Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I see sharks!

To my left, and my right, swimming over my head in 200,00 gallons of water, rows of savage teeth catching the light in a mouth that's half-open as if in a grin.

No, I'm not at a publishers' convention, we're in the Houston Aquarium - a restaurant and aquatic theme park right on the edge of downtown.

We have come here via many a highway and byway, as Ginny, our driver and now our friend, valiantly battles the one-way system that keeps sending us the wrong way. She is manoeuvering our tank (at least, that's what it feels like - a giant Ford Excursion) from lane to lane, around monster trucks and cowboy pick-ups, with a calm that belies her tender years.

And, of course, in the end she gets us there - on time - for lunch with Dick Ward who has just flown in from a convention in Florida. Dick is in good form, and we guzzle shrimp and salad and barbecued chicken and red snapper and catch up on the last five years. That's when La Patronne and I were last in town, researching "Snakehead". Dick is our host and benefactor, but a man in great demand. He has to hurry off immediately after lunch to a series of meetings which will take him through the rest of the day, and finally home to his two-and-a-half year old daughter, Sophia, who must be the most widely travelled child on the planet. She has visited five continents, eighteen countries, and has frequent flyer miles with half a dozen airlines. She is already starting to talk in several languages.

Dick proudly shows us a photo. She is gorgeous.

Earlier, Ginny had safely negotiated the perils of the Houston freeways to get us to Radio KUHF 88.7FM, where I had an interview with the sparky former flautist, Alison Young. Ushered into a dark and hushed studio, we chatted for fifteen minutes about "The Firemaker", for a programme that would be aired that afternoon.

And after lunch we spent an hour or so enjoying the spectacular live fish exhibits of the Aquarium, riding a miniature railway through a glass tunnel of sharks, and soaring skywards on a ferris wheel to gaze across the towering downtown Houston skyline.

And then to the book event, and another radio interview. This time in a back room of the mystery bookstore, "Murder by theBook", with John De Mers for his "Delicious Mischief" show on KIKK-A Talk 650.

Of course, I guess it had to happen sometime. The bookstore event is due to begin at 6.30pm, and no one shows up. It's a Monday night, on the day the schools went back, and who the hell's heard of Peter May anyway? But, hang on... there's a car pulling up out in the lot. A couple get out. They come into the shop. She heard the radio interview from this morning while she was driving in the car and they decided to come to the store to meet me. They are Agnes and John Guthrie. A good Scots name, you think? You'd be right. He is in fact a Scot, living in Houston for fifteen years, but with an accent as broad as the day he arrived.

So I give my talk to Agnes and John and Janice and Ginny, and the guys from the store, and we all have a good time, and I end up signing about forty books. If forty people had come, I wouldn't have sold any more, and we strike up a good relationship with Dean and David and Les who hope to sell many, many more.

Off, then, to barbecued ribs, before Ginny steers us safely home, heading north into the hot, dark, Texas night to Huntsville, and bed and a full day ahead of us tomorrow.

With Alison Young at KUHF

La Patronne on a ferris ride, downtown Houston

With David (left) and Dean at "Murder by the Book"

With Ginny

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