SMITH: Pastis leaves Rat and Pig at home

Brilliant and wacky Stephan Pastis, creator of the raging "Pearls Before Swine" comic strip, has left Santa Rosa and his drawing board for a bit to talk up his first non-cartoon book.

Everywhere the ex-lawyer goes on his book tour, he's greeted by standing-room crowds, eager media coverage and positive reviews.

"Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made" is an illustrated children's novel that stars a fairly clueless 11-year-old

detective and his sidekick, a polar bear named Total.

"It's just crazy" is how Stephan described the tour Monday from Tucson. He sees himself as much more a writer than a cartoonist, so it's no surprise a highlight of his tour came during some free time in Hartford, Conn., and a docent's VIP tour of Mark Twain's home.

"She moved the velvet rope so I could stand next to the desk where he did his writing," said the clearly awed author/cartoonist.

"And she moved it again so I could stand next to the bed he died in.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Lovers of words and food dream up the most delectable ideas for raising money for the Sonoma County Public Library Foundation and the Free Bookmobile.

Nibble on this one: Starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol, some of the county's finest purveyors of chocolate will serve guests something to savor while they watch Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief."

The $35 admission also buys — a book.

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