Mystery Theater Audience Will Hit Streets to Solve Whodunit

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Upchurch-Brown Booksellers in Laguna Beach, which regularly hosts book signings and other literary events, has embarked on its most ambitious project yet.

Co-owners Mary Upchurch and Robert Brown have teamed with Laguna restaurateur Jules Swimmer to create Laguna Mysteries Inc., a mystery dinner theater in which the audience will literally take to the streets in the course of attempting to find out who-done-it.

The first play in the audience-participation series, which will be presented on the last Saturday of each month, is “The Laguna Baron,” written by Los Angeles playwright Julio Martinez. The debut performance on April 29 is sold out.

As scripted, the mystery begins at the bookstore with an “author signing party.” To search for clues, guests move on to several Laguna locations, stopping at Swimmer’s Le Petit Gourmet Cafe for dinner. After dinner, it’s back to the bookstore for the resolution of the crime.


The play’s 6-member cast is from the Comedy Company of Newport Beach. Despite the acting company’s name, Brown emphasizes that the play is not a comedy.

“Although it’s set in 1989, it’s more a 1930s-style mystery, and we use Laguna landmarks, history and architecture,” he said. “It’s a Laguna experience.”

Tickets are $48 per person and each performance, which lasts about 2 1/2 hours, is limited to 40 people. For reservations and information, call (714) 497-9742.

Editing Workshop: The Editorial Department, a Los Angeles and New York-based book manuscript editing service, will conduct a 1-day workshop on “How to Edit Your Own Manuscript” at 9:30 a.m. today at the Huntington Beach Inn, 21112 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. Registrations will be taken at the door. The $75 fee includes lunch.


Romance Writers: Author Jill Landis will discuss “First Chapters” during the pre-meeting workshop of the Orange County chapter of Romance Writers of America at 10:30 a.m. today at the Fullerton Public Library. During the regular meeting at 1 p.m. Mary Kuczkir, who writes under the pen name Fern Michaels, will discuss “Making the Transition from Romances to Mainstream Novels.” Each session is $3 for non-members.

Book Signings: Maxine O’Callaghan (“Hit and Run”), Michael Collins (“Castrato”) and Les Roberts (“A Carrot for a Donkey”) will sign their mystery novels from 1 to 3 p.m. today at Book Carnival, 870 N. Tustin Ave., Orange . . . Michael Chabon (“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”) and Jay Gummerman (“We Find Ourselves in Moontown”) will autograph and read from their books from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Upchurch-Brown Booksellers in Laguna Beach . . . Valerie King will sign copies of her new romance novel, “A Rogue’s Masquerade,” from 1 to 3 p.m. next Saturday at Sunshine Books, 8898 Valley View St., Buena Park. . . . Sue Grafton will sign her new mystery novel, “F Is for Fugitive,” from 6 to 8 p.m. April 13 at Book Carnival in Orange.

Independent Writers: Greg Lee of Carnival Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest book packagers, will speak at the meeting of the Orange County section of Independent Writers of Southern California at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the community room of Pomona Federal Savings, 17851 17th St., Tustin. $10 for non-members. For reservations, call Gisela Meier at (714) 748-0530.

Author Talk: Eve Bunting, author of works for children and young adults, will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 11 at the Haskett Reading Center, 2650 W. Broadway, Anaheim. The program is sponsored by the Anaheim Public Library’s Young Adult Reading Co-op.

Plimpton Talk: Author George Plimpton will speak on “The Art of Winning: An Amateur Among the Pros” at 8 p.m. Friday at South Coast Community Church auditorium, 5120 Bonita Canyon Road, Irvine. General admission: $7. A book signing will begin at 7. For information about the UC Irvine-sponsored program, call (714) 856-6379.

Southwest Experience: Poet and educator Carmen Tafolla will discuss the multicultural literature of the Southwest as it reflects the experiences of Latinos at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 in Physical Science Lecture Hall, UCI. General admission: $7. For information, call (714) 856-6379.

Author Festival: Twenty-one fiction and nonfiction authors who have written books about Orange County, including Robert Ray, Ann and Evan Maxwell and Doris Walker, will appear at the seventh annual Author Festival sponsored by the Costa Mesa Friends of the Libraries from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 13 in the Jewel Court at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

The free event, part of the Orange County Centennial celebration, will include displays by 13 historical societies. Books, Centennial memorabilia and refreshments will be available.


For information, call the Costa Mesa Library at (714) 646-8845.

Literary Magazine: The new issue of Pearl, a biannual literary magazine edited by UC Irvine Writing Program graduates Joan Jobe Smith and Marilyn Johnson, is now available ($4). Individual subscriptions are $7 a year and can be made by writing to Pearl, 3030 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, Ca. 90803. Unpublished poetry and black and white artwork, including a self-addressed stamped envelope, may be sent to the same address.

Book Sale: The Friends of the Fullerton Library will conduct a used book sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and next Saturday and from 1 to 4 p.m. April 9, at the library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave.

Close to 20,000 donated books, ranging from old encyclopedias and novels to biographies and children’s books, will be available. Last year, the Friends raised $25,000 for the library from their twice-a-year book sales.