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Reading enthroned

The book group that calls itself the Pulpwood Queens is now holding court in Los Angeles.

November 27, 2003|Nancy Rommelmann | Special to The Times

"Try the brownies," said Allison Shuman, a 32-year-old nurse who was presiding over a table of sandwich wraps and sweets, the repast for the second meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

While the rest of the state awaited the recall election results, the two dozen women in the reading room of the Barnes & Noble at the Third Street Promenade slipped on hot-pink T-shirts, donned rhinestone tiaras and encircled author Lisa Tucker, who'd been invited to read from her new novel, "The Song Reader."

"They picked me for October book of the month," said Tucker, her black brogans and jean jacket an earthy contrast to the Queens' brilliant regalia. "Actually, I didn't know what it was until my agent told me."

"It" is the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, started three years ago by Kathy Patrick, who, while not being the first person to tap into the country's appetite for book clubs, does own the only hair salon/book shop in the nation, Beauty and the Book, in Jefferson, Texas. Where the Sweet Potato Queens (inspiration for but no relation to the Pulpwood Queens) care deeply about pork and brown sugar, the Pulpwood Queens crave books. Patrick, a cosmetologist as well as a tireless champion for her authors, launched "Good Morning America's" Read This Book Club, and picks the books for all 27 PQ chapters.

"I love the girly-girl aspect of it, but I also love to read, and now I have people to talk about books with," said Jamie Ann Lafer, a personal organizer who started the L.A. chapter in September and who wore a sparkly "Pulpwood Queen" brooch.

She added, "The hardest part is to get people to actually read the book."

After welcoming the Queens and a smattering of men (known as Latte Kings) with the PQ mantra -- "Tiaras are mandatory, and reading good books is the rule" -- Lafer turned over the floor to Tucker, who gave a spirited reading of her first novel, about two sisters, one of whom uses popular songs as psychic cartography.

Some in the audience seemed more interested in promoting their own writing than in discussing hers. "That sounds very interesting," Tucker said with enviable equanimity to a woman brandishing a copy of her newly published "spicy Cinderella story" told entirely in e-mails. Another woman brought a dozen of her own slim paperbacks, with illustrations by her husband and titles that all began with "You Can Be a Woman ... " (Filmmaker, Aerospace Engineer, etc.).

Over a second brownie, Nancie Shuman, sister of Allison, said the Pulpwood Queens offer something you can't get at a monthly "wine and cheese at Mary's"-type book club. "If you were at Mary's house, you'd see the same people every month," said the 40-year-old executive assistant at Sony. "This way you meet new people, and authors. It just has more cachet.

"We can always get wine on our own."

Nancy Rommelmann can be contacted at

weekend@latimes.com.

*

Royal gathering

What: The Los Angeles chapter of the Pulpwood Queens

When: Meets the first

Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.; the next book for discussion is the "Satellite Sisters' Uncommon Senses" on Dec. 2.

Where: Barnes & Noble, 1201 3rd St., Santa Monica

Cost: Membership, $25

Info: www.beautyandthebook.com

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