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Old 11-10-2004, 09:02 AM
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Books set in *Your* Locale


As a Canadian, I get pretty excited when I come across a book that not only mentions Canada, but is set in a Canadian city, and get damned near ecstatic when it's set in Western Canada. I don't know if you United Statesians realize this, but most books are set in the U.S., and people reading them outside of the U.S. notice it. Not to turn this into a big U.S. bashfest; that's just the way it is right now, for many good reasons.

How about the rest of you? Do you notice things like this? Do you get as excited as I do when a book is set locally?
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:19 AM
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Science fiction author Michael Flynn is from the next town over from where I grew up. Most of his books are in the near future and there are some mentions of the local area. I got excited when one of his books opened with someone looking at the giant lightbulb tower monument in Edison NJ.

Once I started reading a book by Harold Coyle which opened in the training area of Ford Hood, TX. Each chapter began with the location of the chapter. Chapter 1 was labeled "Manning Mountain, Fort Hood". At the time I was in a tent about 100 meters from Manning Mountain. (not really a mountain, just a hill)
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Old 11-10-2004, 10:01 AM
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When I was at college I read Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff, who is an alum of my college and the book is set there. I didn't really love the book, but at one point a major character on a motorcycle is being chased by a truck that tried to run him off the road and I was very anxious because I knew a big curve was coming up that he wouldn't be able to make at his speed. (He didn't.)

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Old 11-10-2004, 10:09 AM
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Science fiction author Lee Killough wrote three books, cop novels, set about 70-80 years in the future from when they were written.

They are Doppelganger Gambit, Dragon's Teeth, and Spider Play. The books are set in Topeka, Kansas, my home. It's fun to see the way she extrapolated society and local government. Anyone could read and enjoy them, but there are lots of details and little in jokes that make them especially enjoyable for Topekans.
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Old 11-10-2004, 10:12 AM
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featherlou, I have yet to read any fiction set in my locale (small town Iowa), but I get excited about books set in Canada too.

I've been reading a lot of Canadian writers lately, and some of the settings feel like Iowa -- small townish and empty, maybe a bit bleak. I love Margaret Laurence's Manawaka books.
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Old 11-10-2004, 10:39 AM
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featherlou, have you found any good Calgary fiction? (apart from the little book Ralph's people left on my porch )

I've enjoyed the books I've read set where I grew up (San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area). Mysteries are good for that because the sleuth usually has to visit several different parts of town.

I also like reading about locales I've visited. Even when I read the complete set of Sherlock Holmes stories I had my big old London map at my side to trace along where they went.

AuntiePam, how about WP Kinsella? There's a good Iowa/Alberta connection for you. But it helps if you like baseball.
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Old 11-10-2004, 10:58 AM
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I read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry series years ago. I choose to sit on a park bench with a Greg's ice cream on the south side of Bloor Street, here in Toronto. The first book begins at the University of Toronto, just south of where I was sitting. And then they walk up Philosopher's Walk to Bloor Street. Which is exactly where I was sitting. Freaky.

Tanya Huff and Robert J. Sawyer used to work at Bakka Books (a speculative fiction store here), and a lot of Huff's books are set here. I haven't read all of Sawyer's books, so I don't know about his. I'm sure I'll think of more.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:00 AM
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AuntiePam, how about WP Kinsella? There's a good Iowa/Alberta connection for you. But it helps if you like baseball.
I buy Kinsella for my baseball freak son but haven't read him myself. Didn't know about the connection, thanks.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:09 AM
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MicroSerfs - ser in the same company, same general area. I can see the places as i read it.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:23 AM
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I grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, the same place that Poppy Z Brite grew up. So a lot of the scenery in books like Lost Souls was pretty familiar to me.

As was a plot clue. This is a pretty minor spoiler for an obscure book, so I'm not gonna use spoiler tags, just this warning. You're warned.

At some point in the book, a character finds a clue that says, "WAX JISM." He has no idea what it means until almost too late--but I knew immediately what it was.

See, in high school I called one of my friends, and his answering machine said, "You have reached WAX THIN. Please leave a message." I was bewildered until he told me that WAX THIN was his phone number: 929-8446.

WAX JISM, of course, is another local phone number.

Yay for local knowledge, eh?
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:25 AM
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Tom Robbins "Another Roadside Attraction" is set in Skagit County, the Northwesern part of the Washington State where I grew up. It's always fun to read about Sedro Woolley in a book. Kerouac gives it a quick mention in a couple of his as well.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:33 AM
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Towards the end of one of James Patterson's thrillers, the killer is on the run and flies to Newark Airport. He travels down to my area, kills someone in front of one of my favorite shore bars (leaving the body sitting on a lifeguard stand), heads inland, and drives through my neighborhood before hopping on the Garden State Parkway.

While it was cool as hell to read that, Patterson ticked me off by getting the name of my town wrong. It's "Brick", damnit, not "Brick Town". It's hasn't been "Bricktown" since 1950, and it's never been "Brick Town".

Sorry...I have an odd hangup about that.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:48 AM
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Hal I always understood there was both.

If the map doesn't show Bricktown zoom in.
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Old 11-10-2004, 11:59 AM
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Not a book really buy Mike Mignola added a few pages to one of his Hellboy comics in the trade paperback that mentioned the local lake monster Ogopogo and the Okanagan lake.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BurnMeUp
MicroSerfs - ser in the same company, same general area. I can see the places as i read it.
That's funny, because the second part of that book, after they leave Redmond, takes place in a part of Silicon Valley maybe 3 minutes from my high school. I attended many ragers at the big houses there (well, at least one that I remember) and could easily picture those scenes as I read it.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:30 PM
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Again eliminating any reason for my wife to post, Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone is based on the area around her home town in Minnesota.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerowyn
I read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry series years ago. I choose to sit on a park bench with a Greg's ice cream on the south side of Bloor Street, here in Toronto. The first book begins at the University of Toronto, just south of where I was sitting. And then they walk up Philosopher's Walk to Bloor Street. Which is exactly where I was sitting. Freaky.
I had much the same reaction when I started reading the series. I was also a student at the University of Toronto at the time, and it was indeed freaky.

For my own contribution to the OP, I'll offer my experience driving on certain roads in the state of Maine. I remember thinking that the route numbers and such seemed awfully familiar, even though I had never been on them before.

Then I realized I was on the same roads that were mentioned in Richard Bachman's (that is, Stephen King's) The Long Walk, which I had been reading at about the same time as I was on that trip. Made it much easier to picture the events that were taking place in the book, and I sure felt for those kids in the race, dealing with some of those hills.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:42 PM
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featherlou, have you read any Robertson Davies? I read a few of his books several years ago and recall that they were set in Canada.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:48 PM
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Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys take place in the neighborhoods around the Carnegie-Mellon and Pitt campuses. I hung out there and went to Pitt about five years before Chabon was there, so there were a lot of familiar scenes and locales. I was glad to see in the movie Wonder Boys that they filmed in the same areas.
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Old 11-10-2004, 12:52 PM
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Drat, Cerowyn, I was going to mention Tanya Huff. Her Keeper series is set partly in Toronto and partly in Kingston, and the vampire series is mostly in downtown Toronto. I figured out which building on Bloor Henry Fitzroy was supposed to live in. Nifty attention to detail.

Some of Charles De Lint's books are set in Ottawa. Moonheart and Spiritwalk, I think.

In Tad Williams' Otherland series, there are weird news bulletins at the beginning of every chapter. One f them's about a "Suicide As Art" death that happens about a kilometer from where I am now. A Suicide Artist steps out onto Coxwell Avenue at rush hour.
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Old 11-10-2004, 01:41 PM
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Tim Winton is an author from my home state, Western Australia. His novel Cloudstreet is set in Perth, where I used to live.

Now I live in London, where possibly more books are set than any other city. I read the most recent Harry Potter recently, which mentions several central London locales.
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Old 11-10-2004, 01:51 PM
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Another Douglas Coupland book... Girlfriend In A Coma takes place in a lot of familiar locales (with some familiar people in a familiar timeframe).
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:22 PM
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The downside to this is when they set a book where you live but it's clear they've never lived there. This happens quite a bit with San Francisco - added for color by a writer who may have looked at a map and that's about it.

I'll never forget the murder-mystery book I read about a young military cadet couple that left their house in Forest Hill and went for a jog in Golden Gate Park and got attacked. Houses in Forest Hill are easily in the $5 million and up range, and even if these cadets happened to be the richest military personnel in history, there's no way to get there easily without jogging a looong way down major commuter streets. If residents of Forest Hill wanted to go for a jog, I'd imagine they'd go to Lake Merced or along Great Highway, both of which would be a direct shot down Sloat Ave.

To the OP, White Palace was a good read for me, b/c it was set in my hometown of St. Louis and got the neighborhoods down pat. Not just the neighborhoods, but who would live there and how they would behave.
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:28 PM
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George Crabbe's The Borough is set on the Suffolk coast. However, it's two centuries old, so I can't really vouch for its realism :wally
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:37 PM
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John Irving was apparently a good friend of my Headmistress from middle and high school.

He actually mentions her in in A Prayer for Owen Meany, our English teacher didn't warn us about it when she assigned us the chapter -- just so see could see our reactions!

Also, I'd like to third the thing about the Finovar tapestry. I read the scene that takes place at UofT Convocation Hall the day after the first time I'd been there. I remember thinking about how cool a building/room it was, and then I read that someone agrees!
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:46 PM
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Top this one: not only is Ulysses set partly in my home town, my great grandfather's shop gets mentioned by name in Molly's soliloquy. There are some other books set in Gibraltar, like Marguerite Duras' 'The Sailor from Gibraltar' and Paul Gallico's 'Scruffy', Blasco Ibañez's Luna Benamor, some military thriller/action novels and even Mills and Boon romances, but Ulysses kind of overshadows them.
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Old 11-10-2004, 02:53 PM
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As of right now, Amazon.com has 10,178 books "set" in Gettysburg, PA.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why?
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Old 11-10-2004, 04:10 PM
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There are a number of books set in Houston, so that's no big deal. However, a few years ago I read Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses and noticed some familiar street names. The book is set in my childhood hometown of San Angelo, TX. It's not one of your more well-known cities, so I was unreasonably excited about it.
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Old 11-10-2004, 04:26 PM
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Most of the short stories of Flannery O'Connor are set within a few miles of where I live. The novel/movie Paris Trout is very closely based (little other than the the names were changed) on a multiple murder that occurred here (Milledgeville GA) during the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1953. Alice Walker and Joel Chandler Harris were born 15 miles away (although to different mothers of different races in different centuries [though both were born to penniless parents on plantations- Harris was illegitimate and Walker was the daughter of sharecroppers]) and based fiction in the town of Eatonton where they spent their childhood.
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Old 11-10-2004, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
Top this one:
Joseph Wambaugh's Fire Lover not only takes place in the area where I grew up, I knew the Orr Family. I went to school with the younger sister, and shopped at the father's sporting goods store.
Several of the fires that John Leonard Orr set were in business that I shopped in, or knew of. A former manager of mine was working for Ole's when Orr set the fire there.
What was the real kick in the pants was I knew the story of Orr, but had no clue that it was the same family until I started reading the book last year. Freaky.

Several other Wambaugh fiction books take place around my part of LA. One of them has the two lead characters going to a Mexican restrauant (El Sombero) down the street from the old Northeast police station. Until I moved out of the neighborhood, this was my favorite place to eat.
Vincent Bugliosi's book Til Death do us Part has many scenes that take place in Glendale Ca. In a gym where I used to work out, at bars I used to frequent, etc. Reading it was like a trip down memory lane. Not freaky like Fire Lover, but, uhm, different.
  #31  
Old 11-10-2004, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Loach
Hal I always understood there was both.

If the map doesn't show Bricktown zoom in.
Nope...what some folks (including a whooole lot of residents who can't bother to learn the name of the town they live in) call "Bricktown" or "Brick Town" is Brick Township, N.J. It was once called Bricktown, but that hasn't been the case for over 50 years. Time people got it right.

Folks from Wall Township or Howell Township don't call their towns "Walltown" or "Howelltown"....Brick shouldn't be any different.

[/climbs off soapbox, slips, twists ankle, gets transported to Brick Hospital]
  #32  
Old 11-10-2004, 08:06 PM
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I don't think I've run across any books set in Calgary yet, but I did read an interesting one that was set in Edmonton of the future. Once again I can't remember the title of the book, but I remember one scene in which a character freezes to death because he starts a fire (which could have saved his life) under a bunch of snow, and it melts and falls on the fire and puts it out.

I have read some Robertson Davies (Fifth Business, I believe), when I was too young to appreciate it. I'll have to go back and look into him again, I think.

I would like to visit Maine some day, and see all the places that I've read so much about from Stephen King's novels.
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Old 11-10-2004, 08:30 PM
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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was set in Savannah.


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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Old 11-10-2004, 08:46 PM
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The book The Shipping News by Annie Proulx was set in Newfoundland, Canada. Its not where I live normally, but it is where Im studying at the moment.

I havent actually read the book, but I did see the movie that was based on it just last week. Stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Judi Dench amongst others, its not bad!

I hope the link works, apologies if not.
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:29 PM
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I'm hereby admitting I'm a "fluff" reader a lot of the time!

A couple of books by Sandra Brown are set in New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter. She's done a good job with keeping her books logistically correct.

John Grisham's books are primarily set in the southern Mississippi area, which we're also pretty familiar with. I think he captures the local, not to mention the pace of life and folks attitudes, very well.
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliffy
When I was at college I read Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff, who is an alum of my college and the book is set there. I didn't really love the book, but at one point a major character on a motorcycle is being chased by a truck that tried to run him off the road and I was very anxious because I knew a big curve was coming up that he wouldn't be able to make at his speed. (He didn't.)

--Cliffy
I can do ya one better-- Fool on the Hill takes place in the dorm where I lived while I was at Cornell. It was a ridiculous depiction, I have to say, and that sort of ruined the book for me.
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:47 PM
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Kathy Reichs sets part of her crime novels in Montreal, because one of her characters works there (well, here). It's fun to be reading a book and suddenly come across a description of buildings you see every day, and streets you walk down all the time.
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Old 11-11-2004, 06:18 AM
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I'm sure I've answered this before....
but 'The Soldier's Return' and the two sequels by Melvyn Bragg are set in Wigton Cumbria, the nearest town to my house.
John Williams is writing excellent books about Cardiff (Cardiff Dead, The Prince of Wales), where I grew up, as has Bernice Rubens - I especially enjoyed 'Yesterday in the Back Lane'
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Old 11-11-2004, 07:26 AM
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Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series is set in Baltimore. Her office was in the Butcher's Hill neighborhood (where I lived at the time) and much of the action in one book occurred within blocks of my house, including directly across the street from me.
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Old 11-11-2004, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal Briston
Nope...what some folks (including a whooole lot of residents who can't bother to learn the name of the town they live in) call "Bricktown" or "Brick Town" is Brick Township, N.J. It was once called Bricktown, but that hasn't been the case for over 50 years. Time people got it right.

Folks from Wall Township or Howell Township don't call their towns "Walltown" or "Howelltown"....Brick shouldn't be any different.

[/climbs off soapbox, slips, twists ankle, gets transported to Brick Hospital]

OK people move along, nothing to see here. Me and Hal are having a private conversation.

If you look at the map (if you zoom in) you see Brick Township north of the Metedeconk River. Bricktown is south of the river. They are different. Bricktown may be a section of Brick Township but it does exist. If you look at maps you can find other examples of this. On most maps you can find Avenel and New Market. Both of those "towns" are actually part of larger townships (Woodbridge and Piscataway). On the other hand you may be right and all the maps are wrong.
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Old 11-11-2004, 08:51 AM
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I read Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank when I was in high school. I found it chilling because it took place a little south of where I live but my locale, including a local TV station, were mentioned. Apparently, we get nuked because of our nearness to MacDill Air Force Base. I was rather upset by this at the time but I still thought it was cool to have places I lived near mentioned in a book.
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Old 11-11-2004, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Necros
Again eliminating any reason for my wife to post, Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone is based on the area around her home town in Minnesota.
But the picture on the front pages of the first book is of my hometown, Durand, WI. It's true!
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Old 11-11-2004, 03:20 PM
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Well, there's not that many books set in Houston, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Johnny Truant in House of Leaves bsing about his days moping about the Ship Channel and performing activities of dubious legality.
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Old 11-11-2004, 03:29 PM
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As a kid, I remember reading a book called Escape from the Mushroom Planet set in Pacific Grove, CA, which is on the Monterey Peninsula. My parents bought a cottage there a year or two later and now live there. It's the same place where the movie Turner and Hooch was set....
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Old 11-11-2004, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snickers
But the picture on the front pages of the first book is of my hometown, Durand, WI. It's true!
Why would they put a picture of Wisconsin in the front of a book set in MN? Weird. Just goes to show my hypothesis is true: While Minnesotans and Wisconsinites seem to think tere's a big rivalry going on, to the rest of the country they're the same state, basically.
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Old 11-11-2004, 07:31 PM
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I first read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when I was in high school, and was a bit shocked when i realized it was supposed to be set in the state hospital in Salem. That's just about the only book I think I've read that was set locally. I have no idea if life inside the hospital is as described in the book, either.
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Old 11-11-2004, 07:54 PM
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Nick Earls' Zigzag Street. He's the same age as me and we moved in similar circles. It really was the first book which was authentically Brisbane of my era. I read while I was living in NZ and I was so homesick.
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Old 11-12-2004, 12:54 AM
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A rather mediocre novel Much Ado about Jessie Katz is set in my hometown. It's more or less about the insanity that people turn their bar/bat mitzvah's into (it's a VERY jewish town). It's pretty accurate.
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