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Dateline: San Francisco, June 1

06/02/2006

Who’s profiting more from America’s post-9/11 terrorist scare, I wonder – General Electric (manufacturer of a bunch of high-tech airport security machines, including the EntryScan, which looks like a futuristic time machine), or RubberMaid, which makes all those gray plastic trays onto which you now have to put your laptop, your suit jacket, and your shoes)?

How cool is it to run into a fellow author when you’re on book tour? Especially when that author is my friend Barry Eisler, author of the widely praised John Rain thriller series. I dropped by M is for Mystery, the great mystery bookstore in San Mateo, California, owned by one of the legends of the book business, Ed Kaufman, to do a stock signing. As it happened, one of my Silicon Valley sources (and a friend, Roger McNamee, was there to meet me with a bag full of books to be signed. And then Barry Eisler came by as well. He lives 15 minutes away, and he was there to sign copies of his new book, The Last Assassin, just before setting off on a 30-city tour (And I complain about 10 cities?) A couple of other people dropped by to meet me, and they all ended up meeting Barry as well – and buying his new book too. I told Barry I’m going to follow him around on his tour and horn in on his signings.

But I was kidding.

Thirty cities? No thanks.

Airport bookstores all seem to work differently. I don’t quite get them. At the San Francisco Airport, waiting to board my flight to San Diego, I spotted a nice stack of Killer Instinct at Compass Books, one of the most impressive airport bookshops I’ve seen outside of Europe. I offered to sign them. The clerk was thrilled, then she rounded up loads of paperback copies of Company Man as well. Then I saw Killer Instinct in the bestseller rack at the CNBC News shop not far away, and I asked the clerk if she’d like me to sign them. She looked at me as if I were offering to rip the covers off or something. When I explained, she shook her head violently. “I’d have to get permission for that,” she said.

Old friends
I know I’ve complained a lot about book tour, but there are also some cool aspects –including meeting up with old friends I haven’t seen in years. When I walked into Book Passage in Corte Madera for my Thursday evening signing, a woman came up to me whom I haven’t seen in years. Her name is Patty Hoyt (I’m not sure if that’s still her last name, actually), and I’ve known her since we were in third grade together in Loudonville, New York. Patty has an identical twin, Angie, and I was always getting them mixed up.

I saw her and said, “Angie!”

“Patty, actually,” she said.

Oops.

Book Passage in Corte Madera is one of the most famous independent bookstores in the country, and I’d always heard that it’s one of the very best for author signings. Now I know why. Sure, it was a very well run, very well publicized signing, and man, do they have the routine down. Tim, one of the events people, a guy with a radio announcer’s voice, runs author events like a field marshal. And the winner of the 42” plasma TV turned out to be one of Book Passage’s most regular customers. All great. But the best thing is the gift they give every writer who does an event there: a box of elegant correspondence cards with his or her name embossed on them. I won’t need to buy stationery again for a while.

I plan to return to Book Passage again next year — by which point I hope to have used up all the stationery.