Saturday, November 05, 2005

Guy Fawkes night. Bonfire night. The day when everything goes up in flames and fireworks light up the sky.

Well, it wasn't quite like that last night in Brive, but it was "pas mal" all the same. There was a fabulous turnout for the booklaunch at Les Trois Epis. Sixty or more people turned up, including some old friends I hadn't seen for years.

The neighbours from my village turned out in force to support me, for which I am eternally grateful. They are good people. Even those who couldn't come asked neighbours to get them copies of the book. We sold fifty or sixty books, and the owners of the bookstore were more than delighted - a thousand euros-worth of business in an hour and a half. The publisher, too, was pleased, because it established a good relationship between themselves and a store with which they had never had a relationship. Ground was broken - in a good way.

I suppose I could have got away with not making a speech at all, or even a very truncated version of it. But having put in all the work on it this week I was damned well going to make it anyway. And boy was I nervous!

I am so used now to making book presentations in English that I am accompanied only by the odd butterfly. Last night they just about suffocated me. It is a long time since I felt that scared. My mouth got so dry towards the end that I could hardly get the words out. I dried halfway through, when my mind just went blank, and I had to call on my souffleur - Ariane - for a prompt. What seemed like an eternity to me thankfully only lasted a few seconds. Ariane gave me a line to get back into the speech, and off I went again like a demented automaton, stumbling to the end and managing, hopefully, to tell my story in the process.

All in all, it could have been worse.

The great surprise of the night was the appearance of my former neighbour from Carennac, Georges Monteiro, and his "bidey in", Brigitte, along with their young son, Antoinin, who was no more than a baby when last we saw him. It was a joy to seem them again. Georges really is the salt of the earth. We had never before done anything other than shake hands. But last night we embraced, and he made us promise to come and eat at their new home near Puybrun. I look forward to it.

Afterwards we poured out into the cool of a damp Brive evening, Danielle Dastugue, my publisher, her commercial organiser, Michèle, another Rouergue author, Daniel Crozes, and Ariane and Gilbert. We all headed off to a restaurant called "Le Boulevard", just off the Place Winston Churchill. Lights shone out through large windows on to a leaf-strewn garden which we had to cross to reach it.

The Mayor of Brive extends an invitation to publishers and writers to dine at the town's expense at one of twenty nominated restaurants. A full menu, coffee and wine included - for the Friday night, midi on Saturday, Saturday night and midi on Sunday. It's an extraordinary gesture by the municipality. No wonder the publishers and writers descend en masse from Paris.

(An interesting aside is that the underground parking beneath the market square is free for the duration of the Foire. If this were happening in the UK or the US, somehow I think the parking charges would have increased for the weekend!)

During the meal we discovered that Daniel is the longest serving writer on the books of Editions du Rouergue. He was the first writer to be published by them when they were a fledgling company run single-handedly by Danielle Dastugue, and he has written twenty-six books in the last twenty years. What a prolific output! I have to take my hat off to him. And what a nice man, too. He and I are sharing the signing sessions at the publisher's stand throughout the weekend - their oldest and their newest writers.

We also discovered that the second book in the China thrillers series, "The Fourth Sacrifice", has had its publication date brought forward so that it will be launched at the bookfair in Paris in March. This is a major honour. It was also news to Ariane, who has only just begun the translation of it.

Gawn yersel' wee yin!

The night ended with a hairy drive through the wet and the dark to our hotel in the tiny village of St. Viance, ten kilometres north of Brive. Everyone from Rouergue is staying here, but La Patronne and I were the only ones who knew the way - since we had checked in earlier in the afternoon. So everyone else followed us. Which would have been fine if La Patronne hadn't suddenly said to me as we sat at traffic lights in the town: "The lights have turned green!" I looked up and saw green. But it was the green of the next set of lights, and we promptly drove right through a set of red, leaving my publisher et al trailing in our distant wake.

However, they finally caught up, and we found our way safely to the Auberge sur Vézère, where La Patronne and I fell back in our room to work our way into a fine bottle of Glenmorangie that we had planked earlier.

Today it all begins again. I wonder if I'll still be able to speak English by the end of the weekend. Vraiment a case of death by French!

With Ariane

1 comment:

Marilyn Munsterman said...

Wonderful news. Maybe Charles and I can come to Paris for the launch of book 2. We wish we were there. We saw Carmen last night with no trip to the hospital. All is well here.
Love,
MM & CWB