Last night, Joni, Rich, Leslie, and I went to see Robert Crais. He is promoting his 17th novel and is on a book tour. We saw him at the Belmont Library for an event sponsored by one of my favorite independent bookstores, M is for Mystery (in San Mateo). It was a great event. It followed the normal pattern. The author starts at 7:00, speaks for a bit about the book, reads a passage or two, answers questions, and, then, at about 8, he signs books. The bookstore sells the latest book and, usually, a few of the earlier ones.
Crais was very interesting, as most of them are. I saw 11 authors last year, and I liked every one of them, except for one. That was Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame. She was a bit arrogant and didn't have much to say. I might have felt that way because I was 1 of about 5 men in a large audience of women and felt awkward. Oh, wait. Actually, I didn't feel awkward at all, but I still didn't like her.
My point (yes, I have one) is that the author events are very cool. They all give different insights into the publishing industry, and they all tell a different story about how they write, how they got into the business, and how many rejections they had before they were picked up by a literary agent and, subsequently, a publisher. It is really fascinating stuff.
Let me give you a couple of anecdotes that I know many of you have already heard. The first involves Richard North Patterson. Joni and I saw him a couple of years ago. He was promoting a book called Eclipse which told the story of a fictional African country and how one man stood up to a dictatorship that was centered on its country's oil - based on a true story that took place in Nigeria. The book was good, not great. However, at the event, he also talked about his book from the year before, called Exile. This was an excellent book (and on Josh's 2011 book list). It tells the story of a Jewish male attorney that defends a Palestinian woman that he had an affair with in law school. the story takes place quite a few years later. In one incident in the book, the protagonist travels to Palestine and has an audience with a rebel leader who has to move every 24 hours to avoid the Israelis. Patterson and his wife actually visited this man. He said that it occurred to him while he was talking to the rebel leader (flanked by men with AK-47s), that if the Israelis found him right at that time, then he and his wife would be collateral damage. How spooky is that?
The other anecdote involves an author that Rich and I particularly like, by the name of Sheldon Siegel. His stories center on an attorney in San Francisco (Sheldon is also an attorney) who is partners with his ex-wife. Each book is a murder mystery and a courtroom drama. They are really entertaining. A couple of months ago, Joni, Rich, and I went to see Sheldon at M (he lives in Marin County). There were a total of 5 of us there, including our 3! After he finished the program and the book signing (that didn't take him long!), we said to him that we were going out to dinner a couple of blocks away and would he like to join us. He said yes, and we spent an hour and 15 minutes with him. Besides being a good guy, it was fascinating to get some inside details about the publishing industry. It was a memorable night for the 3 of us - and, of course, for him too!
I can go on and on about these author events. I can tell you about seeing Ken Follett at Keplers and feeling like I was in the presence of a rock star. I can tell you about seeing such luminaries as Daniel Silva and Vince Flynn, both New York Times bestselling authors. The list goes on and on (as do I, evidently). I strongly encourage you to try one of these events. If you like it, let me know. If you don't , keep it to yourself.
At the end of each blog, I will list upcoming author events and the venue. I will only mention the authors that I like or that I think most of you will like. There are millions of these events every year, so I've got to limit the listings. You can always go to the websites of these bookstores and get on their emailing lists. I think you'll be glad you did.