Monday, May 01, 2006

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

My wife and I drove down from San Francisco to Los Angeles last weekend so that I could do a signing at The Mystery Bookstore's booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Here's a pic of me in front of the store in Westwood Village:


I actually had a number of reasons for making the trip. The first was to meet with my agent, Whitney Lee, who is also based in Los Angeles. Whitney and I have corresponded over e-mail and spoken on the phone, but we had never met in person. I spent a delightful two hours talking with her at a local coffee shop. She's focused on selling translation rights to The Immortal Game, Vulture Capital and Candy from Strangers and I was able to give her some copies of the snazzy Game reprint to help her pitch the book to overseas publishers.

My wife and I also had dinner with Mike Padilla, a good friend and a member of my first writers group. We had dinner at Luna Park, a restaurant my wife selected since we've had such good experience at the San Francisco branch in the Mission District. We talked about Mike's novel-in-progress and the (very positive) feedback I had for him on the climatic chapter. He's only about three or four chapters away from having a complete draft, and I'm very excited for him. I think the book is going to be very well received.

Finally, we had brunch on Sunday with my friend Steve Freedman and his girlfriend Amy Goldstein. Steve is in film production and at one point he had optioned the film rights for The Immortal Game. Steve was also very helpful with suggestions for rewrites to Vulture Capital and I gave him a big thanks in the book's acknowledgements as a consequence. Here's a pic of me, Steve and Amy in front of the bookstore booth just before my signing:

If all that weren't enough, just before I sat down in the booth during my allotted time, I found Richard Brewer signing the book he co-edited, Meeting Across The River. Richard is an actor and an author and used to co-manage The Mystery Bookstore. Naturally, I had to get a copy of the book, which he personalized for me like so:
Finally I joined the other authors who were signing in the booth at 11. I was seated between Paula Woods and Craig Johnson. Thomas Perry and Theresa Schwegel were signing a couple of chairs down ... and there were two other very big guns present. If you look carefully at the picture of me below, you'll get a hint or two as to who they were.

Hint #1 is the distinctive (balding) head of the gentleman in the blue shirt seated behind me. Hint #2 is the hard cover first of Angels Flight being held protectively by the mystery fan for whom I'm signing The Immortal Game.
Yes, that's right: Harlan Coben made an unscheduled surprise appearance at the booth to sign.

And if you look down the row past me, Criag, Thomas and Theresa, you'll see Michael Connelly doing a 30 minute whirlwind, speed signing of his new book Crime Beat, which is a non-fiction collection of crime stories from his days as a journalist. What you can't see is the long line of fans waiting to get their copies.

It's well known among first edition collectors that Michael's signature is nearly unreadable. Richard Brewer told me that the Mystery Bookstore staff is to blame for that. Apparently, some time after Michael had "made it big," the bookstore staff uncovered a cache of 500 or so first editions of his first two books. They invited Michael to come to the store to sign them in one sitting and his signature has never been the same since.

Here Craig and I are talking about the West, the Southwest and Tony Hillerman. Craig is from Wyoming and I'm originally from New Mexico.

And here I am doing a stalker fan number on Mr. Connelly. I very much wanted to get a picture with him, but he was so beset by fans, staff and fellow authors the moment he appeared at the booth, that I couldn't bring myself to ask him to pose with me. I settled for this sneak attack shot. Sort of looks like Forest Gump popping up behind the president, doesn't it?

However, just before Michael left, I did manage to introduce myself and thank him for the very generous blurb he gave me for my upcoming book Candy from Strangers. I'll talk more about the process of getting blurbs for Candy in later postings, but for now here's the blurb from Michael:

“I've been waiting a long time for a fresh look at the private eye story. Mark Coggins has delivered it here with Candy from Strangers. It’s original, it’s smart and it was good to the last page.”

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