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Series Debuts With Case of Titanic

May 19, 1999|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The "Titanic" mania that surrounded director James Cameron's epic blockbuster may have subsided long ago, but first-time novelist Sam McCarver of Dana Point has a Titanic tale you haven't heard.

It seems passengers have been dying on the White Star Lines' trans-Atlantic ocean liners: three mysterious suicides on three ships--all in first-class cabins numbered 13.

The cruise line can't afford a fourth death.

In hopes of debunking rumors of a murderous shipboard ghost, Cambridge professor John Darnell--the world's only "paranormal detective"--agrees to be the next occupant of cabin 13 on board the maiden voyage of the line's newest ship: the Titanic.

"The Case of Cabin 13" (Signet; $5.99) is the first in a planned series of paperback original mysteries featuring the American-born Englishman, Darnell.

McCarver, who retired from a career in banking in 1991, says he "plunged into the writing experience, taking seminars and workshops. I've always been interested in writing, and that gave me the time to do it."

The author ("Just say I'm well over 60") has been something of a Titanic buff since his youth in Detroit, when his father would tell him bedtime stories based on the Titanic disaster and other dramatic historical events.

"I've always had this interest in disastrous situations such as the Hindenburg and so forth. And it seemed to me the Titanic was the No. 1 human tragedy of this century, and it had long-standing interest," said McCarver, who finished his book six months before the movie hit theaters in late 1997.

"The Case of Cabin 13" isn't McCarver's first stab at writing a novel.

"Most authors have a couple of books in the closet that don't quite make it, and I have one of those too, but this is the first book [to be] published," he said. "I'm pleased to have a series because it gives me a chance to develop the characters in two more books."

The next one, "The Case of Compartment 7"--each book will have a number in the title--is due in February. That one is set on the Orient Express in 1914, just before World War I, a period in which "I've always had a great deal of interest," McCarver said.

The author will bring back Darnell and Penny Winters, a young American woman he meets and falls in love with on board the Titanic. They'll be married in the second book, combining a long-delayed honeymoon with Darnell's investigation of "a blood-drenched phantom lady who has appeared on the legendary train."

Noted McCarver with a laugh: "My book is the only Titanic book that has a sequel."

McCarver will discuss and sign "The Case of Cabin 13" at 7 p.m. today at Borders Books and Music, 25222 El Paseo, Mission Viejo. He'll also sign at 6 p.m. Thursday at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin Ave., Orange.

Also Coming Up:

* Poets Donato Martinez and Tim Perez will read at 8 tonight at the Ugly Mug Cafe, 261 N. Glassell St., Orange.

* Barbara DeMarco Barrett will interview Orange Coast magazine editor Pat Mott at 6 tonight on KUCI-FM (88.9) in Irvine.

* Larry Karp will sign "The Music Box Murders" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232

Springdale St., Westminster.

* William Kent Krueger will sign "Boundary Waters" at 6 p.m. Thursday at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin Ave., Orange. Krueger will also sign at noon Friday at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster.

* Kris Conover and Gayle Gardner will discuss and sign "Marriage Made Simple" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 26751 Aliso Creek Road, Aliso Viejo.

* Richard Barre will sign "Blackheart Highway" at 11 a.m. Saturday, and T. Jefferson Parker will sign "The Blue Hour" at 1 p.m. Saturday, at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin Ave., Orange.

* A used-book sale will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Stanton branch library, 7850 Katella Ave.

* T. Jefferson Parker ("The Blue Hour") will sign at 11 a.m. Sunday Richard Barre ("Blackheart Highway") will sign at 1 p.m. Sunday, and Nathan Walpow ("The Cactus Club Killings") will sign at 3 p.m. Sunday, at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster.

* Allan A. Shoenherr will sign "Natural History of the Islands of California" at 2 p.m. Sunday at Latitude 33 Bookshop, 311 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach.

* Poet and novelist Stephen Dobyns will discuss and sign "Boy in the Water" at 2 p.m. Sunday at San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real.

Send information about book-related events at least 10 days before event to: Dennis McLellan, O.C. Books & Authors, Southern California Living, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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