RARA-AVIS: Lawrence Block signings

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 29 Apr 2004

In a message dated 4/29/2004 4:00:03 AM Eastern Daylight Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

> Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 10:55:33 -0400
> From: Todd Mason < Todd.Mason@tvguide.com>
> Subject: RE: RARA-AVIS: Lawrence Block rants about signature-hungry book c ollectors...: Ty
> From: Andrew Albert J. Ty
> I found lines like "Unless you count Saint Paul, book tours are a recent
> phenomenon" quite delightful, and Block's comments about mercenary
> collectors quite on the money. Still, he does sound a bit harsh here, and
> personally, I like my books signed and with my name on it. In any case:
> http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0417/essay.php
> - ---Thanks, Andrew. This helps explain further the tenor of the one time I
> met Block, when he came into the bookstore I was working in a decade ago,
> and grimly went about the business of signing the copies we had of the then
> new novel.
> Not that, even with limited experience with signings outside my store
> (BoucherCons feel pretty much like SF conventions feel pretty much like Free
> Library festivals), I didn't understand beforehand. Even I, with my first
> published short story (also a decade ago), was approached by someone who
> went out of his way to be obsequious in asking for a signature, only to drop
> the magazine somewhere in the store (perhaps after reading the story)
> without buying it. Multiply that by several thousand annually, and add the
> even more enervating dealers with their stacks of copies,
> and I think he's
> actually pretty temperate here...

I agree with Todd that Block is making some reasonable points. Twenty years ago there wasn't much commercial/collectible interest in mystery fiction and mystery writers, especially those attending their first Bouchercon, were surprised and flattered to be asked to sign anything. Someone one day may do a study on this but I recall that Mysterious Press began publishing limited, signed editions in (I think) the late 1970s and that may have been the beginning.

The first time I recall what I considered bad form was when John D. MacDonald was a guest at the New York Bouchercon that I believe Otto Penzler co-chaired. I was surprised and embarrassed when a well-known individual turned up in the line with an over-flowing cardboard box of JDM hardbacks, paperbacks, magazine appearances, etc. It bothered me even more that he was just a head of me and I had to watch poor JDM scrawl his name on every item before I could get my one book signed. Thank goodness that item limits and such soon became standard.

Through the years Lawrence Block has signed a good many books for me and has always been most gracious. The books were generally his latest or something relatively obscure, which always seemed to interest him. I've had the same experience with Westlake, Evan Hunter, Charles McCarry and others who seem to enjoy seeing an oddity from long ago.

I haven't asked Block to sign anything in years because it no longer seemed worth the effort. Not being in it for the money, how many signed Blocks does one guy need?

Richard Moore

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