Sunday, November 06, 2005

An eleven hour day! There should be a union to protect writers from this. Trouble is, if we don't do it no-one else will.

This was Saturday at the Foire du Livre in Brive la Gaillarde, all day at a stand hosted by Les Trois Epis bookstore. I had a display of books and a chair and was required to be on duty all day to greet potential customers and sign the books that they bought.

We weren't in a good spot, though. Near the entrance. Everyone arriving hurried by to see the fair, not wanting to stop and look at the first display. On the way out, they'd done their buying and weren't interested in looking at anything else.

Besides which, I was sandwiched between "The Book of Cèpes", whose author never dared once to show his face (after all, how could you write a whole book about cèpes?), and "My Life with a Brute" (or words to that effect) - a comical description by a divorced women of her life of hell with men, and what changes she would like to make to them.

I saw her eyeing up my kilt a few times and felt a touch uneasy, and then got ticked off when a gaggle of teenage girls (most of whom appeared to be her children), and their spotty boyfriends, stood in front of my book display and chatted to her for hours on end.

The greatest indignity, though, was that more people seemed intersted in the cèpes than "Meurtres à Pékin". They were drawn to it like flies to the dung, although I think there were only two copies sold all day. The man hater didn't sell much either. So I suppose I had the last laugh (although laughing was the last thing I felt like doing), when I managed to sell twenty-five books. It doesn't seem like much over a long day. Five hundred euros worth of business, all the same. And when added to the sales of launch night, probably totalled around 75 books, or fifteen hundred euros.

Which doesn't make much of a dent in the six thousand copies that Editions du Rouergue have printed - about four times as many as Hodder and Stoughton produced in hardback. They clearly have faith in the book. I hope they're right.

The only bright spot in the day was lunch at the chic new restaurant Les Arums, again paid for by the municipality. This was a bright, airy, modern restaurant, with a huge salle through the back, and tall windows opening on to a luxuriantly green garden, and a young patronne who had poured herself into leather trousers that seemed somehow to have moulded themselves to her every curve. It was quite hynpnotic when she walked by our table.

We were joined - Danielle, Michèle, Daniel, La Patronne and I - by a famous French writer and broadcaster called Philippe Meyer. He was a big man with a shock of salt and pepper hair, a lovely manner and a nice sense of humour. Lunch passed in a haze of good food and wine, laughter and tight leather trousers.

All of our food and wine, it seems, over the whole weekend, is to be provided by the town. I'm not complaining.

Sales were slow in the afternoon. The place was jam packed, and La Patronne, who had sat faithfully by my side through most of the morning, was overcome by a post prandial torpor, and slipped off to take forty winks in the car, in the dark anonymity of the underground carpark beneath us. A flurry of sales in her absence, rescued me from a slow start. I heard that the queue to get in stretched all the way up the Rue de Paris, and that people were having to stand in line for more than an hour and a half.

What amazes me is that they did! What an appetite people here seem to have for books and writers.

At the end of the day - it was almost 8pm - we all traipsed off to the Boulevard Restaurant again for more good food and wine, before driving back to our hotel through dipping temperatures and thick fog.

Winter, it seems, has finally stamped on the tail end of summer.

And tomorrow we do it all over again.

Between a Cèpe and a Hard Place

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