Friday, September 23, 2005

I can't believe it!

One of my favourite places on earth is this house in Dolphin Terrace, looking out over Balboa Island, and the long, narrow peninsula of Newport Beach beyond it. It is a view usually characterised by the blue, blue Pacific coruscating away towards the smudged outline of Catalina Island on the distant horizon.

We are here for one day only, and a thick, cold mist has rolled in off the ocean and obscured the tall palms that sway gently in the sea breezes. I can see only the nearest beachfront houses, and the hazy masts of yachts tipping one way then the other on the gentle swell.

In spite of the weather, I walk across the bridge to the island, and the sun is still warm through the mist. I seek out Martha's Bookstore, which is supplying the books for tonight's private launch party at the home of Susie's neighbours, Linda and Rob Bailey. They have a huge living area, with floor to ceiling windows giving out on to the view. More than sixty guests are expected.

Kathy, at the bookstore, greets me warmly. She has my book displayed prominently in the store, leaflets about "The Firemaker" littering the counter. And she tells me that the publisher has run out of books, and that the distributor has had to order more copies. It is great news, and could mean a reprint only three weeks after publication.

After today, I have another six bookstores to visit - one remaining on the West Coast, with the others spread out along the East Coast from Washington DC to Boston, Massachusetts. The momentum of the tour is carrying me along. If I can keep my energy levels high, then this will have been a huge success.

My only concern is that I seem to be leaving a trail of destruction in my wake. My beau frère, John, called today on the cell to point out that Minneapolis and St. Paul had just been ravaged by a freak tornado, and that Houston and Huntsville in Texas were bracing themselves for an assault by Hurricate Rita. Freak thunderstorms this week struck San Mateo and Los Angeles. All places we have been.

That doesn't mean that bookstores in the cities we have yet to visit should cancel just yet. All the same, La Patronne et moi might just buy an umbrella and a couple of pairs of wellies.

I lie down for a couple of hours in the afternoon and sleep before the launch party, emerging bleary-eyed and puffy faced - looking my best for the guests. It is a great success. I meet dozens of new people. Everyone is warm and welcoming, and I tell my stories to a captive audience (Rob and Linda locked the doors so they couldn't get out!).

Something new for me, though. My pathology adviser, Steve Campman, and his wife, Trenda, are at the party. They have come up from San Diego, where Steve is a medical examiner. I have a story I always tell, about how Steve saved the life of a lady in the square in St. Céré when he visited us in France - a bizarre story, because the incident almost exactly replicated a scene I had written in "The Firemaker". Steve had advised me what action Margaret, my pathologist character, should take following a street accident. It is the first time I have told the story in Steve's presence - and it brings the memory vividly back to him.

A great many books are sold and signed, and finally I get to drink some fine wine and some good whisky before hurriedly packing to depart in the dark for San Diego with Steve and Trenda. There are tears and kisses, and farewells to Linda and Rob and Susie and Newport Beach, and we drive off into the night, exhausted, for the hour-and-a-half ride south. In San Diego we stop for burritos - whatever they are. I was too tired to register, with only just enough energy left to eat, swallow a bottle of water and collapse, with La Patronne, into a deep slumber Chez Campman.

Tomorrow, Steve and I will do our double act at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. I can't wait.

Balboa in the Mist

La Patronne braves the Fog

Susie Surveys the Food

Fabulous Hosts, Rob and Linda

Me Boring Everyone to Tears

1 comment:

ARGIL said...

Nous suivons la progression inquiétante des ouragans Peter et Janice. Pourvu que la faille de San Andrea résiste à leur passage... malgré les problèmes météorologiques, nous sommes ravis de toutes ces bonnes nouvelles (Firemaker et Magpie). Encore un grand dîner ce soir, rue de Tournon, où nous parlerons bien sûr des aventures de P & J en Amérique.