Thursday, January 25, 2007

Clueless in Seattle

from James

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 Check it out!


  1. Your favorite pair of jeans? Ah, hell.

    For me, it's jewelry. I lost a valued turquoise ring at the Phoenix airport in a bathroom. I'd been so tired from touring, I took it off to wash my hands, then left the room. When I returned less than 4 minutes later, it was gone.

    Earrings are the worst. I have virgin ear lobes and only wear screwbacks. (Why does that sentence sound so sexual?) I've lost at least a dozen treasured singles in travels around the country.

  2. from Jacqueline

    I always manage to leave a favorite something in black, the pants, skirt or jacket I've loved but because it was dark when I left the hotel in the early hours of the morning, and the hotel lighting wasn't great, I missed when I did that final check around the room. I've left and lost numerous pairs of spectacles - maybe because I'm a relatively new wearer of such things, the business of writing having had a detrimental effect on my vision, to say nothing of my advancing years!

    I lost my driver's license at an airport - heaven knows which one as the airports come and go - but a woman chased after me, correctly guessing it was mine. Can you imagine what the next few days would have been like, with no other photographic ID on me?

    But here's one of the golden rules, or three, should I say - never leave home without Airborne, because it will save you from a cold or flu; keep washing your hands, for the same reason, and never, ever fly if you get a cold, or you will shatter your eardrums (But I do have a brilliant antidote to intense ear pain).

    Keep going, James. The travel's a killer, but meeting the booksellers and fans makes it all worthwhile, as you know. I'm still catching up following my four-month stint that came to an end in mid-November!

  3. James, as you know I'm from Yakima and lived in Seattle for many years. I read Under Cover of Darkness and knowing that you were a Florida guy I was curious to see how you'd handle the setting. You nailed it. Great book! I still have many friends in Seattle and go there as often as I can.

  4. Airborne, huh? I wondered if that stuff really worked. I have never had a tour without losing my voice at some point (my wife thinks it's psycho-somatic, but I think it's the airplanes). . . . and Pari, I think I have found a couple of your earrings while traveling. . . . Patti: Seattle is a great city. Though I have to say it is the only city on earth in which I have actually been stopped by a police officer for crossing the street as a pedestrian before the light turned green!

  5. Completely unrelated to this blog: Just picked up four ordered copies of LEAPHOLES for three sets of grandkids and myself. Will read mine when finished with James Rollins.
    I let Barnes & N know they should be stocking it, not making us order.

    Patty's Groupie

  6. James, I swear by Airborne, too. It's the best for protecting against airplane germs.

    I was once stopped by a cop in Seattle for driving through a yellow light. You can't imagine how funny that is now that I'm living in L.A. and the rule is: only five cars allowed through the red light. Then you pull out your 45.

  7. OW, poor Sara! So sorry about your jeans, James... I'm still dispressed about leaving my childhood teddy bear (named "Bearie," because I have no imagination) in the Bahamas in 1972. Although I bet he's been having a great time ever since...

    Thanks for shilling for me and Paul at SMB. I love those guys!

  8. I should pass on the tour advice the late, great Charles Willeford ("Miami Blues") gave to Edna Buchanan, who passed it on to me: "Never miss a chance to take a piss."

  9. James,
    Would you please either mail those earrings back to me -- or give them back when we finally meet?