Tuesday, September 25, 2007
You always remember your first time. Mine was in 1994, when Books and Books hosted the kickoff appearance for my first mystery novel, Suspicion of Innocence. The store was about a tenth the size it is now, a little corner book shop under a faded brown awning, the window displays as crammed as the aisles. But even then, Books & Books was the leading independent in Florida, so I was terribly nervous. My memories are still vivid: the notices taped to the glass panel in the wood door; the cash register on the left as you come in, the children’s section toward the right through a narrow hall stuffed with travel books, and the antiquarian annex upstairs, where reading groups would meet. Walk through a wide opening straight ahead, you're in the room where folding chairs are waiting, and you hope people show up to fill them. When I arrived, gripping my new novel in sweaty hands, the staff treated me not like the beginner I was, but a real author. Mitchell Kaplan introduced me in the warm and gracious manner we have all come to know. He said how pleased he was to host a recent grad of the FIU Creative Writing program. He and his staff earned my undying love, and the evening went wonderfully from there. I don't live so close anymore, but they've invited me back with every book, and each time, it's like coming home.