Thursday, 10 February 2011

Jeffery Deaver - The Empty Chair

I used to work at the Pan Bookshop on Fulham Road.  We used to have loads of authors visit the shop to sign copies of their latest books.  When June Formby was in charge she kept a visitor's book and over the years collected the signatures of some of the finest authors around.  Later Robert Topping would stuff the authors full of cakes and champagne.  

There were many funny incidents involving these visits.  Here are some memories of just a few...

Antony Beevor came in to sign copies of Stalingrad.  Robert was convinced it was going to be a huge bestseller and it was.  He decided to go large on the quantity and so when Mr Beevor arrived he was faced with a truly massive stack.  It took ages for him to sign them all with many pauses for cake & champagne.  We later heard he had developed a repetitive strain injury and was walking around with his wrist all bandaged...

When Peter Ackroyd came to sign copies of London: The Biography we had so many we built them into a model of St Paul's Cathedral for him.  

I made an absolute tit of myself when Mario Vargas Llosa came to sign The Feast of the Goat.  You know when you find an author who really seems to speak to you?  When every sentence just feels absolutely right somehow?  When he walked through the door I just couldn't speak.  I mumbled and fumbled like a boy on his first date.  Didn't even manage to get him to sign a copy for me!

When The Corrections was first published nobody had heard of Jonathan Franzen.  Our US fiction obsessive Glenn Collins had though so we had PLENTY of copies when he came in to sign.  The hardback had a cream cover.  I was in charge of handing the books to Franzen so he could sign them.  At some point I received a nasty paper cut but was absorbed in conversation and didn't notice.  I bled all over those creamy covers my friends...Later he signed one to me:

To Matthew, who bled for the cause.  

Later still we drove to a reading he was giving at Books Etc on Finchley Road in the back of his limo!  Chatted about writing all the way.  At the event Zadie Smith was sitting behind us with Hari Kunzru.  

Herbert J M Ypma came in to sign Hip Hotels.  He had a special fountain pen he liked to sign with and wanted some blotting paper.  I ran out to the bogs and grabbed some paper towels.  My colleague Ian was loitering about and Herbert was well, such an affected dick.  Ian managed to get me giggling by raising his eyebrows in a certain way at certain moments.  Pretty soon I was having to excuse myself and run around the corner to roll on the floor giggling every few moments.  June stomped over and took control "I don't know what's wrong with you!" she huffed as I staggered away.  

Then there was the famous window for Jeffery Deaver's The Empty Chair.   It was in the diary but, well, we forgot.  A few minutes before he was due to arrive the publicist phoned to check we were ready.  "Oh yes, see you in 10 minutes" chirped June before grabbing my arm.  In double quick time we cleared a window and plastered posters up.  I placed a single, empty chair in front of the posters just moments before Jeffery arrived.  He loved it and insisted on having his photo taken.  "This is the best window anyone has ever done for me!" Phew!

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