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Diary

Diary

The dateline above this diary should read ‘New York, Dallas, Washington D.C, Chicago, Denver, L.A, San Francisco’ which would be a first — for me, anyway

25 April 2007

5:17 PM

25 April 2007

5:17 PM

In thick of whistlestop tour of the US to promote Notting Hell, so the dateline above this diary should read ‘New York, Dallas, Washington D.C, Chicago, Denver, L.A, San Francisco’ which would be a first — for me, anyway. In the taxi to the airport, I compare schedules with the novelist and leggy beauty Santa Montefiore (also touring some cities with me promoting her book The Gypsy Madonna, on our Great British Blondes roadshow. I love it!). I leaf through the bumf and then decide it hasn’t been put together by my fab team at Touchstone Fireside of Simon and Schuster without a map (NY–Dallas–DC??), but by a sadist. There are 5 a.m. starts on no less than five days. I discover that Santa is not only flying business class both ways, but she has cleverly brought an empty suitcase to fill with all the clothes she will buy at Ralph Lauren in New York at $2 to the pound, and has only two early starts compared to my five. She also brought, she mentions, a pair of open-toed espadrilles.

***

On my early morning runs in midtown, I see shoeshine boys, men cleaning windows, bankers jogging, NYPD trucks honking through Central Park, steam swirling out of manholes, mist wreathing the Pierre and the Plaza. It’s all happening. It’s 6.30 a.m. I jog down Fifth towards the Empire State, noting that the stands that used to sell hotdogs and pretzels now sell fruit and baggies of carrots, and that the nail parlours were filled with men receiving the attention of demure Korean maidens. At the Barnes & Noble on Fifth, I halt, panting. A queue. Sleeping bags and picnic chairs. Anoraks with iPods. At 7a.m. Why? ‘Pre-signed copies of the new Tolkien book are available in limited quantity at noon,’ a well-wrapped woman told me (the day I arrived, during a battering nor’easter, the city received more rainfall in one day than on any other since 1882, so Santa’s open-toed espadrilles remain tragically unseen so far by her public).

‘My book’s in there, too!’ I trilled, ‘It’s on the new fiction table, right at the front.’ Being American, they appeared visibly moved by this news, but still I’m not sure Middle Earthers who would queue all night for a signed copy of a book about Morgoth and Glaurung are my target audience to ‘connect with’. But you never know!

***


I cannot resist mentioning that I had dinner at the Waverly Inn. I went with the financial historian Edward Chancellor, and simply arrived as if invading a small country, and — well, for some reason it worked. Those who are cross about the place call it the Inn-sanity (you cannot book, civilian walk-ins never make it into the low-ceilinged ye olde restaurant with diorama of luminaries and wall-to-wall celebs, but are penned in bar area, the official reservations line rings out of service, and so forth). I can quite understand why they are so cross. The food was yummy, the all-male waiters even yummier, my eyes were popping out at each new arrival and the warm, damp, buttermilk scones? Well, even they were worth the wheat.

***

In Dallas, went straight to the Texas School Book Depository. My first thought? No way could a lone sniper in the sixth-floor window have shot the president, in a moving vehicle, from there. This place is the mecca for JFK nuts, and I met Robert J. Groden, a tireless conspiracist who advised Oliver Stone on his movie and the Warren Commission on the photographic evidence, and who has made the grassy knoll his home. I asked Bob (instant nickname terms) for a copy of his pamphlet, and mentioned that I too was an author, and was in town promoting my own book (mainly on cable TV shows, where women hosts with big hair, nails and hearts welcomed me warmly to ‘the colonies’). ‘Naughty Hell?’ he repeated, looking at me with more interest. He readily handed me a free copy of his JFK: the Case for Conspiracy. ‘That sounds kinda kinky!’

***

In DC, there was a ceremonial reading of Andrew Roberts’s now historic diary (the namedrops that echoed around the world) to cheer me up after I had an audience of four at a suburban strip mall in Dallas (and that was before the Chicago Borders reading, where the bookseller, Nancy, greeted me with the words, ‘To say there’s a tiny audience would be a huge overstatement’). We all fell about, of course, but what is so blissful about Andrew’s diary is how it demolished two conventions — first, that the book tour is always a humiliating and character-building rite of passage for any author, and second, that in print one only refers to one’s disasters, never to one’s triumphs. For that alone he must be celebrated.

***

I am en route to the West Coast after Chicago, where I kept being stopped in the street by young men dressed like Amish and asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ This brought me short. Am I Jewish? Why did they ask? In L.A, I am hooking up, I hope, with Piers Morgan. We are friends again after the now infamous ‘Mr Floppy’ episode (as a result of me, the Indy put out an all-points call for anyone who had slept with Piers to give him a stud rating. It’s in his new autobiography, Don’t You Know Who I Am?). Anyway, Piers Morgan is now, according to Piers’s email, ‘the star judge in America’s Got Talent for NBC, it was No. 1 all last summer. You can have tea in my trailer and meet David Hasselhoff’.

The Hoff, Mr Floppy, tea, trailer? Piers — you gotta deal.

***

Rachel Johnson is a contributing editor of The Spectator.


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