Chance Encounters of the Memorable Kind

I note from his blog that author Henry Kisor will be undertaking a number of book signings over the coming weeks to promote his latest detective novel, Hang Fire. Henry is also the author of Zephyr, a marvelous account of his travels across the west aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr. If you’re a fan of trains and train travel, Zephyr is a must.
At any rate, unless you’re a huge name, these days the onus for publicizing newly released books falls on the authors and book signings are the best and most common device used to generate a little publicity.
There’s nothing complicated about these events: the author appears at book stores and spends a couple of hours greeting the patrons and autographing copies of the book for those who choose to buy a copy. Often, however, these events are sparsely attended.

One afternoon in the late ‘60s, I happened to be walking through Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center. As I was passing by the Honolulu Book Shop, I noticed a card table set up just inside the main entrance. A dozen or so books were piled on the table at which a large older man was slouched forlornly on a folding chair.

A hand-lettered sign announced that author Bob Considine was there to autograph copies of his latest book, It’s All News To Me. Being originally from the east coast, I knew Bob Considine to be a well-known reporter, columnist, and author of ThirtySeconds Over Tokyo, a huge best seller about the Doolittle raid of 1942. Considine was a heavy hitter back east, but clearly a complete unknown in Honolulu.
When I walked up to the table, Considine practically hugged me. He’d been sitting there for almost an hour and not one book had been sold.
Absent any other potential buyers, we had quite a long conversation, much of it about his interest in politics and politicians. It was just a respite from boredom for the veteran newspaperman, but an extraordinary and memorable experience for me, one I remember clearly 45 years later. I still have a copy of Considine’s book, autographed and with a very generous notation.
Henry Kisor may not be mobbed at his book signing events. But at one of them, someone will show up and have a chance to meet the man … and be inspired.