As a much younger man, I would loiter outside Shea hours before a game hoping to catch a glimpse of Daryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden. While working in Manhattan in the mid-eighties, I ogled Penny Marshall directing Tom Hanks in Big, I gaped at Meatloaf walking with his wife and daughter outside FAO Schwartz, I got autographs from Whoopi Goldberg, Dom Deluise, Alice Cooper and many more while they exited The Howard Stern Show, broadcasting next door to my workplace on Madison Avenue. The same mixture of excitement and nerves was equaled, and perhaps surpassed, as my daughter Chelsea and I neared Thrillerfest on Saturday afternoon. We were not attendees - we were crashing the book signing event that follows the afternoon workshops. Chelsea and I are still debating which of us is Owen Wilson and which is Vince Vaughn.
This subterfuge was necessitated by the previous day’s wedding of my older daughter. There was a Thrillerfest related book event at Mysterious Bookstore in lower Manhattan on Friday evening while our wedding party was circling the Statue of Liberty on a tour boat. I was psyched to learn Rollins was signing at the Thrillerfest bookstore Saturday. Chelsea, a new Rollins convert, agreed to accompany me on the 90-minute trek from the Jersey Shore to The Grand Hyatt in NYC with the added support of her friend Becky.
Not knowing what to expect, we arrived early and cased the joint. The hotel is truly grand but we walked through like we knew where we were going (we didn’t). We followed signs to the Convention Level and found the makeshift bookstore. Outside was a cafeteria-style table with name cards that read like a who’s who of bestselling authors. As yet, the seats behind the names were empty. We perused the bookstore buying a few books from authors in attendance. I had donated most of my Preston/Child books to my school library and my David Morrells to my town library, so I was holding Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and The Shimmer by David Morrell. A man squeezed by, bumping lightly into Becky and I glanced briefly at him then down at the book I was holding for confirmation. That was David Morrell! I elbowed my daughter pointing at the book then the man and she nodded. I was now officially a star struck 52 year old; the emotions were the same as my younger days, but the objects of devotion had changed.
As the authors trickled in I found Boyd Morrison (The Ark, The Vault) and got his autograph while talking about zombie marches and engineering. We then moved to the VIP table which now had faces that matched the names. Each author was more accommodating than the next. David Morrell signed his book and my nook while we talked about Asbury Park, the locale of his thriller Creepers. Doug Preston signed book and nook then asked for a demonstration of the nook. He was delighted to see Cold Vengeance, the new Prendergast book, out 8/2, on preorder.
The next two authors were the goal of my undertaking. James Rollins immediately pointed out my “Spread the Word” t-shirt to Steve Berry. The two were obviously friends having toured together, signing books and visiting troops in Iraq with Operation Thriller, and have developed a playful, jesting banter. At one point Rollins wanted his publicist to take a picture of him and me and Steve Berry lifted a copy of his book into the center of the frame. Steve Berry couldn’t help crowing to James Rollins that The Balkan Escape, his e-short story was my first nook purchase. After the autographs and handshakes, Chelsea, Becky and I left in a whirlwind daze, the whole experience lasting less than an hour.
The last two days have been amazing in very different and rewarding ways. You can have your rock stars and sports stars. When I want to feel like a giddy tween, I’ll attend a book signing by my favorite authors.