Tuesday, September 25, 2007

James Grippando

September 1994 marked my debut as a published author, a good ten years after I had started visiting Mitchell Kaplan at Books & Books. I don't remember everything about my first pub date, but even fifteen novels later, there is one thing I know I'll never forget.
It was a sunny south Florida afternoon. I got in my red convertible (which has since been traded in for three kids, a dog, and an SUV) and drove to my favorite bookstore in the heart of Coral Gables. I'd been going there for years to browse and dream. This time, however, I walked right up to New Fiction, pulled The Pardon off the shelf and plopped it on the counter.
To my disappointment, it happened to be one of those rare times that Mitchell wasn’t in the store. I made the best of things.
"That's my book, you know," I told the sales clerk.
She looked at me quizzically. "Yes, it is once you've paid for it."
Part of me wanted to pull out my driver’s license, tell her to compare the names, and insist NO, REALLY --- IT'S MY BOOK, I WROTE THIS THING! Instead, I just chuckled to myself and paid her in cash. "Best twenty-three dollars I've ever spent," I said.
She pointed with a nod to the book on the counter. "James Gri . . . Grippa . . . Grippa-na-nando. Never heard of him. Any good?"
"No," I said. "Just lucky."
I still feel lucky—not just to be a published author, but to live in city with one of the greatest bookstores in the world. And you can bet on this: twenty-five years of Books & Books didn’t happen out of luck. Congratulations to all of you who have worked so hard to make Books & Books my special place.
And by the way, it’s no accident that the bookstore owner in one of my favorite Jack Swyteck novels, Last to Die, reminds many readers of Mitchell Kaplan!

James Grippando

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