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Life on the Literary Road

Six weeks on the road is a stretch, and when forty-three events in four states are factored in, there is only one logical question that can be asked: are you insane? Maybe.

I kicked off the Southern Girl book tour on May 8 near Columbia with Friends of the Irmo Library, the first of a number of library events on the schedule. The crowd was small but eager to learn about the book. The crowd was anything but small the following evening at a private party on Hilton Head Island. The beautiful waterfront home of Cathy and Mike Nairne proved the perfect location. On May 10, Beaufort’s literary community turned out at a wildly successful party at the home of Terry and Peter Hussey, co-hosted by ten couples dear to me and to, it must be said, my late wife Barbara.

At this point you are saying to yourself, “Good Lord, is he going to take us through every one of those forty-three events?” No, he is not, because describing them would be even more exhausting that doing them. Instead, I thought I’d convey some general impressions and offer some cogent insights, since as a writer I am expected to excel at cogent insights.

Cogent Insight #1: Waking up in a strange and different bed every morning for six weeks is . . . well, strange and different. I was blessed with terrific hosts at every stop on the tour who went out of their way to make me comfortable. I slept on mattresses that felt like clouds, and a couple that felt like they came from the set of that remote prison in Papillon that Steve McQueen had to get away from. Bedroom temperatures vary widely, but the solution is right at the end of the hall in a digital readout thermostat that with half an hour of training can be mastered by some Ph.D candidates (“But avoid that blue button--that calls the fire department”). Okay, I think, I’m not touching one thing because as tired as I am it will be the blue button.

Cogent Insight #2: The idea that all coffee makers are the same is a myth perpetuated by Mr. Coffee, who manufactured them when all coffee makers were the same. Being an early riser and often the first one up in my host household, I was lovingly instructed the night before on the use of these various devices. And while none that I recall had a button that summoned the fire department, a number had buttons that should have brewed coffee but did not. It turns out the “brew” button must be pressed in a prescribed sequence, like launching a nuclear missile. No sequence, no coffee, no vaporization of Moscow.

Cogent Insight #3: Bookstore owners and their patrons are simply the warmest, friendliest and most gracious people you will ever meet. I invite you to look over the Tour link on my website to identify all the great independent bookstores that sponsored events. These are the lifeblood of writers like me, and I so appreciate the receptions I received . . . at all but two--you know who you are--when my appearance in their doorways seem to take them completely by surprise, and to no one’s surprise there was little reason to linger. But hey, life is full of surprises and next time these same two losers will host fabulous events (for some other author because I’m never going back). I joke. Every bookstore was an event worth doing, where I learned about the book business, made new and what I hope will be lasting friends, and sold more books than I thought possible.

So now I am back home, sleeping in the same bed every night and operating my thermostat and coffee maker like a big dog. And do you know what? I miss the road. I must be insane.

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