Barney Hoskyns may be a music journalist (or “rock critic,” to use the vulgate), but like any good writer, he's a poet first. In his classic 1996 study Waiting for the Sun: A Rock 'n' Roll History of Los Angeles (just reprinted with new material by Backbeat Books), he wrote of Frank Zappa that prior to the latter's death he “was still hard at work in his basement composing nonglandular music for nonidiots,” a line I've remembered for 13 years. His new book is a thoroughly researched, finely writ biography of Tom Waits called Lowside of the Road (Broadway Books). Personally, I don't like Tom Waits very much, even though he wrote a handful of killer songs (“The Heart of Saturday Night” and “Ol' '55,” for example) about a hundred years ago. That studied lounge lizard cum Bowery Bum routine was — and is — pretentious. Plus once at a friend's party, I interrupted Waits' poseuring when someone playfully knocked a drink out of my hand and a drop came within 12 feet of King Tom. He gave me his best, studied Clint Eastwood squint and I just thought, “Suck my Bukowski, barfly,” while smiling my way out of a scene. In all fairness, Waits has led an interesting life and Hoskyns captures all of it. The best part is how he got the story without any cooperation from Waits and his Queen, but plenty from those who've been excommunicated from the Royal Couple's “circle of trust.” Come hear Hoskyns talk about his adventures and read from his books. Also at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., May 16, 5 p.m. (310) 659-3110.

Fri., May 15, 7 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly