Monday, April 07, 2008

The Heart behind "The Heartless Stone": April 16, 6:30 p.m.

A few months back I received an e-mail with the subject line "hello michael" that began "There is no way in hell you would ever remember this ..."

You might expect an e-mail beginning that way to contain a blackmail threat. This one didn't. Instead, it took me back to a winter evening in Tucson, Arizona twenty-something years ago and a high school basketball game (I imagine Bubba Martin was playing; a helluva guard). At the time I was an aspiring sports reporter, a little older than Tom Zoellner who was also an aspiring sports reporter. The newspaper where I worked had assigned us to the same game so I could show Tom the basics.

All this time later, Tom had found me via an entry on the books page of and thought he'd give me a hello.

Turns out we'd both gone on to newspaper reporting careers and then took up writing. We'd even both lived a while in Missoula, Montana, Now he was in New York City; I'm in Baltimore.

Moreover, he's done great work. His 2006 book ""The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire", won plaudits from reviewers around the country. I'm in the midst of it, stunned by the reporting and writing. It's a compelling book that Zoellner reported from ten countries including three in Africa. That same year "An Ordinary Man," was released, which is the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, the heroic hotel manager depicted in Hotel Rwanda, a book co-authored by Zoellner.

Wednesday, April 16, Tom will read from "The Heartless Stone" here in Baltimore at Towson University as part of our English Department Reading Series. The first page turns around 6:30 p.m., in the Towson Room of the Cook Library. I'm thrilled to see Tom again and eager to hear him read. We have no plans to cover any high school sports.

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