This year, however, the Friends were able to line up a shimmering, glowing superstar in the literary firmament: Dean Koontz. He's a genre writer instead of a literary author, and one of the most popular novelists EVER. And that’s why the Bottom Shelf sold almost no books at the luncheon.
It wasn’t Dean Koontz’s fault. Much. It was we at the Bottom Shelf who failed to realize that such an author would attract a large number of luncheon attendees who couldn’t care less about art or recipes or children’s books, let alone Civil War battles or some pro golfer’s advice on how to improve your swing. We know our community, but we didn’t reckon on the impact the Dean Koontz fanship from outside the community would have.
Also, it was very crowded and no one could see our tables, even if they had been interested in our books. But that’s okay. It was an opportunity for us to learn a lesson: bring more books by the celebrated author and not so much of anything else.
The crowded venue
Our little nook full of unwanted books
From the point of view of selling books, we did not do so well, but from the point of view of choosing an excellent guest author, our luncheon was a huge success. Dean Koontz was a very entertaining and hilarious speaker, and was generous with his time in making sure that everyone got their books signed, even if it meant going to a less secure location out on the veranda after the luncheon ended because the venue managers had to start setting up for the next function (a wedding).
Dean Koontz signs books for all and sundry
And when I say less secure, I’m not joking. Because of Koontz’s fame and because of the kind of books he writes, several fanatics have been attracted to him and have either 1) tried to adopt themselves into his family, 2) written creepy letters to him, or 3) threatened his life.
I can understand some fan behavior. I regularly get books signed by my favorite authors. I have a little more trouble with the concept of the fan letter, though. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally shy, but it seems kind of weird to write someone – an actor, for instance – what is essentially a love letter based on your familiarity with a character they were only pretending to be, or, in the case of an author, based on a fictitious work. I did write a fan letter to Nancy Kwan after seeing her in Disney’s film “Lt Robin Crusoe, USN” (with Dick Van Dyke) when I was ten years old. She sent me an autographed picture postcard of herself in reply, and I have cherished it ever since. (Except I don’t know where it is. I cherish it in absentia, I guess.) But I never told Nancy Kwan she was my mother.
Anyway, circumstances being what they are, Dean Koontz brought his own security to the luncheon, and they were much in evidence, particularly after he moved out of the dining area and onto the veranda. It was the first time we'd experienced anything like that at a FOFL luncheon.
I hope the Friends will continue to invite the occasional genre author to future luncheons. Doing so appeals to a much broader audience – and the Bottom Shelf managers will, I hope, now be prepared for such an audience and adjust their luncheon book offerings accordingly.