A book tour means travel, talk, fun, fatigue, and more. On my tour for The Nightmare Thief, I was lucky to have the Husband with me for the Texas leg. He was my entourage. He did the driving. And whenever I needed something he would jump up and say, “Let your people do that.” Then he’d hand me my shoes, or grab the phone, going, “I’ll call the spa to book your treatments, Madame. Stop throwing the blue M&Ms at me.” He also shlepped the luggage, and threatened friends and relatives into driving hundreds of miles to attend my events. It’s useful having a blackbelt/spy for a husband. It really is.
Texas turned into an excellent road trip. And if you were wondering, it’s true: state law mandates that all radio stations play country music, including the classical and talk stations. It’s also true that in certain counties, restaurant dishes are not labeled “fried” because the frying is assumed. It’s considered the natural state of food. And I’m talking about the salads.
It’s also true that Austin takes pride in its music and eccentricities. You can’t go five feet without tripping over a live band setting up to play. Threadgill’s, shown in the photo above, is where Janis Joplin famously got her start. (And, according to PatTheHat, it’s home to the best chicken fried steak in the southwest.) As for eccentricities, this is where the T-shirts proclaim: “Keep Austin Weird.” I tried to do my part. Hook ’em Horns.
Phoenix, where I spoke at The Poisoned Pen, was hot. Too hot for me to remember to take photos. But I had a blast staying at the retro Hotel Valley Ho. It’s been restored to its original 1950s chic, and I’m convinced I saw Natalie Wood and a young Robert Wagner checking in. And a Mercury astronaut. And Don Draper. Picture me poolside in a polka-dot bikini and bathing cap covered with plastic daisies. Wearing stilettos, and holding a martini. (Once again, note that jet lag may be distorting my memories.)
In New York I spoke at The BookMark Shoppe, a bookstore run by two best friends in Brooklyn. Now, Brooklyn is big. As in millions of people big. Its neighborhoods range from gritty to megacool and include Italian, African American, Hasidic, Dominican, Russian Orthodox, and hipster white boy — and that’s just what my son Mark can see from the back window of his apartment.
The bookstore is in Bay Ridge, at the very end of the subway line, and Mark said getting there would be like Inception: we’d have to go several levels deep. It was a dream within a dream within a dream… within Brooklyn. It took an hour on the subway, but he’s an Eagle Scout, and brought his compass. Or at least his iPhone compass app. And we didn’t know what to expect when we surfaced from the R Train. According to people from Manhattan, it might be some combination of Saturday Night Fever and The Warriors.
Reality: Bay Ridge is charming. Brownstones, tree-lined streets, parks, lively local businesses, all watched over by the towering Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The bookstore was the size of a boxcar, but it filled up with readers for my event. They were eager and enthusiastic. I appreciated it.
And then we heard the music hammering overhead: “Je Ne Regret Rien…” So we surfaced from the dream, level by level, subway stop by subway stop, and made it home safe. I think. Maybe I haven’t actually woken up. If I see Leonardo DiCaprio or, God help me, John Travolta in disco clothes, I’ll know I’m trapped.
My final stop in Pittsburgh took me to the Mystery Lovers Bookshop. I’ve been there before. And last year at the Edgars I was lucky enough to see the store’s owners, Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, honored by the Mystery Writers of America with a Raven Award for their contribution to mystery writing. It’s always a pleasure to get to the store, and on Wednesday I loved the chance to talk to a full house of readers and book clubs. Plus Richard and Mary Alice fed us. What more could I ask?
Okay, how about for this: at the airport, side-by-side heroes of famous battles near Pittsburgh. Yes, it’s life size wax figures of George Washington and Franco Harris.
Tomorrow I’ll finish the debrief with Adventures in Audience Q&A.