Paul McHugh

As a former journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle and as a continuing freelance journalist, Paul knows the newspaper business inside and out. It is with great affection that he uses this knowledge to create Deadlines, whose main character is a burnt-out, boozed-out newspaper columnist in San Francisco.

Paul's talk ranged among history, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, and wound up in the vicinity of the anecdotal to give us the background of his novel. It's obvious he also has a great affection for the classic writers, like Dashiel Hammett, whose "Continental Op" character was based in San Francisco, so some of his talk was on the history of mystery.

Reporters are like detectives for their readers. They investigate and offer us information, just as a good private eye would. However, Paul feels that a fictional investigator needs to have a flaw or two, so the rest of us, reflected through these fictional characters, can have hope for ourselves. Colm McKay, Paul's main character, is certainly flawed, but in the end his integrity and hard-won knowledge propel him to shoulder the responsibility of solving the mystery.

Does Paul have an ulterior motive in giving his talks? He speaks not just to promote his book but also to preach about the value and viability of newspapers. As we stumble along into the digital age, there has to be a place for investigative and informative journalism. And, we might add, for books, solid and crinkly and light or heavy in our hands.