Book Report: Time travel around the world
Longtime Portland writer Mike Rich's first novel is a book for young adults called "Skavenger's Hunt."
The book begins at the Natural History Museum, where 12-year-old Henry Babbitt is alone on Christmas Eve. There's a snow storm underway, and he's waiting for his mom to pick him up. After a mysterious conversation with his grandfather, Henry is transported back in time to 1885 New York and embarks on the first and greatest scavenger hunt ever held. Along the way he meets colorful people including Mark Twain and Gustave Eiffel.
The Tribune caught up with Rich to discuss the book:
Tribune: You've written many screenplays — "Finding Forrester," "The Rookie," "Secretariat." This is your first novel. Why now?
Rich: I have three grandchildren now and I'd just finished up working on "Cars 3" as one of the screenwriters — trust me that makes you popular with the grandkids — and this was really an itch that I just needed to scratch. I grew up in the Eastern Oregon town of Enterprise and there was a small bookstore there called the Book Loft, and it's there that I discovered "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." And I've been so lucky to have this screenwriting career, it's been 25 years now, I'm still shaking my head at that. But I loved these books so much, and so writing this book closes a loop for me.
Tribune: Is that bookstore still there?
Rich: I went there for my 40th high school reunion, and I don't travel there often, don't have family there anymore, but not only is it still there, it's totally thriving. It's still one of those bookstores you can get lost in. It has a long narrow door inside. You step through it, and you can still get lost.
Tribune: Other than the two books you mentioned, what other books left a deep impression on you when you were a young reader?
Rich: Even before these, it was the ones I read even earlier, like in fourth grade. It was the "Wizard of Oz" books, and there was a teacher at my elementary school who read "Where the Red Fern Grows" to us out loud. I just hear the title and my eyes well up. Trust me, I later read my share of Stephen King books, too. I just read a lot.
Tribune: What's the main difference between writing a novel and a screenplay?
Rich: In a word, description. In a screenplay I can say: "Outside, Yankee Stadium at night." And the camera does the rest. I can't tell you how many times editors on this book asked for more description.
Tribune: What did you like best about writing from the point of view of 12-year-old Henry Babbit?
Rich: He is the type of character I love, and the reason I write. I love underdogs. Ordinary people who are struggling. He's having a bit harder time than most because his dad passed away in recent years, but here is a kid who was promised a life of adventure and that dream ended when his dad died. He lost that dream and now is embarking on the adventure of a lifetime as he time-travels to different parts of the world.
Tribune: The book travels from Mississippi riverboats to the streets of old Paris. Are you a history buff?
Rich: More so as I get older. I have a greater appreciation for it. I really zeroed in on 1885 because a lot happened that year. Hopefully the history is layered in with adventure and historical figures, and young readers will be entertained and learn a few things.
Tribune: You're doing an event at Annie Bloom's on Nov. 16. Is this a favorite bookshop of yours?
Rich: It's one of my favorites, you bet. I love how Annie Bloom's has always had a real focus on local writers and it pays a lot of attention to young adults, too. After that reading I can't wait to hit the road.
Tribune: Do you think it will be adapted to film?
Rich: If it is, I know a screenwriter who can do the edits.
Mike Rich reads from his new book at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at Annie Bloom's Books, 7834 S.W. Capitol Highway. For more: annieblooms.com.