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1861 words
SHJ Issue 2
Fall 2010

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson on Tour, Delighting Little Pirates and Everyone Else Too!

Marla E. Schwartz

A few months ago Dave Barry was on tour with fellow scribe Ridley Pearson as they traversed the states discussing the newest novel in their children’s book series. If you’re looking for real-life superheroes, look no further than the dynamic duo of Miami’s own Pulitzer-Prize winning author Dave Barry, America’s most notable humorist since Mark Twain, and one of this country’s most inspiring crime thriller writers, Ridley Pearson, whose engrossing tales will leave your children waiting impatiently for the next masterpiece.

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson on tour; Photo Credit&$58; Disney Publishing Worldwide (used by permission)

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson on book tour
Photo Credit: Disney Publishing Worldwide
(Used by permission)

A pocketful of imagination mixed with a little bit of star stuff was all that was needed for these two very entertaining and fun-loving guys to begin writing their very first book together called Peter and the Starcatchers. This best selling children’s novel, which provides a back-story for the characters of Peter Pan, serving as a prequel to J. M. Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy, has delighted children everywhere. Since then, they’ve written Peter and the Shadow Thieves and Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, and have recently been on a book tour for their latest fête, Peter and the Sword of Mercy.

There’s no denying that these two unassuming gentleman are the best of friends, thanks in fact to Dave’s brother, Sam Barry, whose wife Kathy Goldmark, founder of The Rock Bottom Remainders, recruited them to play in this band together fifteen years ago for a charity benefit. This first meeting turned into a long-lasting friendship. The story of how they met is just as important as the origination of the idea for their children’s novels that ties into the curiosity of one child. No, not Peter Pan, but that of Paige Pearson.

One night Ridley was reading J. M. Barrie’s book to his daughter when she said, “Yah, Dad, but how did Peter Pan meet Captain Hook in the first place?” Well, Ridley’s imagination took off and he said, “Paige, that’s its own book and Daddy’s going to write about it.”

“And she’s thrilled by this whole thing,” Ridley said. “She didn’t realize the can of worms she had opened up.”

The fourth book in the Starcatchers series takes place in 1901. It has been 23 years since Peter and the Lost Boys returned from Rundoon and none of them have aged. Captain Hook is still in the picture. Molly and George Darling moved to London, got married and had three children. One night they’re visited by original Lost Boy James who is now working for Scotland Yard. He believes that the heir to England’s throne is under the influence of shadow creatures. The exciting journey soars. The journey of the book and the book tour.

“We get huge crowds, which have been unexpected in a recession,” Dave points out. “The kids come dressed as pirates and swordfighters and there are a bunch of one-eyed pirates in the audience.”

Ridley Pearson speaks to kids during tour; Photo Credit&$58; Disney Publishing Worldwide (used by permission)

Ridley Pearson speaks to kids during book tour.
Photo Credit: Disney Publishing Worldwide
(Used by permission)

“And {we’ve} been driving {around} in this ridiculous vehicle which I’m not sure whether it has any impact on anybody,” Dave explained as Ridley begins to crack up. “Well, it did have an impact on one bicyclist and us—which I mean in the sense that he means that it actually impacted him.”

“But we don’t know, maybe he was just figuring anybody who can afford the Sword Mobile must be loaded,” Ridley pointed out.

“The Sword Mobile is a Ford hybrid it called an Escort?” Dave asked Ridley.

“Yes it is,” Ridley assured him. “An Escort that they’ve wrapped with our jacket art so that our faces are on it, and the jacket cover is on it and it’s really fun.”

These gentlemen are definitely having fun on their book tour. But is fun the only name of the game? Years ago Ridley was quoted as saying he likes people to absorb knowledge when reading his books. Then what type of knowledge exactly is he hoping they absorb while reading Peter and the Sword of Mercy?

“Really, I said that?” He pondered. “I must’ve been smokin’ something,” he joked. “That was something I said years ago and I was talking about my crime novels and it wasn’t knowledge.”

“He does a lot of research,” Dave said.

And without missing a beat, Ridley pointed out, “I meant that I put a lot of research into the book, so you learn something when you read my books. But knowledge—that’s a far stretch. It’s not like I have any knowledge to share.”

“We have no intention of putting meaning or life-lessons into these books,” he continued. “These books are supposed to be what J. K. Rowling opened the door to, which is that the kids love the story and the characters, and they’re willing to read a big book. So we hope we’ve written big, rich, fun books with a lot of story and character and very little significance to the world.”

“We’re just trying to write fun books,” Dave said. “We have fun writing them, we try not to write down to kids. We take out bad words, and take typical relations between adults and knock them down from an R rating to a PG rating, but if somebody has to look a word up in the dictionary, so be it. The feedback is that the kids love reading them for that reason. They just love getting wrapped up in these characters and being taken on a wild ride.

“A lot of times when we’re on this tour they’re seeing this book for the first time, and they’ve all brought the previous three books with them. We’re signing them and then they want to know what’s going to happen {next}, but they don’t want to know too much.”

One of the favorite characters in their books is Molly. She’s one of the most enigmatic female characters in children’s literature. Everyone loves Molly.

“We love Molly, too,” Dave said. “We both have daughters so we wanted to create a kick-butt little girl to be our heroine and every bit the equal of Peter. We’ve been really gratified to the reaction of girls to the books because there’s a tendency in the part of the book industry to divide fiction up between girl fiction and boy fiction and I can see some of that, but we really didn’t want that {to happen}.”

Dave’s daughter is now “nine and she’s just starting to read the Starcatchers and loves them. But if you ask her, she actually thinks she’s read them all because she’s been watching her father write them and go on book tours for all these years,” Dave explained. “She loves book events and my kids love it when their dad is in front of everybody and they come and drape themselves around me just to make sure that everybody knows ‘this is my dad’ you know and it’s pretty cool.”

Ridley Pearson on tour; Photo Credit&$58; Disney Publishing Worldwide (used by permission)

Ridley Pearson on book tour
Photo Credit: Disney Publishing Worldwide
(Used by permission)

So what have the kids asked these esteemed writers?

“Well, we do this little routine when we’re talking about the books and we talk about how we couldn’t call Captain Hook ‘Captain Hook’ because when we started the first book, he still had both hands because he hadn’t met Peter Pan yet, so we called him the Black Mustache. So one little boy raised his hand and said, ‘What did they call him when he was little?’ Well, I had never thought about that,” Dave explained.

“And in the first book everybody gets washed up onto this island and one of the kids raised his hand and said, ‘Hey you know, when they got washed up on the island, what did they eat?’” Ridley said.

“So we let Ridley handle that one and he thought about it for a moment and said, ‘bananas.’ That’s the thing about kids. They don’t care about rights, they don’t care about lawyers or film deals—they care about story and character and that’s what makes it so refreshing and fun,” Dave said.

“And this sounds weird because we’re talking about stuff we made up,” Dave said.

Also, when it comes to the star stuff, “we could’ve just said it’s pixie dust, but we wanted something that had more to it with the story behind it,” Ridley said.

“We wanted there to be more of logic to it, so that you could build more of a sustainable world around it,” Ridley said.

“There’s logic to this fantasy,” Dave pointed out.

“Dave demanded this from the beginning,” Ridley said. “I was more of the school of ‘star stuff can do anything’ and Dave very quickly laid down the law that there had to be rules to this world or it wouldn’t be any fun because then anything was possible at any time. If you establish rules for a world, it actually helps you because it sets up conflict and defines what’s going on.”

“It gives kids real problems to solve instead of ‘oh magic,’ you know,” Dave said.

So what advice do these prolific writers want to give aspiring writers?

“Well, we meet a lot of them,” Dave said. “In any group of kids there’s always going to be two or three you can just tell are really into it. In fact one little boy brought us a written and illustrated complete new Peter and the Starcatchers book, which was really pretty good.”

“Yah, it was six pages long,” Ridley added.

“There are certain kids who are just born to write,” Dave said. “If that’s what they want to do, we tell them to keep writing and to read a lot.”

“And be prepared to revise because there are days that Dave and I revise our stuff four or five times because that’s the only way it gets good,” Ridley explained.

Dave Barry speaks to kids during tour; Photo Credit&$58; Disney Publishing Worldwide (used by permission)

Dave Barry speaks to kids during book tour.
Photo Credit: Disney Publishing Worldwide
(Used by permission)

And what about a reality program about them—sort of like Dave’s previous show based on his life, Dave’s World—it could be called Dave and Ridley’s World?

“Sure, if I get the same arrangement as I had with Dave’s World, which was basically that {I didn’t have to do} anything.”

The idea of these men not doing anything isn’t real—so nix the reality show idea. For those of you who cannot get enough of Barry’s work, he still periodically writes for the Miami Herald. You can also go to his official website for information:

And of course, make sure you check out Ridley Pearson’s website,, for details on his novels, film deals, tour schedule and more.


Dave Barry is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than two dozen books including The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog; Dave Barry’s Money Secrets; Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys; Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway; and Big Trouble.

Ridley Pearson is the best-selling author of twenty-three novels, including the young adult novel The Kingdom Keepers and the adult thrillers Killer Weekend, Killer Summer, Cut and Run, The Pied Piper, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, Beyond Recognition, and Undercurrents.

Titles of the books they’ve written together in this series include:

Peter and the Starcatchers (2004)
Peter and the Shadow Thieves (2006)
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007)
Peter and the Sword of Mercy (2009)

—Previously published in [formerly Around Wellington Magazine], AW Stories of the Month (May 2010)

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury