Central Coast-based novelists unite for radio drama-style readings

As soon as he moved to Santa Maria, former actor Tony Piazza enjoyed a surprising reprise.

“It was interesting that when we first moved here, they did put a callout for Sideways,” said Piazza, who relocated to Santa Maria during the early 2000s, thinking he’d left his former life as a prolific stand-in actor and stunt double for film and television behind him in San Francisco.

click to enlarge Central Coast-based novelists unite for radio drama-style readings
ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET: Santa Maria novelist Tony Piazza (left) and Santa Ynez novelist Lida Sideris (right) are two of the four authors featured at Coalesce Bookstore’s upcoming group book signing.

“I ended up getting a couple of days work on that,” added Piazza, who Sideways viewers can briefly spot as a background character in one of the 2004 film’s first winery scenes.

Nowadays, Piazza—who’s penned multiple detective novels in his popular Tom Logan series—is best known for his writing work. 

On April 16, the local mystery author will be one of four writers participating in a unique book signing that will offer him a brief return to the world of acting.

“We just put our heads together and thought it’d be great to do a radio drama,” said Piazza, who will join longtime acquaintances and fellow authors Mara Purl, Anne R. Allen, and Lida Sideris for the upcoming program, which will include live dramatic, radio play-style readings of excerpts from their books.

click to enlarge Central Coast-based novelists unite for radio drama-style readings
DYNAMIC DUO: During the 1970s, author and former actor Tony Piazza (right) worked as a stand-in for Michael Douglas (left), among other actors. Piazza says he’s excited to perform again, albeit radio drama-style, at an upcoming book reading in Morro Bay.

The free event, spearheaded and organized by Purl, is scheduled to be held at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay—in the venue’s outdoor garden chapel area.

“The chapel in the back is great for events because you’re not really crowded in, or amongst people shopping and stuff,” said Piazza, who added that the group hopes to host similar radio drama-esque readings in the future at additional venues along the Central Coast, if this first event has a successful turnout. 

“We just have to see how popular this is and if it takes off,” Piazza said. “I grew up in the late ’50s, when radio dramas were sort of fading out, but I loved them. What’s great about them is you can use your imagination; you can lay back and close your eyes and picture what’s going on.”

“It’s a shame that we don’t have as much of that today,” Piazza added. “Too much is up-front now and doesn’t challenge your mind anymore.”

During Piazza’s turn at the event, he’ll read the part of protagonist Tom Logan in an excerpt from one of the novels in his ongoing mystery series, which follows the investigator’s countless cases.

Throughout the event, all four authors will help each other out here and there by reading as different characters in each of the program’s 10-minute excerpts, along with additional performers—C.S. Perryess and Ilona Stone—brought in to lend their own acting chops for certain scenes.

Sideris, a Santa Ynez Valley-based author, said she’s excited to read as Corrie Locke—the star sleuth of her series of mystery novels—for the first time in a live, theatrical setting.

“I’ve read one of my short stories on Facebook Live before, but I’ve never actually played my character before, which is what I’ll be doing here,” said Sideris. “It looks like we’re going to have a lot of fun, and I don’t know how the audience won’t have fun with us. When you’re watching something where the people performing it are enjoying it, you’re bound to enjoy it yourself as well.”

click to enlarge Central Coast-based novelists unite for radio drama-style readings
BOOKS BY THE BAY: Local authors hailing from Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara, and Los Osos will gather at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay on April 16 for a unique book signing and dramatic readings event.

When it came to picking an excerpt from her latest novel, Gambling with Murder, Sideris sought a scene with “just the right amount of intrigue, action, and dialogue,” and one in which all of the event’s performers could participate.

“I wanted everyone involved,” Sideris said. “I was looking for something where I could do that because I thought that would be the most fun.”

While Sideris’ reading is mostly dialogue-based without many visual flourishes, she initially pondered putting together a covert costume based on her descriptions of Locke’s “black ops attire,” she said.

“She has to blend into the night because most of her activity takes place after hours,” Sideris said of the fictional investigator. “As much as I’d love to dress as my character, I don’t know if I’ll be able to have a changing room nearby where I could do that.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is a night owl too. Give him a hoot at [email protected].

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