I've been on my travels recently, the biggest journey being a trip across the Atlantic to visit various cities in the Mid-west USA to promote CUT and RUN.
Mid-January perhaps isn't the best time to travel to the great lakes area, because of the inclement weather. I'd been watching the weather forecasts and saw that snow was expected. But I didn't let it stop me. More worrying was the thought of five different flights (that makes ten take-offs and landings) in less than a week, plus the prospect of driving on the right hand side, in a left had drive car, automatic instead of gear stick, for the very first time (apart from an aborted attempt in Spain one time when I drove the wrong way into a one way system EEK!). But, hey, am I not a roughty-toughty thriller author, unfazed by such things as these? Supposedly. Anyway, I girded my loins, jacked myself up on Kalms, and set off.
My wife went with me, and good job because she's the only thing that keeps me from blowing a fuse in the airport. The flight to Newark was fine - getting through Immigration wasn't. Is it me or is immigration at Newark the slowest process in the world? Had to run to make my connecting flight to Pittsburgh and only made it by the skin of my teeth. The flight into Pittsburgh was a bit bumpy, but having been on the go for a day and a half by then I managed to sleep most of it. Thank you Kalms.
My first event was at 'Mystery Lovers' book store, Oakmont, Pittsburgh, and it was a real treat. A beautiful bookshop in a beautiful location, with some very welcoming readers and shop staff. Also, a pleasant surprise was meeting 'Donna' a friend I'd made by chance when visiting Baltimore a few years ago. Who knew how small a world the earth had become?
That day blizzards had forced Chicago O'Hare airport to cancel 500 flights and the prospects of making my next engagement was looking grim. But it was off to the airport and with a slight delay - and the need to have our plane de-iced on the runway - we took off and arrived safely in Chicago. This is where good friend, and Bouchercon maestro, Judy Jongsma Bobalik showed up to whisk us around town and show us all the sights. I'd preconceptions - or misconceptions - about Chicago based on watching old mobster movies. It was and is a beautiful city, made all the more magnificent for the snow. The following day I attended a mystery writers' event at Ela District Library, Lake Zurich, alongside Julie Hyzy, Jamie Freveletti, Bryan Gruley and Jason Karlawish. It was again a superb event with some enthusiastic and knowledgeable readers in attendance. Naomi McEneely of Lake Forest bookshop was on hand to supply books, and she proved to be a lovely lady and new friend. As mystery authors are sometimes want to do, we all headed off to a dive bar for beer and popcorn. A real treat and one of my first views of 'real America'. Next round is on me, Mr Gruley.
By now trepidation was growing concerning the impending drive up to Milwaukee, and again Judy Bobalik showed genuine friendship and generosity by offering to drive us there. I accepted thankfully. So the following morning Judy collected me and my wife from O'Hare and took us north, to meet another top guy and friend, Jon Jordan of Crimespree magazine, who shuttled us the remainder of the way to Milwaukee. Knowing my taste in music, Jon had even been thoughtful enough to shove a Robert Gordon rockabilly CD in his player. Sweet. Being the generous host he is, Jon took us to his home where his wife and co-magazine editor, Ruth was waiting for us. Their home is an author's dream, with every wall holding case upon case of books, pop culture and movie memorabilia. Awesome. Their welcome, hospitality and generosity didn't end there: it culminated that evening in a home cooked meal that I could barely put a dent in, and great company alongside Jon, Ruth, Bryan VanMeter and 'Sheriff' Joe Schmidt.
The next day saw Jon and Ruth collecting us again and showing us the sights of Milwaukee, including a trip to the world famous Harley Davidson museum, where we lunched, and I had about the largest cheese/steak burger I've ever seen in my life. It would have been rude to leave even a morsel on my plate wouldn't it?
Then it was off to Mystery One book store in Milwaukee for another well attended event. But that was after meeting at the Comet Coffee Bar with Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly to conduct an interview and video interview. You can grab links to both these interviews in the preceding post to this one.
The event at Mystery One was cool. Adding to the ambience was the smell of freshly baked cookies - thanks Bryan - and the presence of some top people, old and new friends alike.
The night didn't end there. We all went to a Mexican restaurant where I sampled skirt-steak for the first time. It was good, but didn't come near the steak fed to me by Jon and Ruth Jordan the night before. It was great to see old friends Penny and Denny joining us too.
Back at the hotel I watched the snow growing steadier by the hour, and come the following morning it was once more of blizzard proportions. It didn't stop Ruth Jordan fetching us and taking us to the airport for our flight home. Ruth did a terrific job of negotiating the snowy streets, even when a collision in front of us blocked the route and we had to go off road (actually it was through a housing estate, but doesn't it sound more daring that way?). Again our plane was subjected to de-icing on the runway, but we were off, up and away back to Newark with little time to spare. From there it was back to Manchester UK, and the drive back to Cumbria.
Dropping off my wife at home it was a quick turn around for me, and I returned to the railway station at Carlisle for a trip up to Glasgow, Scotland, for an event at Club 29, where I met and enjoyed a night in the presence of Waterstones staff from all over Scotland, alongside fellow authors Sophie Hannah, Imogen Robertson, Robyn Young, Louise Welsh and Gary Mulgrew. It was a great night, where again I met old and new friends, with a special mention to fellow author Russel McLean who I bump into at events all over the world. By the time I returned to my hotel room I'd been on the go for around forty hours solid, but hey ho. It's part and parcel of the job I guess.
The following morning seen me back on a train to Carlisle, and I marvelled at how beautiful the Clyde looked, garlanded with early morning sunshine. Then it was a short drive home to my house in Cumbria. What a trip, but every minute well worth it.
Can't wait for my return trip to Cleveland, USA for Bouchercon 2012 this year, where again I hope to see Judy, Jon, Ruth and the rest of the gang. And, yeah, another trip to Scotland is most likely on the cards.