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'Secret Tucson' author reveals writing process at public talk

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Courtesy Clark Norton | The Daily Wildcat The Owls Club in downtown Tucson is a low-lit bar set in a former mortuary, with seating on onetime pews. It's named after a Tucson private social club from the 1880s.

Clark Norton, author of "Secret Tucson: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure" spoke for the first time at the Arizona History Museum on Tuesday evening about his new book that celebrates the many oddities Tucson has to offer. 

Norton moved to Tucson around five years ago to be closer to family and farther from snow. 

“My son has been out here for 15 years, so we’ve been visiting regularly over the years,” Norton said. 

Norton has written over 10 books about travelling and published "100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die" in 2017. 

“This is actually my second book about Tucson in four years,” Norton said. 

According to Norton, his main research method for finding material for his books is simply talking to people, even if they’re a stranger on the street. 

“I [have] talked to a lot of people that I knew and some that I didn’t know,” Norton said. “You ask everybody, ‘What do you know that most people don’t know?’”

As it turns out, in Norton's experience, many citizens of Tucson love to talk and will share their stories to anyone who will listen. Norton said the next phase of his process is sorting out which of these local stories will make it into the book.

“Some of the suggestions pan out and some don’t,” Norton said. “I had a huge number of possibilities, so I had to whittle them down.” 

While working on some aspects of the book may be tedious, Norton said he finds researching topics much easier today with the help of the internet rather than multiple large guidebooks.

RELATED: Oddities Market brings out the weirder side of Tucson

Norton said he looked forward to sharing his experiences with members of the Tucson community. 

“It’s always fun to give these presentations,” Norton said. “It is my first time speaking here.”

The crowd at the museum who listened to Norton explain the contents of his book heard about the bars that were once mortuaries, a hospital that served as a tuberculosis sanitorium and a lost mine filled with gold that was never found again. 

“The history of some of the places really attracted me because I find that kind of stuff fascinating,” Norton said. “It was stuff that struck me as being unusual and different.”

There’s plenty of unusual attractions in Tucson, but there are also more low-key and relaxing activities to take part in as well. 

“There are items in the book like where to go indoor rock climbing and go-karting in Tucson,” Norton said. “And some places to go on a nature walk.”

Norton said he offers those who read his book a “backstage tour of the city” by cluing them in on all the quirky aspects of Tucson that most people don’t know about. 

According to Norton, “there’s no better way to get to know a city than to write a book about it."


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