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Author Larry Baker reads at Prairie Lights

BY REBECCA KOONS | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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There is no secret formula or process to local author Larry Baker’s writing. He wakes up in the morning, drinks some coffee, and sits down at his computer for a few hours every day. For him, consistency is the key during this procedure, which, depending on the day, may or may not result in a creative breakthrough.

“Something will eventually be produced,” he said. “You have to do it every single day.”

Baker will read from the latest result of his labors, his novel A Good Man, at 7 p.m. today at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free.

The author’s routine is a far cry from the pack-and-go, unstable nature of his upbringing. The son of a military man, Baker, 62, moved to a new location at least once every year for the first 18 years of his life. Though his continuous traveling didn’t allow him to fully identify with any one place, he noted that he may draw from any locale as a backdrop for one of his novels or short stories.

“A place that I have lived in gives me a location to use as a background, material world of story,” Baker said.

A Good Man tells the story of Harry Ducharme, a talk-radio host who finds himself fallen to what he considers the bottom rung of his career: a tiny radio station in St. Augustine, Fla. Set in the era of the Bush administration, Ducharme feels as though he’s “lost his country” and is “trying to get it back.” Cooped up alone in a studio, he allows the solitude to get to him and senses that no one is hearing what he has to say.

Through Ducharme’s life, Baker is able to illustrate what he said he believes are universal truths.

“You’re not alive unless you express yourself and are interacting with others,” he said. “Everyone feels subconsciously alone — talking, hoping to make connections with people.”

When Baker wrote his first novel, The Flamingo Rising, he was not at all self-conscious about interacting with his intended audience — in a sense, it was a matter of “getting the first one out of the way.” In subsequent works, however, he has found he is more aware of the completed book’s overall technical presentation.

This meticulousness has not stopped him from wanting to share his writing with a large audience. Steve Semken, the publisher of Ice Cube Press, said the one thing that sets Baker apart from other novelists is the general savvy he has for both his work and the process of publishing.

“Larry possessed a good understanding of what it takes to sell and produce a book, which is important when dealing with a small press like mine,” Semken said. “He is very energetic about wanting to get his book out to the public.”

Baker said living in a place like Iowa City, with its world renown literary reputation, has given him continual motivation to forge ahead with his own projects. It’s this idea of being inspired and inspiring others that has brought Baker’s life full-circle.

“My inspiration was hearing others read — I wondered what it was like to be that person introduced,” he said.

Now that Baker is that person, he “hopes people remember Harry Ducharme and that they end up thinking he really is a good person.”


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