FAME ON FILM: On Thursday, July 9, Montecito’s Tre Lune (1151 Coast Village Rd.) honors the American release of Santi Visalli‘s Icons, a 170-page collection of photographs constituting a visual history of the Western world’s celebrities from 1960 to 2000. The Sicilian-born Santa Barbara photographer’s black-and-white shots capture filmmakers, painters, sportsmen, presidents, movie stars, and musicians, including John F. Kennedy, Barbara Streisand, and Muhammad Ali. The cocktail reception and book-signing runs from 5-8 p.m., and selected photos will be exhibited. For details, call 969-2646.
NATURE’S PLEASURES (AND DANGERS): On Thursday, July 16, at 7 p.m., Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) invites Debra Lee Baldwin to discuss her new release, Designing with Succulents. Those who have dreamed of growing their very own paradise of cacti, aloe, and yucca should not miss her appearance. Also slated for a Chaucer’s signing is regional novelist and former firefighter Geoff Aggeler, whose new The Firewatcher, described as “an inferno of crime, survival, intrigue, and danger,” tells the tale of Rebecca Perez, high school teacher and part-time fire lookout. The book sees its heroine’s otherwise relatively normal life turn harrowing when a wildfire breaks out and threatens to spread, setting off a domino effect of troubles. Aggeler signs his book at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14. Call 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com for more information on either event.
MORE THAN JUST A BAPTISM: Most readers have heard of John the Baptist, but how much do we really know about the biblical figure? Certain facts about the fellow have spread far and wide-his locusts-and-honey diet, his relationship to and baptism of Jesus himself, his sudden beheading-but his is a story rarely told without being overshadowed completely by other towering elements of history or religion. Carpinteria author Brooks Hansen has taken the absence of a definitive account of the life of John the Baptist into his own hands with his latest book, John the Baptizer. Aiming to craft an accessible rendition of John’s story with neither a religious nor an antireligious agenda, Hansen draws on diverse sources, including the wellspring of his own imagination, to bring the much-mythologized preacher to narrative life. Tecolote Books (1470 E. Valley Rd.) celebrates the release of John the Baptizer with a signing and reception at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. Call 969-4977 or visit brookshansen.com for details.
Fast forward to Christianity in the 21st century, and you’ll find such phenomena as Walmart, the big-box retailer built on a foundation of Protestant evangelism. In his book The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business, UCSB history scholar Nelson Lichtenstein examines the rise to power of the discount store chain and the philosophies that underpin it. Lichtenstein will be signing copies of the book at Chaucer’s on Tuesday, July 21, at 7 p.m. To learn more about the book, visit ia.ucsb.edu.
KEEP ‘EM IN SUSPENSE: Mystery writers tend to accrue both enormous fan bases and almost-as-enormous groups of aspirants. What mystery reader hasn’t, at one time or another, been struck with an idea for the next megahit? Having penned no fewer than six mysteries herself, Elizabeth Sims has wisdom to share on what it takes to move from concept to execution. She appears at Borders Books (900 State St.) on Wednesday, July 22, at 7 p.m. to discuss her new piece of nonfiction, Reading and Writing Mysteries: Discussion, Gossip, and Expert Advice. For more information, call 899-3668.
FOLLOWING YOUR MUSE(S): For those who want to develop writing skills in any genre, Santa Barbara writers Jane Heller and Melodie Johnson Howe, also known as The Muse Madams, are here to help. Beginning Thursday, July 23, the Madams’ six-week series of workshops will answer questions about storytelling, agent-finding, publication, and marketing. Visit themusemadams.com for details.