By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
“Junkets & Jaunts”
Longtime Downtown resident and former executive editor of San Diego Magazine Ron Donoho has published a travel anthology called “Junkets & Jaunts.” While Donoho has bylines in several national outlets, the stories that make up this book are from his personal blog, junketsandjaunts.com. Many of the places he visits are in Southern California, with a weekend spent on Catalina Island or a night in Carlsbad. Others stray further, including a trip to Arizona to find the best avorita after an avocado-infused margarita he tried in San Diego disappointed (his sense of adventure was undeterred by the poor experience).
The collection of travel stories is a fast and enjoyable read filled with pop culture references and funny diversions. Donoho’s travel philosophy is based on car-share drivers, among others, offering the best regional insights. Thankfully he does not fall into the territory of relaying what a taxi driver said to him when he first entered a city wide-eyed — a cliche so overused by travel writers and journalists alike it garners only eye rolls. Instead, the interviews he includes are with award-winning bartenders haunted by searing loss and the founder of a worldwide scavenger hunt who was once dubbed the “World’s Greatest Traveler” by National Geographic.
Donoho’s stories are often lighthearted and spattered with clever callbacks to previous adventures. In one of his more introspective pieces of writing, said bartender tells him asking too many questions means he will not get to enjoy the details as much. Donoho concludes, “like a great craft cocktail or poignant barroom tales, attention to detail usually elevates the experience.” In his own writing, Donoho details the characters of each place he visits yet does not get bogged down in being overly descriptive. Traveling, like writing, should be fun after all.
Pacific Beach author Carl Vonderau is taking the glorification of serial killers out of the true crime genre with his debut thriller “Murderabilia,” published by Midnight Ink. The novel focuses on the son of a serial killer whose photos of his victims spurred the “murderabilia” market. While the son has changed his name and lives an idyllic life as a banker, a threatening phone call sends him back into the world of secrets, crime and guilt of his childhood.
“[‘Murderabilia’] takes the glory out of a serial killer because it’s really from the perspective of what his crimes do to his children. And it’s about growing up under the stigma of your father being a very famous serial killer,” Vonderau said in a phone interview. “Having to live down what your father did is really at the heart of the book and trying to escape from it.”
For Vonderau, the book is more than just a thrilling read: it is a cultural critique, a family drama, and a vessel for exploring his own past experiences. Like the protagonist, Vonderau worked in banking, a career that took him to North Africa, Latin America and Canada. Those places became the setting for the book as international hijinks ensue.
“There’s a scene in Columbia, there’s a scene in Algeria and these were places where I’ve worked. I’ve worked in a lot of sectors of banking, so I bring that to the novel,” he said.
Vonderau has retired from banking and is now a full-time author with more true crime books on the way. In the meantime, he is also helping local nonprofits. On Aug. 10, he raised money for Traveling Stories with other local authors at the Book Catapult. Together, they donated $1,500 worth of children’s books for the organization to distribute to 2-10-year-olds learning to read.
“Let’s Go to the Moon”
Matthew Dawe’s kicks off his “when bedtime is an adventure” children’s book series with “Let’s Go to the Moon,” illustrated by Uptown-based artist Samela St. Pierre. The book turns the nighttime ritual of going to bed into a time when kids can imagine a daring enterprise. The whimsical book blends fantasy and reality as Timmy’s mom reads him a book about space travel. He dreams that the family car transforms into a rocket ship and he and his dad head into outer space together. Once there, they find themselves in the middle of intergalactic war and retreat to the mothership, where they are greeted by aliens who take them to their home on the moon. The next morning, Timmy wakes up in his own bed wondering what is real and what is imagined.
“The idea of ‘when bedtime is an adventure’ struck me because getting little ones to bed is sometimes difficult and if you can create an environment where you don’t know what fun things might happen when you go to bed, hurry up and go to bed was an interesting thought,” Dawe said in a phone interview.
While author Dawe is now based in Seattle and illustrator St. Pierre is now in San Diego, the pair actually met while they both lived in Massachusetts.
“My wife Karen googled local artists and [St. Pierre] came up and we got a chance to meet at a coffee shop. She showed me some of the things that she had done and I really liked the connection of having a local artist rather than just having a corporate office do the illustrations,” Dawe said.
Dawe plans to carry the family featured in the book through eight or nine more stories in the series.
Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org