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On the radio in Seattle

Radio listeners in the Seattle area — or anywhere — can hear an interview with me on KUOW‘s “The Beat” sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 1.

Let me know if I sound too much like Frasier Crane…

Dateline: Boston — Because I Asked

OK, I just got a response to my item about the Boston cabbie’s claim about Pat Boone and Metallica. This one came from my editor:

No, the cabbie is all wrong.

I happen to have a copy of Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. It’s a classic! His version of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” never fails to crack me up and appall whomever happens to be in listening distance.

But actually Pat Boone never wrote anything – he’s always covered other folks’ songs and like a lot of classic crooners, he relies on his producers to assemble the songs. In addition to the brass section and the violins, he has some classic metal folk doing cameos on the album (Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore, Dweezil Zappa). He does a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on the album. And he used to be Ozzie Osborne’s next door neighbor. But no, that’s all pure Boston cabbie b.s. Never wrote a song in his life, much less Metallica.

As for the Barry Manilow rumor. Piffle. No idea where that one came from but not possible – heck, Barry Manilow only wrote about half his own songs, others were covers of others’. (In a particular odd moment, he made a hit out of an Ian Hunter song, “Ships.” Ian Hunter, of course, was the lead singer of the classic Mott the Hoople. OK, classic to me…)

I pointed out that Pat Boone wrote the theme song to the movie “Exodus,” and he replied:

That’s one he is credited with. I always assumed that was so much b.s. – just the way Elvis used to get co-writing credit on his hits even though he never wrote a note (through the 60’s anyway).

Dateline: Boston — Impersonating an Author?

Stopped in at a Borders in Cambridge, on the way to the Apple Store, and asked one of the managers if she’d like me to sign copies of KILLER INSTINCT. She gave me a dead stare and said, “If you can show me a picture ID.”

I said, “You’re kidding, right?”

She said, “No, I’m not. New store policy. Some people sign other people’s books.”
So what I’m now wondering is — just who the hell goes into bookstores and signs books they didn’t write?

Dateline: Boston

Home again – for a couple of days anyway.

Arrived back in Boston for the Memorial Day weekend, and not a moment too soon. Too many days in a row of getting up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to get on a plane can wear a guy out. My daughter was away at a sleep-over at a friend’s house, unfortunately, but my wife was happy to see me.

My dog, however, nearly went out of her . . . fur. She’s a Golden Retriever we adopted from The Seeing Eye guide-dog school in Morristown, New Jersey. She’s a total sweetheart, like all Goldens, but more than a little neurotic. She has serious separation anxiety. Whenever she seems me take out my suitcase, she goes into a funk, puts her head between her paws and won’t move, issues long heartfelt sighs.

Anyway, when I came back Friday night she couldn’t stop running around in circles, and then insisted on licking my face and neck – and hair (!) – until I had to make her stop.

I dread seeing her Tuesday when I start packing my suitcase again.

So . . . a quick update. I haven’t blogged for several days because I haven’t had a minute to do so.

First thing: the taxi driver who took me home from Logan Airport home on Friday night told me some things I’m not sure I believe. Anyone reading this who knows the truth, e-mail me and let me know if these things are true: Pat Boone wrote several of Metallica’s songs, and the legal stipulation in the contract was that he couldn’t claim any credit as long as he stayed out of heavy metal – which is why he recorded a heavy metal album, which sold maybe 3 copies – just to stake a claim to authorship. (???). Barry Manilow ghost-wrote many of the Stones’ songs for Keith Richards. Can these things really be true?

Left the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas at 4:00 a.m. Appeared on “Atlanta & Company” on WXIA-TV, a really good if brief interview.

Then . . . I was scheduled to appear on CNN Headline News at noon to talk about KILLER INSTINCT. In the car on the way to CNN studios, my cell phone rang. The Enron verdict was going to be read at noon. I was going to be bounced (dropped) – unless I could talk about Enron. I said, sure. I can talk about Enron and the culture of corporate corruption. After all, don’t I write novels about that kind of thing?

Got to CNN, where they brought me to a computer right in the studio, and I frantically read up on the specifics of the legal charges against Lay and Skilling. Five minutes before noon, they miked me up and brought me to the anchor desk. At noon the verdict was announced: both men were guilty. They immediately turned to me for reaction.

I have a new admiration for on-air experts who can give instantaneous reactions, in real time. It ain’t easy. But I gave my opinion, which was a contrarian one: these guys don’t represent corporate America. A tiny percentage of corporations are involved in this kind of scamming. Sure, I write about it in my novels, but the truth is, most companies don’t do this kind of thing. Most of them, in fact, are overburdened by the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations that require a ridiculous amount of financial reporting.

I got a number of outraged e-mails from viewers who accused me of shilling for corporate America. Which is funny, since the usual attacks I get via e-mail are from readers who think I’m too ANTI-corporate. Sorry, folks – I tell the truth as I see it.

Still on an adrenaline high from CNN, I went right to a taping of the Paula Gordon Show, a very smart radio program whose hosts, Paula Gordon and her husband Bill Russell, are always incredibly thoughtful and smart. They’re a welcome change from the usual 3-minute radio interview, and always a pleasure.

A nice signing that night at a Books-a-Million in Peachtree City, Georgia. Met a couple of longtime readers of my books and a bunch of people who were just discovering me – one of whom won the 42” NEC plasma TV.

The next day, I taped Café Central TV with host Conn Jackson, a show that’s seen in 47 markets. Conn is a terrific, energetic interviewer who’s interested in stories of inspiration. We talked about what it takes to make it as a writer, the obstacles you have to overcome. This is the kind of thing I normally talk about privately to beginning writers; it was interesting to talk publicly about it. Good interview.

Now, I’m unplugging until Seattle . . .

In the news — Seattle

Today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs an interview I did with librarian Jeff Ayers, whom I’m looking forward to meeting in person next week.

I get to go home for Memorial Day weekend, but it all starts again next Wednesday, with an event at Seattle Mystery Books at 12:30 p.m. and another TV giveaway at 3rd Place Books at 7:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Dateline: Atlanta, May 25

An event last night at Hastings Entertainment in Denton, Texas. Someone at my publisher must have thought Denton was a suburb of Dallas – instead of a 45-minute drive away.

Anyway, I got to meet a number of longtime, loyal readers, including Paul, who’s managed to buy first editions of ever book I’ve published, and Marcia, who lived in New Orleans and lost her house in Katrina. In fact, she lost everything she had. She’s since moved to a town near Denton, Texas.

When it came time for the NEC plasma TV drawing, I pulled out the winning entry – and of all people, it was Marcia who won. What a great karmic twist that was. Made the 45-minute drive worth it.

Dateline: Dallas, May 24 — A Hotel Rant

Once, while on a research trip, I saw some corporate bigwig shouting into his cell phone that “the !@%#* limo isn’t even here yet!” And I thought, How pathetic that someone so entitled, so overly privileged, is actually angry about his limousine not arriving on time. Gotta put that in a book.

But now I’m beginning to understand how that guy felt.

I’m on tour. I get up ridiculously early most mornings to get to some airport to do a day of media and then an event at night. The travel can be so stressful and exhausting that I need to be able to count on my hotel to do everything right, so I don’t have to worry about it.

In Miami, the hotel I stayed at near Books & Books (which shall remain nameless)turned out to be so incompetent it was funny. . . almost. When I checked in, they had me staying for one night (instead of three), and they had no record of payment from my publisher and demanded my personal credit card. OK, so people make mistakes, no big deal.

Next morning I had to get up early to do a Miami TV show. Called room service the night before, but no one could take my order; they told me I should hang a room-service request form on my doorknob. Which I did.

6:30 the next morning, no breakfast. At 7:00 I called down to room service, who said they had no record of any room service request from me. I went to the door of my room, and sure enough, the form was gone – someone had picked it up. Whoever picked it up never delivered it to room service. So no coffee before my TV appearance. Somehow, I did OK anyway.

Next morning, having learned my lesson about hanging the thing on the door, I decided to CALL room service at 6:30. It rang and rang, and no answer.

For half an hour. Rang and rang; no answer.

Finally, I went down to the front desk, where I was told that I should have hung a room-service menu form on my doorknob; “Right now, the room service people are too busy delivering breakfast to answer the phone.” I put in an order for breakfast with the front desk.

It arrived an hour later. I’d asked for a large pot of coffee, and when I poured it out – it was hot water. No coffee.

Pretty much everything at this hotel worked like that. A FedEx package sent to me never arrived – it got there, but someone in the hotel lost it. My publicist faxed me something on Monday – never got it. She faxed it again, and I still didn’t get it. Tuesday night I went down to the front desk – no, Sir, no fax for you.

Around 10:00 that night came a knock at my door. Turned out they had indeed received the faxes — but someone had put them in an envelope labeled “Mr. Fischer.”

Now I began to understand the frustration of the corporate bigwig whose limo never arrived.

Then I flew to Dallas and checked into the Adolphus Hotel. They handed me a fax that had just arrived. A few minutes after I got to my room, they delivered a FedEx package I’d just gotten, then another fax. Brought me a fruit tray as a VIP welcome gift (!). Coffee arrived, right on time, at 3:30 a.m.

The Adolphus is a beautiful, magnificently run hotel – and now I appreciate well-run hotels as never before.

Dateline: Dallas, May 24

Passed by the famous Grassy Knoll, the site of the Kennedy assassination. A crowd was there, gawking at – what? The grass-covered slope of a hill?

Is it just me, or is it weird that Dallas has an Assassination Museum in the Texas Book Depository?

Dateline: In Transit, May 23 — A Fan

On the plane from Miami to Dallas, I passed someone reading Company Man. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Enjoying the book?” He looked up, said, “Huh? Oh, yeah.” I said, “Great. Because I wrote it.” He said, “Huh? What?” He shook his head and went back to the book. Clearly he didn’t believe me.

After we landed, he found me near the baggage claim and introduced himself. Troy had thought that one of his friends was playing a joke on him – he didn’t believe I was really the author of the book he was reading. Then he looked at the picture inside the back cover, and saw I was telling the truth.

I probably shouldn’t do stuff like that – it freaks people out. But it’s also hard to resist.

Dateline: Miami, May 23 — “24” Fans in High Places

After my signing at Books & Books in Miami, I talked to that great bookstore’s owner, Mitch Kaplan. His sister, as it turns out, is an executive at Fox involved with “24.”

Mitch began to reel off for me a list of famous writers and literary figures who are as obsessed with “24” as I am. I won’t list them here, since Mitch didn’t give me permission to do so, but they include a legendary former editor of The New Yorker and Knopf, a former editor of the New York Times Book Review, a very mandarin book reviewer. . .

So it’s not just me.

Dateline: Miami, May 22 — A Day Off, but a Day of Cliffhangers

Determined not to miss the season finale of “24,” I apologized to my dinner host, left the table, and grabbed a cab back to my hotel. The ride took way longer than I expected.

8:00 — we’re still miles away. Miami is big, huh? Then the cab driver tells me he has no idea where my hotel was, so I have to help him find it.

8:15 — arrive at the hotel. Cab driver can’t figure out how to navigate the one-way streets around the hotel, so I give him too much money, jump out into traffic and weave my way through cars to the hotel entrance.

Just like Jack Bauer would do.

8:17 — The room card-key doesn’t work in the elevator. The flickering red light comes on. Elevator doesn’t move.

8:19 — Another hotel guest enters the elevator and puts in her card. I get to my floor.

8:20 — Run through the maze of hallway to my room, dodging room-service carts and maids’ service trolleys. Get to the door of my room.

8:21 — My room key doesn’t work. I try it for the next two minutes, but keep getting the flickering red light.

8:23 — Race back to the bank of elevators, where I find a house phone. Call the front desk. The clerk tells me that that the hotel thought I had checked out(!), so de-activated my card. They promise to send someone right up with a new key.

8:28 — Return to my door to wait.

8:33 — Still waiting.

8:35 — Pulse is racing. Blood pressure is high.

8:36 — I can wait no longer. Race back down the hall and see a door marked “stairway.” Figure the stairs to the lobby will be much faster than the elevator. A sign on the stairs says “no exit to hotel.” What can this mean? It’s a dark, concrete back staircase, obviously not supposed to be used by hotel guests.

8:42 — I reach an unmarked door. It opens not onto the lobby or a hotel floor, but into some concrete underground garage. I run through the garage, but can’t find an exit to the hotel. They’ve probably already arrested the President on “24,” and I’m stuck in a parking garage.

8:45 — I run up a ramp that leads to the street, around to the hotel entrance, up the escalator to the front desk – and hit a long line of people waiting to check in. No. This can’t be.

8:46 — I go right up to the desk, angering all those people in line, and demand that they replace my card. They do.

8:50 — I get to my room, find the channel for Fox, and put on the TV just as the segment is ending.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are playing the Yankees. I can’t do both, so I put on my laptop and watch the action there. We’re ahead 9 to 1 at the top of the 9th.

Then Alex Rodriguez hits a 2-run homer. Then Posada homers. Our lead seems to be crumbling.

But back to “24.” A brilliant little twist involving Jack Bauer, the President, and a listening device – got me, and I’m the plotmeister.

And the Sox won after all, 9-5.

Miami media appearances

If you’re in the Miami area — or even if you’re not — tune into WIOD-AM, News Radio 610, this evening to listen to a conversation I had with host Aron Bender.

And don’t forget to come to one of my two appearances tomorrow. I’ll be at Levenger in Delray Beach (420 Congress Ave.) at 12:00 noon, and then at Books and Books in Coral Gables (265 Aragon Ave.) at 8:00 p.m. The Books and Books appearance is a TV giveaway, so I expect the crowd will be a little bigger at that one…

Dateline: Washington, D.C., May 20

Exhausted from the day before and a dinner given by St. Martin’s for other St. Martin’s authors, including Sherrilyn Kenyon, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Will Shortz (the crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times), I slept later than I’d planned to. I wanted to get a workout in – it had been 3 days since I’ve worked out, and I needed it badly – but didn’t have a chance.

First I got a call from St. Martin’s Publicity Director that I should put on the Today Show (Weekend Today). The book editor of Cosmopolitan, John Searles, was on, recommending the “must-read” books for summer, and started with Killer Instinct. A great way to start the day. Then a friend e-mailed me to say that the Wall Street Journal had just reviewed Killer Instinct – in its Weekend Edition. A terrific, enthusiastic review. The reviewer really got the book. A burst of e-mails followed – my editor, my publicist, friends – and by the time I answered them, it was time to get back to the show.

No workout today either.

In the afternoon, I did a panel with George Pelecanos, Mark Bowden, and Jim Belushi. We all met up beforehand in the Green Room – green rooms, I’ve learned, are never ever actually green – and hit it off immediately. The immensely talented Pelecanos is a great guy, as is Mark Bowden. Belushi was trying to figure out what this whole gig was about. He’s on book tour himself and says it’s way harder than the TV-star gig or even touring with his band.

The panel went great. It was moderated by Scott Brick, who reads my audio books. I’d never met him before, though we’ve e-mailed each other. I told a couple of stories about what a rock star Scott Brick is, among audiobook devotees, and one story about a problem I had last year while doing research at a company… and my zipper broke. Belushi, who’d worried beforehand about what he was going to say, was extremely funny, no surprise.

A bookseller in the audience raised her hand at the end and asked if she could get a hug from him. He complied. I said into the mike, “Hey, what about the rest of us?” Afterward, one of the women in the audience came up to me and gave me a hug. Now everything was OK.

Rushed out of the BEA, into a car to the airport, and now I’m on my way to Miami. Looking forward to the warm weather, my appearance at the remarkable Books & Books…

And the season finale of “24,” Monday night. Thank God I don’t have a signing scheduled Monday night, or I’d have to cancel it. Forget taping – I need to watch this show in real time.

But apparently I’m scheduled to go out to dinner Monday night. I love the folks I’m having dinner with, but sorry – I’m not missing “24.” Not sure how I’m going to handle this. Stay tuned.

Dateline: Washington, D.C., May 19

An amazing and exhausting day. Got to the hotel around 1:00 in the morning, finally got to sleep around 1:30, then the wakeup call came at 6:00.

Because of the complexities of my travel schedule, I had to do “Squawk Box” by remote — in the DC studio, while the show is broadcast out of the CNBC studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Doing a TV show by remote is a strange experience. You sit in a room with lights on you staring into a camera lens, while the questions come in through your earphone.

“Squawk Box” (a show I’ve always enjoyed) is frenetic and fast-paced, and the questions came at me really fast. I was expecting questions based on a piece I published in the latest Forbes magazine on the myth of the corporate spy (I make the point that the spy-versus-spy stuff between companies is overhyped, happens more in my novels than in reality, and is a bad idea anyway). But they wanted to talk about Killer Instinct – which was great.

Raced over to the Washington Convention Center – skidded in just in time for my signing. Lots of people in line to get me to sign copies of Killer Instinct – some friends I’ve met on tour last year or the year before. Some seem to have discovered me with Company Man. Some with Paranoia. And a few actually read my earlier books (especially High Crimes). It’s funny how many people (booksellers and librarians mostly) told me they loved “my first book,” Paranoia. I no longer bother to explain that I wrote four novels before that one.

The number of writer friends I ran into at BEA is amazing. Nelson DeMille, one of my favorites (as a writer and as a human being) was there with his great wife, Sandy. Dennis Lehane, a friend from Boston who’s been teaching in Florida the last year or so, was there as was Laura Lippman. James Patterson too. My great friend Daniel Silva signed audiobooks of his new novel, The Messenger. Dan and I tried to grab lunch, but the lines were incredibly long and slow-moving, and ended up gobbling down some crappy prepackaged pound cake from some stand.

Dateline: Midair, May 18

Will someone tell me what the “One World Alliance” is?

Is it the final revelation of a Robert Ludlum thriller, in which the hero learns that everyone, but everyone, is involved in the Big Conspiracy?

And if it’s not – why is American Airlines a member of the One World Alliance?

I’m on a flight to Washington D.C. – the BEA (Book Expo America), the big annual book industry trade show, begins tomorrow. I’m doing CNBC’s “Squawk Box” tomorrow morning, then doing a signing at the BEA, and on Saturday I’m on a panel with George Pelecanos, Mark Bowden and Jim Belushi. (I don’t get the connection either.)
But right now I’m on an American Eagle plane that’s only slightly bigger than an extra large toothpaste tube.

The book tour got off to a good start in New York today. I’ve already forgotten most of what happened, but I stopped by The Mysterious Bookshop, signed a bunch of books, and said hello to the proprietor, Otto Penzler, a major force in the mystery book world. This is one of the best mystery bookshops in New York – oh, hell, since it’s the only one that always insists I stop in and sign books, they must be the best, right? Last year it was located farther uptown, but after many years they moved to TriBeCa – probably a better, more street-traffic friendly location. But Otto no longer has the best office in the world, which he had at the old place – twelve-foot ceilings, floor to ceiling bookshelves. It looked like Henry Higgins’ library in “My Fair Lady.” (If you want signed copies of Killer Instinct, e-mail his store: info@mysteriousbookshop.com)

Just before the Borders signing began, the skies opened up and the rains came down in torrents. But despite it all, a great turnout, a very enthusiastic crowd. Some of them are regulars by now, some I know just because they e-mail me fairly often – Randy R., Seth T., Rudy, and others.

The winner of the plasma screen was someone who’s just discovered my books, a very nice guy named Richard who, as it turned out, knows a lot about the plasma/LCD industry. But he didn’t have a flat-screen TV – until that night.

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