Touring. I’m doing it now to promote “When Darkness Falls.” I’ve been accused of doing it all my life, which is to say that if I were blonde, I’d be the unending butt of dumb blonde jokes, at least when it comes to my sense of direction. Last year, when “A James Grippando novel” was 38 Across in the New York Times crossword puzzle—the answer was “Under Cover of Darkness”—my wife remarked “Oh, look, honey: you’re no longer clueless.” So with a lifetime of experience, you would think that “touring” to promote my books might come naturally. It did—for a while.
Before Tiffany and I had children, she would travel with me. It was actually sort of fun, and if the tour ended in Boston we’d stay over in Martha’s Vineyard for a few days, or if it ended in New York we’d take in the City. For Tiffany, the novelty wore off around book three, however, so I sleep alone now on book tours.
The latest stop on the “When Darkness Falls” tour was Seattle. The American Library Association had its midyear conference January 19-22, and on Monday I was supposed to speak at a lunch event with Sara Gruen, author of “Water for Elephants.” I first met Sara last year at Books & Books in Coral Gables, before her book exploded onto every bestseller list in America. Tiffany and I enjoyed talking with her and storeowner Mitchell Kaplan over a glass of wine afterward, and I was looking forward to the ALA event—and of course everyone wanted to congratulate her for her Alex Award, which had just been announced that morning. Unfortunately, Sara’s eardrum burst on the flight to Seattle. Obviously she had to cancel, but the show went on. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery, Sara.
Actually, Seattle is one of my favorite tour stops. My sister has lived in Selah (near Yakima) Washington since sometime before Mt. St. Helen blew her top, so I always get to see family on this tour stop. I’ve been traveling to this part of the country about every two years for the past 30 years. In fact, the aforementioned “Under Cover of Darkness” is actually set in Seattle. That book credits the J&M Café (near Elliott Bay Bookstore) for having the best nachos in the city. That bit of culinary trivia earned me a spot on Seattle’s “literary map”—literally. There is a map of “Underground Seattle,” which points out places of interest that are mentioned in literature. I thought that was very cool. So far, no one has voiced any disagreement about the J&M Café nachos.
Seattle is also blessed with great bookstores. My two favorites are Elliott Bay (not just because it’s across the street from great nachos) and Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Elliot Bay is the kind of bookstore I wish every city had—knowledgeable and friendly staff, perfect “surrounded-by-books” atmosphere. And for mystery buffs, SMB has no equal in my book. I love going there and seeing signed books by every mystery writer in the business. In fact, while I was there I sold a few copies of Cornelia Reads’ and Paul Levine’s novels, bragging on them for their Edgar nominations. Cornelia’s were even signed.
So, there’s really nothing to complain about in Seattle. Except for one dispressing experience. That’s technically not a word, but there was one development that I find both depressing and distressing. I discovered that, somewhere on this tour, I left my favorite pair of blue jeans in a hotel room. They’re gone. Have you ever lost your favorite jeans? Man, it hurts. Not as much as a busted eardrum, but still, it hurts.
Downright dispressing, I tell you.
P.S. I'll be the featured thriller writer for the month of February for the Barnes & Noble book club at www.barnesandnoble.com Check it out!