Oh, what a night! I can’t think how it could have been better. Ok, maybe if twenty more people, members of the general public, had shown up and each bought five copies. But otherwise? I was doing a few of my favourite things: sitting with friends old and new, in a pub, beer in my hand… and talking about one of my novels.
And this pub! I’d sought advice from Manhattan friends – were there any older taverns in the city? Someone recommended The Ear Inn. An 18th century building, a pub since 1817, it is also known as the James Brown House after George Washington’s servant of that name, an African American who built it, set it up as both a store, and a refuge for runaway slaves. Steeped in history – so what a place to launch a historical novel set in the American Revolution.
The beer – their own Ear Inn Ale – slipped down a treat. Many friends and colleagues had gathered from all areas of my life and past. Like Jordan Stratford, my neighbour on Salt Spring Island, a writer too, who was in town to meet his new editor… who happens to be the wonderful YA editor I created four books with, Nancy Siscoe… who also came. Friends from different phases and places in my life – from Vancouver, New Jersey, Calgary; many from my wonderful publishers, Sourcebooks. And then a woman walks in who had my jaw dropping to my chest…
Nancy… I’ll spare her blushes and leave her surname out. Nancy who I hadn’t seen in 30 years. We had shared a brief and lovely time in Tunisia, strangers meeting, loving, parting after ten days. Very, very fond memories and, after the shock, such a total thrill to see her, catch up, hear how the – gulp! – decades have treated her.
Eventually, after some quaffing, much gasping, and many laughs we climbed the steep staircase to what is effectively a fantastic museum, there to sit and talk about the book. Jack Absolute, as many know who have read other blogs, is very dear to my heart – a character I played on stage in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th century comedy, ‘The Rivals’ and then turned into a series of novels. I talked about the book’s journey, read a section that is sexy and funny, answered questions. And then, in one of the more outrageous examples of what I call ‘Humphreys Happenstance’ (the amount of coincidence in my life so insane that it is far, far beyond normal) I discover that my delightful host, the Irish co-owner of the Ear, Martin… is part of the Sheridan family and related to the playwright!
More laughter followed, more ale disappeared on one of the greatest nights in this writer’s experience. For the second night in a row I slowly walked back to my hotel through the near deserted SoHo streets at 2am. Thrilled to be in the city, where my grandfather appeared on Broadway, where my mother lived and modelled in the 30’s. Where I feel I now have a stake in its history as more than admiring visitor.
Now it is on to the South – to Athens, Georgia. Never been down there. Looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll make some more terrific memories for myself and for ‘Jack Absolute’ – as Springsteen might have it – ‘Further on up the road’