By Pat Remick
On this St. Patrick's Day, it seems appropriate to mention that I recently attended my first book event in a bar. It definitely was a "novel" experience.
It also was the beginning of a mystery-filled week that included learning from the Boston Police Department ballistics lab guys how to make bullets and guns nearly untraceable -- and being told that my award-winning mystery short story "Mercy 101" will be read aloud over the radio waves in Massachusetts today and is available for downloading as a "podcast" or listening over the computer anytime.
I wish every week had this much mystery.
The reading and signing at the intimate Red Door lounge/martini bar was part of a new series launched by my local independent bookstore and it featured genre-crossing debut novelist Jedediah Berry and "The Manual of Detection," which the Boston Globe describes as "surreal, absurd and cerebral."
The bar, otherwise empty on a weekday evening, offered drinks with names related to the book, while music appropriate to the novel played in the background. After Berry read excerpts, there was a musical interlude so the small audience could chat with him over drinks and submit questions to be posed later, with prizes awarded for the top entries. It was a delightful evening, but I wish the crowd had been larger.
I've often wondered why more people don't attend book readings. There's nothing like hearing an author read from his or her own work. Readings are always intellectually stimulating, even if you don't agree with the premise. You get to hang out with other people who like to read and sometimes there's even free food and wine. You don't even have to buy anything from the store. It all adds up to a perfect outing--if you'll forgive the pun--in my book.
It always shocks me to see empty chairs at events with New York Times best-selling authors. With millions of readers in the country who bought over $3.1 billion worth of books last year, why don't more readers come out to meet and listen to the people who wrote those books? I wonder if authors and bookstores should do more to let folks know how much fun it can be to attend a reading. Holding them in bars is one way to do that, so "cheers" to the "novel" concept.
The next night, I traveled an hour south to hear two experts from the Boston PD Ballistics Lab share some fascinating tidbits, including that the best way to make it difficult, if not impossible, to trace a bullet is to hide the corpse for a while because the markings on the bullet disappear the longer it's in the body. We also learned it costs $400 to buy any kind of illegal gun on the streets of Boston. Ever wonder what the price is in your town?
Speaking of crime, my short story "Mercy 101" is scheduled to be read aloud on a radio program called Lit103.3, "fiction for the ears," in Northampton, Mass., today but it also is available anytime on the web site in podcast form or can be heard online by clicking on the black arrow that comes up on the page. The story won the 2007 Al Blanchard Award for best New England crime story and was published in "Still Waters: Crime Stories by New England Writers." "Mercy 101" and its characters have been inside my head for so long that it was odd, but wonderful, to hear the story in someone else's voice. This is my first podcast. Can Hollywood be far behind?
Stranger things have happened on St. Patrick's Day....