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News Release — October 17, 2005

Best-selling author Simon Winchester Opens the 2005 Texas Book Festival

EVENT: Best-selling author Simon Winchester opens the 2005 Texas Book Festival with a talk about his new book "A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906," a blend of history, science and philosophical inquiry. A book-signing will follow. The event is free, but seating is limited.

WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27.

WHERE: The Ransom Center is on the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

BACKGROUND: Winchester's books cover a wide range of subjects, including the remaining British Empire, the colonial architecture of India, aristocracy, the American Midwest, his experience of months in an Argentine prison on spying charges, the future of China and his six-month walk through the Korean peninsula.

Winchester's recent works include "The River at the Center of the World," about China's Yangtze River; the best-selling "The Professor and the Madman," which is to be made into a major film by the distinguished French director Luc Besson; and "The Map that Changed the World," about the 19th-century geologist William Smith.

In "A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906," Winchester describes the drama of the quake and the three-day fire that wiped out the city, and assesses where truth ends and myth begins. He suggests ways in which the disaster would be a defining moment for the city, and would leave behind a legacy of social, cultural and religious change that rippled far beyond the Bay Area.

Winchester notes that the true legacy of the San Francisco quake lies in the surety that the collision of the North American and Pacific plates along the San Andreas Fault will once more unleash a devastating earthquake upon the Bay Area.

Since 1996, the Texas Book Festival has celebrated writers and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas and imagination with more than 1,700 authors participating in literary programs free to the public. The Festival has contributed $1.65 million to public libraries throughout the state, enabling them to expand their book collections and reading programs. Five-hundred-fifty of the state's 561 libraries have received grants from the Festival, with a $2,500 Texas Book Festival grant typically doubling the annual materials budget of a public library.

The Texas Book Festival and the Ransom Center are co-sponsors of the event.

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