The first customer of August was drunk. The way he stumbleswerved through the door brought my head up right away and he must have caught my dark glance because he came right out with it...
"I'm a bit pissed. Out all night...no sleep yet..."
I watched him as he staggered into the other room but he did seem to be browsing. Shoplifters are always easy to spot because they can't browse. They go from section to section with no logical connection between them. This bloke was looking at the fiction section. He was browsing. I left him to it and a few minutes later he came over with a copy of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and Richard Yate's Revolutionary Road. A man of great taste! He paid and I helped him choose a card for his ex - then we had a great chat.
We discussed Revolutionary Road and the way the reader is drawn into the book, how impossible it is to avoid being completely snared by the writing. Disaster is there, right from the opening moments, but you just have to read on. We moved on to Yate's troubled life and the fact he used to write speeches for Robert Kennedy. (I avoided talking about his alcoholism given the circumstances) Another customer bought Suite Francaise and my new mate tried to sell her John McGahern's Amongst Women. Somehow his sales pitch of "This'll be the best thing you buy all year" failed to convince her and, after I explained he wasn't on commission she left - probably a little shaken by the early morning booze stink on his breath.
We chatted on and it turned out he used to go out with Jimmy Somerville. A discussion of fame and the effects it can have ensued. He then asked if I was gay and I said I wasn't. I showed him my ring and explained I was married.
"You could pass as gay" he said - which I took as a great compliment.
Then he left. But I felt August had got off to a good start...
The next first concerns the first party to celebrate the first book by our first lady Marie.
There was a great turnout (of course!) For some reason Marie seemed to be expecting one man and his dog but the place was heaving and the queue for signed first editions of her first novel started at 6:30 and kept Marie signing until 8:30. She was then able to mingle with her adoring public. The poor lass already had a signing related injury on her wrist - a kind of cross between a blister and a bruise - caused by a visit to the TBS warehouse.
It was just like the old days as Marie and I manned the till. In fact at one point Marie was seen selling her own book! A travesty I rushed across the room to rectify as soon as I'd finished saying hello to one of the numerous people who popped out of the woodwork and made an appearance. (Having kids kills the social life) The call to say Marie had a deal with Random House came while she was standing behind the C & P till so there was a beautiful symetry to the whole scene. Luckily we were so busy I only remembered I was going to make a speech after almost everyone (including Marie) had left. But Marie - we are thrilled for you and wish you all the best in what I'm sure will be a long career.
So it was a great day/evening and we do it all again tonight at the second launch of Marie's first novel on the second of August. Hmmm...doesn't have the same ring to it really...