Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 3 Recap

Week Three of the Great American Book Tour was a banner week. On Sunday, world-class independent bookstore Books on the Common co-hosted a great event at the Ridgefield (CT) Library.

At Madison (CT’s) renowned R. J. Julia Books, I read the local historical society some whopping big fibs from Walking to Gatlinburg. They were very good-natured about it all. Thanks!

On to NYC and 192 Books. I don’t know if I would walk from Vermont to Gatlinburg for any reason, but I’d walk to 192 Books just to browse through their wonderful fiction selection. Thanks to my terrific agent, Dan Mandel, and the best editor in these United States, Shaye Areheart, for coming to hear this born liar. Also it was a huge pleasure to meet Jay and Hannah Silverman and their many friends.

Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Books in Richmond, VA, is one of my all-time favorite booksellers. “I love people who love books,” Kelly told me. Her sense of humor ranks with Mark Twain’s and on that subject, the incredibly knowledgeable booksellers at Chester Co. Book and Music Company in West Chester, PA, kept me laughing all evening.

My dear friend Nancy Olson, owner of Quail Ridge Books, brought in a great audience to hear me tell more lies. Nancy’s one of the two or three best-read persons I’ve ever known. I’m halfway through a terrific book she gave me called LOOKING IN THE DISTANCE by Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh. This is a powerful and beautiful book by a remarkably thoughtful man.

No one could accuse Bad Blake, the down-and-out country singer in Thomas Cobb’s fabulous 1987 novel CRAZY HEART of being thoughtful. How he stays with me, though. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’d rate Cobb’s book right up there with William Kennedy’s masterpiece, Ironweed. It’ll make you laugh and cry in the same two seconds. “It is one hell of a thing,” Bad reflects, “when fifty-six-year-old men are sent out on the road with only ten dollars.” (I hear you, Bad.)

My award for the most original bookstore name goes to Malaprops, the literary Mecca of Asheville, where I had a lovely event Saturday night, after a memorable Saturday morning with a good many of the very loyal customers of McIntyre’s Books at Fearrington Village, NC. Bookseller par excellence Pete Mock’s mystery-novel room at McIntyre’s is something to see. And thanks to Pete for naming WALKING TO GATLINBURG his favorite noveL of 2010 so far.

Then came Nashville, Music City USA, where my beloved daughter, singer/songwriter Annie Mosher, brought out a big crowd of fellow singers, songwriters, musicians, and book lovers to hear the born liar, her dad, tell some stretchers at on of my favorite southern independents, Davis-Kidd. The following morning I had one of the real thrills of my life. Hall of Fame radio personality Bill Cody of Guitar Town’s great WSM interviewed this country-music lover on his morning show, “Coffee, Country & Cody.” What an honor. Bill’s a voracious reader and a truly kind guy. That was a lot of fun.

So. How’s the Great American Book Tour shaking down thus far? Hey, I’m loving it. Sure, novelists are frauds and liars by profession, but as long as we admit it, who not? The world needs made-up stories and human beings have been making them up for a good long while.

On behalf of all of us prevaricating spinners of tales, tall and otherwise, thanks to our independent bookseller friends for selling our books and our readers for buying them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great American Book Tour, Beginning of Week 3

It continues to be of great interest to me how the Electronic Age, which many of us feared spelled doom for the book as we know it, is helping to keep the book alive. Please ready my interview on the Brown University blog,, and watch for an upcoming review of Walking to Gatlinburg on Suzanne Levin’s popular

What’s been keeping this clueless, touring writer going over the past few days, however, is reading, usually late at night, usually in cheap motel rooms. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be selling books, not buying them. Still, when Richard Russo writes that Steve Yarbrough’s new novel, Safe from the Neighbors, will “take your breath away,” that’s a book I have to read immediately, and it did. Take my breath away.

Yarbrough’s Safe from the Neighbors is one of the very best new novels to come out of the South, or anywhere else, in many, many years. Set in contemporary Mississippi and ranging back to the Kennedy era and the integration of Ole Miss, Safe from the Neighbors is a beautifully-written story of how history, local and national, both shapes our lives and challenges us to understand our darker selves. And, oh, the stories Steve Yarbrough knows from the little towns and cotton farms and woods of the South. His farmers, barkers, schoolteachers, and newspapermen are incomparable.

“If only I had more time to read” is a refrain I’ve heard a dozen times in the first two weeks of my book tour. Know what? There are some books we don’t have time not to read. Safe from the Neighbors is one of them.

I’m fifty-some pages into Helen Simonson’s magnificent Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. You will love the 68-year-old Major, who just can’t bring himself to be the curmudgeon he thinks of himself as. It, too, is a small-town story, the town being in the English countryside. And wait until you meet Mrs. Ali, the attractive Pakistani widow and bibliophile who runs the grocery shop down the hill. Simonson’s novel reminds me of Lucky Jim and Pride and Prejudice, and I have every confidence that it will continue to delight me. Next on my list is Thomas Cobb’s Crazy Heart, which the award-winning movie of the same name was based on. A report will follow soon.

So. What’ been my favorite event thus far? Well, of course, my book launches at my personal independent bookstore, the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, VT, are always the most exciting and best-attended. Then, I think, each new event at each new bookstore on the Great American Book Tour is my favorite. I’d spend a week, or a summer, in Westport, MA, just to hang out at Partners Village Books there, likewise Dartmouth MA’s Baker Books. You won’t find a better college bookstore, or a more independent one, in these United States than the Brown University Bookstore, which serves the greater Providence community of booklovers as well as the college. Books on the Common, under the sign of the copper heron weathervane in Ridgefield, CT, has as eclectic and carefully-selected fiction section as any bookstore I’ve ever set foot in.

Hey! There are worse ways to spend a few months than reading one’s way across America from one great indie bookstore to the next. I feel pretty lucky – especially since, thanks to my wonderful team at Random House and the independent booksellers I’ve been meeting, Walking to Gatlinburg seems to be selling like hotcakes itself. Move over Karl Rove and Bill O’Neilly. Morgan Kinneson, the 17-year-old Vermont sharpshooter from Walking to Gatlinburg is on his way. And believe me, you do not want to cross him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Great American Book Tour, Week 2

Week two of the Great American Book Tour for my new novel, Walking to Gatlinburg, has been lively.

On my way back to my motel from a wonderful event with Tom Holbrook’s River Run Bookstore, at the Portsmouth (NH) Library, my car stalled. Right on a busy exit ramp of I-95. The next 24 hours included:

1. A hitchhiking and walking excursion through the Sunday-afternoon streets of Portsmouth looking for an automotive repair shop.

2. A ride in a breadtruck with an indignant driver who thought my publisher was making me hitchhike to my events.

3. A falling-out with my muse, who told me to quit complaining, that I should be ready to walk to Gatlinburg myself for more “material,” and that a little hitchhiking now and then was “good for” a 67-year-old author.

4. A morning spent reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the waiting room of a Nissan dealership.

5. A visit to yet another mall bookstore in which I was forbidden, by a 12-year-old bookseller, to sign my own books. (“Look at the author’s photo. That’s me, see? I know book tours will age authors but not in the first week.”)

6. The unencouraging sight of Karl Rove’s new book stacked up to heaven at the front of yet another mall store.

7. Several absolutely wonderful events at independent bookstores around New England, including Joan Grenier’s world-class Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley, MA, and Vermont’s fabled Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. The Odyssey, by the way, was founded in the back of the pharmacy owned by Joan’s dad, Romeo, an autodidactic French Canadian immigrant upon whom the Mt. Holyoke College Board of Trustees conferred the title of “the most learned apothecary since John Keats.” Pretty inspiring!

8. During the hitchhiking interlude, after I started counting, 200 plus cars went racing by without stopping. Come to think of it, I might not stop for myself, either.

9. Quote for the week #1: “We never refused nobody a ride on the road nor something to eat if we had it ourselves.”
Ma Joad
The Grapes of Wrath

10. Quote for the week #2: “Them days are gone forever, pal.”
HFM’s Imaginary Companion, Road Bud and Muse, in the Incarnation of a Broken-down Old Nashville Songwriter.

Well, folks, there are worse ways to spend a few months than visiting America’s best independent bookstores. In fact, I can think of few things I like more. On Friday, March 12, I’ll be at Partners Village Books in Westport, MA, at 7 p.m.; Baker Books in Dartmouth, MA, on Saturday, at 10:00 a.m.; and the Brown Bookstore, in Providence, RI, at 2:00 on Saturday afternoon (March 13).

On to a joint event with Books on the Common at the Ridgefield, CT, Library on Sunday afternoon, March 14, at 4:00 p.m., and, on Monday, March 15, at 7:00, RJ Julia in Madison, CT.

Next week will find me at 192 Books in NY City at 7:00 on Tuesday, March 16; Chester County Book and Music Company, in W. Chester, PA (near Philadelphia) on Wed., March 17, at 7:00; Richmond (VA) at Fountain Books at 6:30 on Thursday, March 18; and Quail Rodge in Raleigh, NC, on Friday, March 19, at 7:00.

I’ll finish up the week on Saturday, March 20, at 11:00 a.m. at McIntyre’s Books at Fearington Village, NC; Asheville’s (NC) Malaprops at 7:00 on Saturday March 20; and Nashville’s Davis Kidd on Sunday afternoon, March 21, at 4:00.

And that’s just the beginning of “The Great American Book Tour” – which just happens to be the title of my next book, a memoir of my tour, coming soon from Shaye Areheart Books and Random House.

Until next time . . .
Yours in reading,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great American Book Tour, Week 1

With the help of my independent bookselling friends here in Vermont, I’ve survived the first week of my Great American Book Tour. I had well-attended, lovely events at the Galaxy in Hardwick, the Rutland Library, Northshire Books in Manchester Center and the Norman Williams Library in Woodstock, where the Yankee Bookshop sold my new novel.

And, oh, the stories you’ll hear on a book tour. Paula Baker, director of the Rutland Library, told me that when she was a little girl, she loved to be read to. She was especially fond of the works of Ben Franklin. One day her mother took her to an enormous public library with terrazzo floors and soaring skylights. They wound their way back through the stacks, and Paula’s mother took a book by Franklin down from a shelf. Still awe-stricken by the stateliness of her surroundings and the presence of so many books, Paula actually thought that this was the original Poor Richard’s Almanack, written in Franklin’s own hand. I was especially struck by this story because to this day I still feel more or less the same way when I pick up a promising new book or a beloved favorite at a library or bookstore.

Thanks to all the great independent booksellers and readers who are making my tour possible. More New England events are scheduled for this coming week. Please see the Appearances section of my website for when I’ll be in your area. I’d also like to alert all my bookselling friends and their customers that I’ll be posting regular Facebook (Howard Frank Mosher), Twitter (howardfmosher), and blog entries as I criss-cross the U.S., so be on the lookout for more stories.

Yours in bookselling, reading and writing! Howard M.