Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New York, New York, It's A Helluva Town

Keith here.

What I read about BookExpo America prior to going lowered my expectations. Maybe that was a good thing. I wasn't disappointed at the show at all. In fact, it seemed crowded and vibrant to me.

The only other BEA I attended was in D.C. just before Dot Dead came out. There’s no time like the first time. I was just incredulous that people would queue up to get me to sign their books. Margery Flax, the monarch of Mystery Writers of America, orchestrated an experience I’ll never forget.

(Left to right) Ken Isaacson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, moi, Margery Flax, Lee Child, Chris Grabenstein, Alex Sokoloff

Still I signed again in the MWA booth, this time the book was Smasher and I was seated between pal Alex Sokoloff and the elegant Hank Phillippi Ryan whom I’d never met. With Margery and husband Steve running the show, things were bound to go well. We had fun, the books didn’t last long, and I managed to pick up a tube of the lip balm that Hank was passing out.

The next afternoon I was down in the general signing area and scrawled my name in 150 books in an hour. People were there because they liked the cover, because the Steve Berry blurb enticed them, because they’d read Dot Dead and wanted more (!), because they ran bookstores, and because my line was shorter than some others.

I caught up with lots of friends. The effervescent Kathie Antrim and I ended up on the same plane. She was meeting up with two of my favorite people, Steve and Liz Berry, for a drink. I joined them and then headed out to dinner with my friends Ian and Lexa who tolerate me staying with them when in the City. Other friends I bumped into included the impressive M.J. Rose, the dynamite Houstonians David Thompson and McKenna Jordan, Bobby McCue of the Mystery Bookstore in LA, the italophile David Hewson, New Yorker Jason Starr, and the intense Jon Land. Around the MWA booth got a chance to say hi to Karen Olson, Lee Child, Chris Grabenstein, Ken Isaacson, Frankie Bailey, and Reed Farrel Coleman. (Whom am I forgetting?) Met Meredith Cole whose Posed for Murder came out in February. Lunched with the wonderful J.T. Ellison and her husband Randy who'd been admiring Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon at MOMA. On the way to lunch with them ran into Carol Fitzgerald who runs Bookreporter.com. “You have a book coming out?” she asked accusingly. Yeah, should have let her know. Mea culpa. Promised to email her when I got home. Great spending time with Midnight Ink folks, too. Even said hi to James Patterson who said he’d be at ThrillerFest and we’d talk more then.

On the trip I was even taken out for lunch by my New York agent. Isn’t that how’s this biz is supposed to work?

Once home discovered #2 is mad at me because I met her favorite writer ever, Meg Cabot, and had her sign an ARC for #3. “But it says the book is for middle schoolers and you are in high school,” say I. “Have you ever looked at my bookshelf, Daddy?” retorts she. “I have every book she has ever written.” Wonder when I will get out of the doghouse.

I didn’t wait in line for ARCs all that much. However, I did stop by and say hi to long-time idol and singing legend Judy Collins. I heard Judy sing at the Troubadour in LA when I was, what, 15 or 16. An elegant woman with that wonderful voice which lets you know she has lived a full life.

Reunited! Judy and me.

Saturday night, chum Tim Maleeny and I went out to dinner around the corner from the Javits Center. (See previous post.) It was great catching up. Too bad, the wondrous Cara Black didn’t show. According to a posting on Facebook, she dropped her pink cellphone in the toilet and had no way of getting in touch.

Packing up my stuff to leave on Sunday I broke a glass of my hosts’, slicing open a finger. It took twenty minutes to stanch the blood flow. Of course, that later seemed appropriate as I read Megan Abbot’s Bury Me Deep while winging home. (Megan and I are almost related through marriage: her husband and I have the same agent.) Here’s my comment from Visual Bookshelf: “One of the best stories on the loss of innocence to temptation since Eve and the snake.” Then I started pal Maleeny’s latest, Jump. 50 pages to go. A crazy, mixed-up hybrid of a Donald Westlake comic caper, an Agatha Christie whodunit, and a Michael Connelly Harry Bosch. With ancestors like that, the book was bound to be terrific and has not disappointed.

Home now with a mountain of mail to go through and bills to pay. My must-do immediately list has 14 items. Gotta get to it all! Later.


Lisa Bork said...

Wow, Keith, sounds like a fabulous time! I'm going to have to put BEA on my list for next year.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like a lot of fun (except for the cut finger part.) It must have been a successful trip for you, too, since you signed so many books.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Alan Orloff said...

Man, Keith, that sounds more like a month than a weekend! So many authors, so many books, so little time.

And Lisa, I'm with you, I'm going to have to wrangle an invitation to next year's bash.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Judy Collins. Sigh. Her records were the only reason I made it through college.

And wow, yes, what a terrific event. So great to meet you, Keith. Your books were snapped up in short order--and it was fun to hear you connect with all your fans!

That's a wonderful photo!

Keith Raffel said...

If you have a book coming and ARCs to sign, BEA can make sense.

Hank, what are records?

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith - if you see this - where is BEA next year?

G.M. Malliet said...

p.s. Alan and Lisa - the best way in is volunteering via SinC or MWA.

Anonymous said...

Future BEA dates (via their website):

2010: Tuesday, May 25 - Thursday, May 27, New York, NY
2011: Tuesday, May 24 -Thursday, May 26, New York, NY
2012: Wednesday, May 30 - Friday, June 1, New York, NY

Keith Raffel said...

Gin, someone answered yr question. BEA is in NYC next year. SinC did not have a booth this year. As noted in the posting, MWA did.