Lord Archer entered about fifteen minutes past seven, by which time the book section at Landmark, Infiniti Mall was completely packed. There might have been a moment or two when I doubted if as many would turn up as last year. But I needn't have worried. All of Archer's fans were there - some new ones too. They came to be charmed, to be entertained... and no one went home disappointed.
While it's been a while since I last read Archer (the last one I read was Twelve Red Herrings in 1994), I don't doubt that the books are engaging - going by the stories he told at the store. He told stories of joining the Samajwadi Party and being Transport Minister, but my favourite was the one where his American publishers , Simon and Schuster, tried everything in the proverbial book to get him into the top 15 of the NYT bestseller list.
It was 15 minutes of a lovely, animated saga of how they flew him on the Concorde, put him up at the Waldorf Astoria, and got him two minutes on the Good Morning America show. Despite being instructed to mention the title as often as he could, he spent all of it describing the Concorde. After many botched attempts, success in the American mainstream came when Johnny Carson, while introducing Lord Archer, told his 53 million-wide audience,
Kane and Abel is one of the best books I have ever read. I stayed up all night turning page after page and I would recommend that each of you buy a copy.A week later, Kane and Abel was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and stayed there for 6 weeks.
The thing about being backstage at these events is that you catch the authors/artists as they actually are, egoistic, eccentric, or not at all. But whatever Lord Archer's personal faults be, there is no doubting that he's truly happy that so many people show up to see him. He doesn't leave till every last book is signed, no matter if it takes two hours and that he's pushing seventy. He always has a smile for you and your camera, no matter how many flash bulbs have gone off in his face. And that makes everything okay as far as I am concerned.
You can still catch him at Landmark Pune, Moledina Road on the 17th of May. The last event is at Landmark Bangalore, Jaya Nagar on the 18th of May, Koramangala. Both events start at 7:00 p.m.
Cross posted on Mumbai Metblogs