Writers are nearly as numerous as lawyers in this neighborhood, but not too many of them have their movies optioned by award winning directors. Lou Bayard, who specializes in historical fiction, recently sold the rights to his novel “The Pale Blue Eye” about Edgar Allen Poe’s days at West Point, and “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper has signed on to direct. Bayard is a regular fixture here on the Hill, and between working on his novels, fathering two boys and reviewing books for the Post, he writes for Salon and the Huffington Post on topics as varied as Mary Cheney’s pregnancy, tiger moms and James Franco. His essay about not being able to grasp the word Balmoral, thus losing in a round of Final Jeopardy (btw, in gaelic, the name of the Scottish castle means “majestic dwelling”), is full of tips for would be contenders — and is a bit sad.
You have a new novel, “The School of the Night,” coming out next month. Do the modern day characters from Washington have any tie to Capitol Hill?
Oh, yeah. The very first chapter is set at the Folger. Both the hero and heroine have Hill addresses, and several Hill landmarks crop up (including Bullfeathers and, yes, Peregrine).
I see you writing at Peregrine Coffee quite often (daily?). How do you get anything done in such noisy close quarters?
You mean my office? I’m not there daily but quite often. I think it’s my journalism training — I need a certain amount of background noise. White noise and black tea, that’s the ticket for me. If things are too quiet, I get restless.
You recently wrote a bit of farce about tiger moms for the Huffington Post. I’ve heard Hill parents are quite a competitive bunch. Are you a tiger dad? I’m a pussycat dad. My kids walk all over me. I could do with a little more tiger. Btw, I’m not sure Hill parents are any more competitive than others. Compared to some Northwest DC parents I know, we’re pretty mellow.
Do you have any tips for would-be Jeopardy contestants?
Keep trying. I tried out three times before they took me. And pray that the show isn’t taken over by computers. It’s funny, the Hill is full of Jeopardy champs. I went once to a medium-sized cocktail party, and there were four of us.
You write book reviews for the Post and other publications. What’s the last great book you reviewed?
I loved Keith Richards’ memoirs. They were a hoot and a half. I’m also very fond of Bill Bryson. His last book, “At Home,” was like a big helping of comfort food for me.