Garth Stein

After Oprah, having a display at Starbucks may be the most effective way to launch a book. The coffee giant has previously selected Mitch Albom (ugh), Ishmael Beah (hooray!), and David Sheff (meth!) for its book program; now Mount Baker resident Garth Stein is getting the same treatment for his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain (Harper, $23.95), about car racing, dogs, reincarnation, and an ugly child-custody battle. He told me about it over coffee recently (I won’t say where, though no green mermaids were in sight). His former New York agent rejected Stein’s third novel, saying, “we couldn’t sell it because it’s narrated by a dog,” apparently oblivious to the fact that most author photos include a golden retriever. His new agent got a feeler from a scout from Starbucks Entertainment, and soon Art of Racing “is gonna be in 7,000 Starbucks.” The book is based in part on Stein’s amateur racing with an old junker Miata after the Shoreline native returned home in 2001 following 18 years in New York. At Pacific Raceways (formerly SIR), “I reached the limit of what I could do without being independently wealthy. You see these guys out there with their quarter-million dollar cars.” (So that’s why we need to upgrade to Vista—to pay for those Redmond Ferraris.) “It all came to an end in a terrible crash, of course. I hit the concrete barrier. I was going over 100 mph. I had a concussion. My wife said, ‘And the good news is, you’re retired.’” Their third child displaced Stein from his old home office; now he writes at a rented desk over a pizzeria. But he and his 74-year-old father still go to the track for fun, non-competitive laps and “this whole Zen of racecars, the balance and anticipation and being in the moment.” Which Art of Racing’s protagonist (the dog’s owner) needs during a family crisis. BRIAN MILLER

Sat., Oct. 4, 10 a.m., 2008

 
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