Like Michael Moore, author Christopher Paul Curtis's work is informed by his hometown of Flint, Michigan. "It's an American city that's emblematic of a lot of cities that are in similar situations," explains the Newbery Medal winner (for the 2000 coming-of-age tale Bud, Not Buddy). "Flint was a boomtown for many years. When things were good, they were very good. Now that they're not good, they're horrid."
Curtis's latest book, Bucking the Sarge, is about a 15-year-old kid looking to make a break from his dead-end town. It's Curtis's initial foray into young-adult territory (his previous books were for pre-teens) and the first time he's set a story in the present. "I wanted to try something different," he admits. "There's more freedom. But there's a fear when you try something new."
Still, says Curtis, it all comes down to family and doing the right thing. "I was very fortunate to have parents that allowed me to be a kid," he says. "Young people today grow up so quickly. There's a lot of pressure on them." Curtis talks about and signs Bucking the Sarge at 7 p.m. Thursday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (24519 Cedar Road in Lyndhurst). Admission is free; call 216-691-7000. -- Michael Gallucci
Next Stop, Murder
CVSR tracks a killer.
Folks aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad plan to get right down to business on Saturday. "They kill someone within the first 20 minutes," reveals spokeswoman Nichole Difiore about the Murder Mystery Express, a mobile whodunit that gives passengers clues to solve the crime. (The event's theme is "Black and White and Dead All Over," and riders sporting black and white will receive an extra clue.) The adults-only, 90-minute ride begins with wine and appetizers, as character actors divulge their alibis. "All of the passengers have a clipboard and questions," says Difiore. After grilling suspects, participants fill out ballots naming the person they believe is the killer; the mystery is solved after the train pulls into the station. Sharp Sherlocks get CVSR passes and other prizes. But don't look to Difiore for clues. "It's always a different mystery," she says. The train gets a-rollin' at 7 p.m. at the Boston Mill Station (off Riverview Road in Peninsula). Tickets are $40; call 800-468-4070. -- Chris Miller
An artist honors his benefactors.
After a five-year bout with kidney disease, Harlem-born performance poet Sekou Sundiata sat down to write Blessing the Boats, about the five people who offered to donate one of their kidneys. In prose, poems, and monologues, the play describes those years "with my head spinning, my balance shifting beneath my feet, a 24/7-altered state of consciousness," explains Sundiata. "It's how I got from there to here, a travel story through geographies of the body and states of consciousness, as well as personal identity." Blessing the Boats is at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Performing Arts Center of Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus, 4250 Richmond Road in Highland Hills. Tickets are $15 to $25; call 216-241-6000. -- Cris Glaser
Misery Loves Beer Specials
Fuck It Wednesdays pretty much sum up waitress Sally Schaffer's midweek mind-set. After her shift ends, Schaffer spends her tips on the weekly special at Pounders: five bottles of beer in an ice-packed plastic pail for $10. "Some days," Schaffer grumbles, "that's about how much I make in tips from those lousy [customers]." Join the fun from 9:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. at Pounders Bar & Grill, 6370 York Road in Parma Heights. Admission is free; call 440-887-0185. -- Cris Glaser
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