NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THIS...
This morning I woke at eight. I was alone in a beautiful apartment in SoHo. From the landing outside my bedroom I can look down over the balcony into the living room below. There is a wrought-iron spiral staircase that will take me there, designed in such a way as it seems to just hang in space unattached to anything of substance. My head is clear. My thoughts are lucid. I am a little tired as I have been on the go for three days. Yesterday I walked several miles across Manhattan - all the way from the Grand on 42nd Street to Broadway and West Houston. I stopped at The Strand Bookstore on the way and bought a book by Cormac McCarthy. From there I went to Otto Penzler's Mysterious Bookstore on Warren Street (possibly the finest mystery and thriller bookstore in the world), and I spent a little time talking with Otto, who has been immensely supportive about the US release of A Quiet Belief In Angels. Lee Child was there, always so friendly and such a gentleman. I met Tom Rob Smith, and once again had the pleasure of catching up with Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind), Steve Martini, a whole host of other authors, bloggers, publicists, agents, editors and thriller-junkies who I see when I come to the States...
But I digress.
Last night I had drinks with my great friend Jack Lamplough, publicity director and all-round genius from Overlook. I also had the immense pleasure of meeting his partner, Emer. She put me right on a few things about the creative licenses I have taken with New York, and at the same time made me feel more acknowledged as a writer than most people have in my life. The bar where we were drinking had three walls. The fourth 'wall' was an open-plan balcony from where you could see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge and the 59th Street Bridge. We left as the sun went down and took a walk to the Bridge Cafe at 279 Water Street, nestling there beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a location it has occupied since 1794. It is the oldest continuous business establishment in New York, founded originally as a 'grocery and wine and porter bottler' by Newell Narme. It continued to be a grocery, and then was granted a liquor licence, and in April of 1879 the District Attorney indicted the building as a 'Disorderly House'. The Census noted that it provided facilities for six prostitutes.
Well, here we ate. Seated there beneath the original 1896 Saloon License, we drank a wonderful bottle of wine, we ate soft shell crabs, and then huge hanger steaks. The first of those three things I have done many times, the second and third I have never done. The company was superb, the conversation wonderful, the food remarkable.
Pizza at Lombardi's, the Vesuvio Bakery, the coffee store credited with creating the first capuccino in 1929, the Empire State Building, the site of the two towers (mind-boggling), Gramercy Park, the Hudson, yellow cabs, ten-dollar Rolexes for sale on street corners, the Woolworth Building, Uptown, Downtown, MidTown, Bleeker Street, West Broadway...
I have seen them all in two days. This afternoon I am going out and about to take pictures. This evening I am going to a gig at BB King's House of Blues. Tomorrow we are filming footage for the website all over the city.
I am mostly speechless, definitely in awe, and cannot conceive of the possibility that New York could ever disappoint anyone on any level.
Oh, and this morning I went out for coffee and pastries. I could make coffee in the apartment but I don't want to. I want to 'go out for coffee' in New York. As I was leaving the store I glanced to my right, and there - seated at a table - was a beautiful young woman reading 'In Cold Blood' as she enjoyed her breakfast. As any of you who know me will all-too-quickly understand, that book holds a very dear and special place in my heart. I was reminded of Capote, of his life in New York, and with that came thoughts of Steinbeck (who, I believe said - though don't quote me - something along the lines of 'New York is a dirty, crime-ridden, filthy, dangerous place, but once you have lived here then there's nowhere else in the world that's good enough'), and I appreciate that sentiment utterly.
My editor and great friend Jon Wood, a man who has been to New York many times, was the recipient of the second message after my arrival. Once I had let my wife know that I had arrived safely I sent Jon a text. It read, simply: When I die, I want to die in New York.
I don't know if it has a similar effect on other people, but it has certainly had that effect on me.
And I have to say a few words about Overlook Press - about what these guys have done. We had a dinner on Thursday evening. The menus were personalised to 'welcome RJ Ellory and acknowledge the US release of A Quiet Belief In Angels' (and here I have to say a huge thank you to Meredith for organising such a wonderful evening). Our guests were from BookSense, the American Library Association, the Wall Street Journal, Borders et al. Wonderful people. Hugely enthusiastic and supportive. The Thrillerfest magazine has a full page ad for the book, as does The Strand. There are stickers and pens with the books title on them, and everywhere I turn there are people with Advance Readers' Copies, all of them wanting signatures, all of them wanting to tell me how much they are enjoying the book.
It has taken six years to find a US publisher. I can honestly say that the six-year wait was worth it. Just as I battled to get published in the UK and was eventually taken on by a very brave Jon Wood at Orion, so I have battled here, and to have found Peter Mayer, Jack Lamplough, Aaron Schlecter and David Falk...well, I don't really need to say a great deal more aside from the fact that I couldn't wish for better people. These, let me tell you, are the kind of people who define friendship and quality of life. I feel I have been profoundly fortunate, both in the UK, also in France, Norway, Brazil, so many other places, to have found great people who really seem to understand what I am trying to do with my books, and to now cap it all with an association with Overlook is almost too good to be true.
As Rick says at the end of 'Casablanca', I believe that this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
So, I will gather my things together and go out into the city once more. I will take some pictures for the website gallery, and I will post again when I get home.
Thanks for listening, as always, and I trust all is well with you.