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'Emily' to get a grand coming-out party

Publisher believes local writer's book is a winner

In the family feud between authors and publishers, writers often complain their books don't get promoted. Publishers are good at publishing, not publicity, the thinking goes.

You won't hear that complaint from Camron Steve Wright. His new novel from Premier Publishing, "Letters for Emily," is getting a coming-out party that would make a debutante blush.

Earl Madsen of Premier seems to believe you create fans by creating a fanfare. And Wright and his book are getting the royal treatment.

"Everything we make we're sinking back into publicity," said Madsen. "The goal is to create enough local interest so we can sell off the national publishing rights to the book."

On Saturday, March 10, for example, the author will join Grant & Amanda of KSL Radio fame for a best-seller soiree at Media Play on Fort Union Blvd. There will be balloons, games, gifts, music and — in classic local tradition — plenty of refreshments. After that, Wright will hit the road for a barnstorming tour of regional bookstores.

"I'm not the kind of writer who gets caught up with being a writer," said Wright. "I see myself as a marketing person who likes to write."

The biggest reason for such a promotional blitz, of course, is that Madsen feels Wright has handed his company a real winner. All the preening in the world will never turn a nag into a show horse, but "Letters for Emily" seems to be a novel with all the ingredients for popular success.

Readers will find harrowing moments of the heart (life in a nursing home, impending divorce), a dash of humor, a touch of case-cracking detective work and more than a few words to live by — all written in a reader-friendly, breezy style.

In fact, for a former bridal-shop owner, Wright has a knack for dialogue and character that many more seasoned authors would envy.

Like James Pratt ("The Last Valentine") and Larry Barkdull ("The Mourning Dove"), Wright may lack professional writing credentials and range, but his "outsider" status also frees him to sidestep many literary concerns and sling his arrows at the human heart.

In short, "Letters for Emily" may not win a big-time literary prize, but it may garner a big-time readership. And for writers like Wright, getting read means more than getting academic respect.

What keeps the book from feeling contrived is that he's based it on people he cares about. Say what you will about "Letters for Emily," it is a sincere book.

"The idea came from the life of my grandfather," Wright said. "And though I didn't want to kill people with sweetness, I did want to write about 'goodness.' "

In the novel, a family is packing away the belongings of recently deceased Grandpa Harry, when young Emily realizes he has hidden secret messages in the poems he's penned over the years. The codes lead to a series of letters on the computer that the old man had written to Emily before he died. Those letters turn out to be the salve that saves the family.

Harry, Wright's cantankerous protagonist, cusses and misbehaves. He's hardly a model citizen. But then, the moral of the tale is that you have to look beyond surfaces to find what matters most.

"Letters for Emily" is solid, popular fare. And thanks to Madsen, it seems poised for lift-off.

If that happens, you can bet there'll be more parties and refreshments to come.