The author of the famed “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” has a new novel out, and yet again it’s set in a Seattle of the past. Here are the true stories of some of these places, which still stand today.
On the wall of a fluorescent-lit dental office, a coin’s toss from the corner of Third and Washington where horse-drawn carriages once lingered, hangs a story. The building, which housed a brothel a century ago, has seen many lives; just a bit of them has been preserved, in the form of a peeling rectangle of wall. Framed off behind glass, it’s a quiet collage: multiple layers of printed wallpaper — softly faded roses, still-bright grapes, Victorian froufrou — at times giving way to peeks at the original bricks below.
History is like that; you peel away at layers of time, seeing what lies beneath. Jamie Ford, author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” and his new book, “Love and Other Consolation Prizes” — both set in a Seattle of the past — knows a bit about history. He joined me, on a sparkling morning last month, for a stroll through the Chinatown International District and Pioneer Square, visiting the real locations that inspired his fiction.
We began with tea at the historic Panama Hotel (605 S. Main), a quiet place where history seems to whisper from every corner — and which played a key role in “Hotel,” a tale of love and friendship between a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl in 1940s Seattle.
The author of “Love and Other Consolation Prizes” will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 He’ll also appear at Tacoma Public Library’s Wheelock Branch at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, and at South Kitsap High School’s Win Granlund Performing Arts Center at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23.
Ford’s new novel takes place both earlier and later, during two World’s Fairs: 1909 and 1962. It was inspired, in part, by a Seattle Times clipping from long ago, which announced that an orphan baby would be raffled off to a lucky winner at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition
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Time has forgotten the fate of that real-life baby, whose name was Ernest. So Ford imagined a story for him, making the boy an immigrant from China (like Ford’s own great-grandfather, Min Chung — who changed his name to William Ford). In the novel,…