Sunday, March 04, 2007


After turning into a few one-way streets the wrong way, and missing the odd turn-off, we finally made it to the lobby of the CBS Radio/CNN650 building in downtown Houston to meet up with John DeMers for my live appearance on his Saturday morning "Delicious Mischief" show.

John is a colourful character, originally from New Orleans, whose show focuses on his twin passions of food and drink - with a little bit of mystery thrown in.

His other guest was a lovely big guy called Bear Dalton, a stetson-wearing cowboy whose passion is wine. Over the years he has become something of a cult figure around the vineyards of Bordeaux where he makes wine-tasting trips in full cowboy regalia to find new vintages to stock his SPEC's Liquor Stores in Houston. He had brought four bottles to taste on the show.

Happily, when he finished, he left them for the rest of us to drink. A glass or two of Californian red oiled my vocal cords for the twenty minute interview which lay ahead. Actually, it seemed like just five minutes, and then we were heading out again into the sunshine.

Our stay here has passed in a blur.

We had a strange moment of homesickness when we lunched in an Indian restaurant (the Indian food in Glasgow is just about the best you'll find outside of India).

Then on to "Murder by the Book", where a sizeable crowd turned out to hear my talk. One reader, Steven Sill, arrived with a sackful of my books, which he had acquired from various sources. He had read the entire China series, and wanted each and every one signed. Another reader, Fred Forschler, had bought all the books direct from us via the website, indulging in a lengthy exchange of emails with La Patronne in the process. He almost pinned me to the wall, demanding a follow-up to the sixth China book. "You can't just leave Li and Margaret like that," he said. "There has to be more."

The tour has been punctuated by similar requests, and along with the hundreds of emails I've had on the subject, I might have to return to China one of these days - just to see what has happened to the hapless pair since we last encountered them (I fully believe they have been getting on with their lives in my absence).

I finally met Barbara Douglas, who is quoted on the back of "Extraordinary People", describing it as her favourite book of 2006. The store's Dean James, a member of the committee which decides the prestigious Edgar Awards, puts it in his top five for the year. "Murder by the Book" had sold more than 100 copies in advance of my appearance there, and I signed a great many more during the course of my visit.

Our long-suffering minder, the incomparable Ginny Wilson, drove us back through a spectacular sunset and partial eclipse of the moon, to a barbecue dinner of grilled ribs in Huntsville, before dropping us off at the university hotel to pack and prepare for our flight tomorrow to Denver.

We will have a farewell breakfast at the Cafe Texan with Dick and Michelle in the morning - a last taste of Texan hospitality - before embarking on the home stretch of this long, long tour.

With staff and readers at "Murder by the Book"...

Typical Texan dining instructions at the Huntsville rib joint...

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