The International Mystery Writers’ Festival in Owensboro debuted last year largely touting the cachet of its literary contributors and board members such as playwright Ira Levin and novelist Sue Grafton.
This year, it’s adding a little dash of Hollywood.
Gene Hackman will be in Owensboro on June 21 to promote his new book, Escape From Andersonville, a Civil War novel he wrote with Dan Lenihan. According to Zev Buffman, director of the festival and Owensboro’s RiverPark Center, Hackman will turn his visit into a little Kentucky tour, hitting Louisville and Lexington on this trip, though details of those events have not been confirmed.
Hackman is the two-time Oscar-winning star of movies such as The French Connection and Mississippi Burning, though he has been saying recently that he’s retired from filmmaking.
Not in any way retired, and in fact at the center of one of this summer’s CGI spectacles, is Union resident Josh Hutcherson. The 15-year-old star of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, due in theaters July 11, will be in Owensboro on June 14 to receive the festival’s Kentucky’s Rising Star Award.
The announcement of the award grouped Hutcherson with other movie stars from Kentucky such as George Clooney and Ashley Judd.
“I never thought that would happen,” Hutcherson said of being lumped with those home-state peers. “It feels like an affirmation of all the work I’ve put in the last few years.”
Hutcherson, who was in Louisiana filming Cirque du Freak when I talked to him, will have a busy day in the Barbecue Capital, speaking to teens in RiverPark’s Young Adult Theatre Academy, giving a master class, receiving his award before a performance of the new Sherlock Holmes play The Final Toast, and hosting a Q&A session about his films, including RV, Zathura and The Bridge to Terabithia.
When he talks to other young people about the film business, Hutcherson tends to tell them, “The reality is it is not all glamour. You have to keep your head up and keep fighting your way up,” he said.
It’s advice some of the new playwrights in the festival might take to heart.
The festival will stage 14 world premieres from newcomers and established playwrights such as Stuart Kaminsky, Rupert Holmes, Ray Bradbury, Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha Christie.
Yes, Dame Agatha has been dead for more than 30 years, but the Mystery Fest is getting the honor of premiering Chimneys, a lost Christie script that is being performed with the Christie Family Estate’s blessing.
Kaminsky’s contribution is a new Sherlock Holmes mystery, and Bradbury’s It Burns Me Up is on a double bill with Clark’s My Gal Sunday.
If any of the newcomers are scared of the big-name competition for the fest’s Angie Awards, named for Angela Lansbury, they can take heart from Danville’s Elizabeth Orndorff, whose Death by Darkness beat out some heavy hitters for last year’s top honors.
The festival itself got some recognition at this year’s Edgar Awards, the big award for mystery writing. All three Edgar nominees for best play had premiered at the inaugural International Mystery Writers’ Festival. The winner was Joseph Goodrich’s Panic.
So, in Owensboro, you can see some stars, and maybe you’ll see some stars born.