glean
from the book, I think, is how much
coroners need to know. In addition to
medicine and forensics, they have to
know about all kinds of firearms and be
able to identify the caliber of empty casings found at a death scene. They have
to be familiar with a variety of drugs,
prescription and illegal. They need to be
well versed in psychology, too, because
they do most death notifications, and
always in person if they can.
MM: What’s one of the most interest-
ing things you learned from your time
JB: While Holmes handled many high-profile cases during his long career
— the death of rock legend Jerry Garcia,
a homicide involving rapper Tupac
Shakur, the shooting of porn king Artie
Mitchell by his brother Jim and a series
of murders on Mount Tamalpais committed by the infamous Trailside Killer
— it was the deaths of people who weren’t
well known that are, in many respects,
the most fascinating. CALIN VAN PARIS
Author Talk The Education of a Coroner: Lessons
in Investigating Death by John Bateson
(Moraga), Scribner, $27. John Bateson, a
former crisis center director who often
writes about death, describes the hair-
raising and heartbreaking cases handled by
Marin County coroner Ken Holmes for four
decades. From high-profile deaths to serial killers to Golden
Gate Bridge suicides, Bateson provides a fascinating glimpse
into the daily life of a public servant whose work appears
dark and mysterious, yet is necessary for society to function.
Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera August 16, 7 p.m.
How to Be a Travel Writer by Don George
(San Francisco), Lonely Planet, $17.99. As a
professional travel journalist and editor for
the past 40 years, Don George gets paid to
explore the world. Now he’s here to remind
us that you don’t have to make money to
profit from travel writing: sometimes, the
richest rewards are in the experience. Appearing at Book
Passage Corte Madera August 12, 8 p.m.
Your Crocodile Has Arrived by Laurie
McAndish King (Novato), Destination Insights,
$14.95. You’re sure to find entertainment
and illumination in this collection of 21
true stories from noted travel writer Laurie
Ready or Not! 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-
McAndish King. Whether she’s eating a
crocodile, tracking down a 2,500-year-old
tooth in Sri Lanka or talking aliens with a SE TI astrophysicist,
King reminds us that the world is far weirder and more amaz-
ing than we sometimes imagine. Appearing at Book Passage
Corte Madera August 19, 7 p.m.
Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom
Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
(Palo Alto), Andrews McMeel Publishing,
$35. A new cookbook from Michelle
Tam and Henry Fong, the James Beard
award–nominated creators of the Nom Nom Paleo book and
website. Along with colorfully written and gorgeously photo-
graphed step-by-step recipes presented in a cheeky cartoon
format, Ready or Not features kitchen hacks, Paleo ingredient
guides, meal plans, shopping lists and more. Appearing at
Book Passage San Francisco August 29, 6 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Manager Zack Ruskin.
We sat down with
Moraga’s John Bateson
to discuss his new book,
The Education of a Coroner:
Lessons in Investigating
Death, an account of cases
handled by Marin County
coroner Ken Holmes.