The visit to London was marvelous. The consulting business side of things went well (though I doubt any readers will want to hear about it), and everything connected with MNW was great fun. It was also exhilarating to see copies of MNW books on the shelves at bookstores, just as though they were, well, any other novels.
On Tuesday after my meetings, I got together with Jonathan Drapes and his ultracool partner Catherine/Katherine at a pub and we sat out under an umbrella and watched a full-up Bengali-style monsoonal downpour slap South Kensington silly. Jonathan, as most of your know, is the author of the hilarious Never Admit to Beige. (I don’t generally admit to beige, but I do admit to owning two copies of the book so I can loan the paperback out. It’s the kind of book that makes people snort whatever they’re drinking out their nostrils, and that’s bad for the pages.) Most people with a real talent for comedy have a mean streak in them, but Jonathan doesn't; he's one of the most affable folks I’ve met (as is C/Katherine, for that matter).
Wednesday I had lunch with Will and Sophie. It was wonderful to put faces to the names. I knew a little about Sophie from Mike Barnard’s book, but Will I knew only through his excellent editing. Both of them were, as I’d been warned, disarmingly smart and and pleasant. The status update is that nothing has really changed--between title changes and the problem of UK/US orthography, and various proofing matters, Shock and Awe is running a bit behind where we’d expected it to be at this point—but the release date is still the same, Sept 7, which is all that matters. We kicked around publicity plans, but I can’t say I contributed anything useful, apart from Jonathan and Catherine’s suggestion that having a fatwa issued against me, ala Salman Rushdie, might get me some free press. (Or maybe knighted. I always wanted to be a knight. Did Rushdie get any kind of armor or anything?)
Will also took me through the display at the new British Library. Handwritten originals from Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, not to mention scrawled song lyrics from Lennon and McCartney, the score to Beethoven’s Ninth, plus the effing Magna effing Carta, if you can believe that; and then we adjourned for a chat about MNW, books, and writing in general.
That evening I attended a reading and book signing at the Muswell Hill Bookstore, east of East Finchley. (Would that be East East Finchley? Far East Finchley? I’m not sure.) Roger Morris of Taking Comfort and A Gentle Axe fame was signing Axe, and, serendipitously, Andrew Martin (whose crime novels I’d been advised to read by a good friend) was reading and signing his two most recent books. So I bought a UK copy of Axe for fun (though I neglected to have Roger sign it) as well as Andrew’s pair, and also had Emma Darwin, who just happened to be in the audience, inscribe a copy of her Mathematics of Love. A pretty good haul--plus I added in a copy of Satan Wants Me, by Robert Irwin (author of the extraordinarly peculiar lit-fic novel The Limits of Vision) . Then it was around the corner to a pub with Roger, his smart and lovely wife Rachel, and a few of his fascinating work pals. Great people.
The next day, on the advice of Jonathan, Will, Sophie, Roger, and random strangers on the street, I dropped through Goldsboro Books to say hello to David Headley, who seems to know everyone in the book world and who dropped everything to chat with me about books, and politics, and more books. He also forced two marvelous books upon me and wouldn’t let me pay for them. Wonderful shop. Wonderful guy. I then had another talk with Roger at a Soho pub during lunch time.
I also managed to do some business, see some friends, and drop through the Natural History Museum and the Tate Modern (though not the Tate British. So, plenty of Max Ernst—my favorite painter—and Francis Bacon, but no Burne-Jones or Rosetti this time round).
The only peculiar thing is that everybody I met was so damned nice and hospitable. In movies and novels, this is a clue that something is seriously wrong, and that a major conspiracy or mad scientific experiment is about to be revealed. (The fact that all the women were attractive also shouts Hollywood.)
It worries me. But at least until the time all of you I visited pull off your masks and are revealed as aliens bent on galactic domination, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed meeting you.
And, to those of you I've not yet met, don't think you're off the hook.