07-06-09, Houston, TX: I have only myself to blame for the Tandoori Chicken Enchilada. It was at the top of the menu in the faux English pub - the Red Lion - here in Houston. The menu claimed it was back by popular demand. It was "Five dollar burger night" and I should have stuck with that. I was hungry, under the influence of whisky, and well...I don't recommend it.
I am on this book tour to do something other than eat, however, sell books for instance. And I have sold some. At Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Clues Unlimited in Tucson and Murder By the Book in Houston (today.) I've been to all these stores before and visting them is like dropping in on old friends. There's not been big crowds - 12, 5 & 10 people - but I have no doubt the stores will sell plenty more books after I've come and gone, and all three had some preorders for me to sign as well.
I also make a point of dropping in at a lot of other stores, even though most of them don't seem to be carrying my books. I say hi, sometimes give them copies of the books, sometimes just bookmarks, but this trip isn't so much about sales as it is about marketing and building my brand, so to speak. I have a brand? Oh no. What has become of me?
In Austin I dropped in at Book People, one of the truly great independent bookstores in the country. (They didn't have my books.) I walked around a fun, hip neighborhood - Austin seems to be full of those - and would have bought a new pair of cowboy boots if my feet weren't feeling swollen from the heat and humidity.
We ate Tex-Mex food and though I hate to be ungrateful, I do believe that of all the types of Mex - Mex-Mex, New Mexico-Mex, SoCal-Mex & Tex-Mex - Tex is my least favorite. Don't tell them I said so. Texans are pretty nationalistic, about Texas. (Have you also noticed that approximately 64 percent of the songs written and sung by Texas musicians, include a lyric that mentions Texas? As the song says, "You don't want to mess with Texas." I like that rhyme.)
Then it was July 4th and time for the infamous "Blowshitupathon" at Mary and Michael's house. It was mostly grad students and grad professors from U.T. I'm not sure we all spoke quite the same language, but we managed to communicate reasonably well. Booze, bbq and explosives assisted. Years of working in places where people didn't speak English came in handy. (If Academese is English, it's a dialect I am not all that familiar with.) It was plenty fun, just like it ought to have been.
Yesterday I drove to Houston, stopping at the Southside Market in Elgin (pronounced with a hard 'g') for sausage and brisket. Great stuff, great hot sauce. Cheap, too. Then didn't do much in the afternoon until I met up with an old pal, hung out, had dinner and went back to the hotel on the early side.
This morning I met up with Sheri - there's an acknowledgement to her in SHANGHAIED. She's my Houston cop pal and a splendid writer and a great repository of wonderful tales about both cop and farm life and a woman of tremendous sense and sensibility. We mostly sat around and talked, but as I do whenever I'm in Houston, I did make her take me around to see some parts of town I hadn't seen before. Including, strangely, the downtown skyline:
And the truly beautiful Glenwood Cemetery where there are a lot of lounging angels:
And the tomb of Howard Hughes:
Sheri has convinced me that I need to go back to the cemetery in the rain.
But not tomorrow. Tomorrow I drive to Greenville, Mississippi at the southern end of the Mississippi Delta. I don't really have anything book-ways to do there, but it's on the way to Nashville where I've got an event on Thursday at Mysteries & More, a store I've never been to before.