The Frozen Midwest

After a relatively slow-paced interlude in Minneapolis, it was back to the tour’s typical whirlwind, Amazing-Race, Move-Your-Ass-Like-the-Armenian-Mob-Is-After-You pace. I flew into Milwaukee, rented a car, and drove two hours down to Chicago, where I did a few drop-in signings and then gunned across town
to have lunch with Dana Litoff and Marcus Sakey. Dana is the freelance publicist I hired to supplement the efforts of the wonderful Joanne Minutillo at Morrow, and let me tell you it was money well-spent. Dana is savvy, tireless, and unfailingly upbeat, and she and Joanne made a killer team. Marcus, of course, is the award-winning author of four novels, including The Amateurs and The Blade Itself. He was generous enough to take time from his writing schedule to eat Thai food with us and share much-needed, much-appreciated advice about book marketing and publishing. His insight into the issue of sequels vs. standalone novels, for example, was particularly eye-opening (I generally find that the best advice provides answers to questions you never even thought to ask).

After lunch, I knocked out a few more drop-in signings in the Chicago area, then drove three hours to Madison, Wisconsin, for my appearance at
Booked for Murder. It was, by a pretty long stretch, the smallest turn-out of the entire tour: one guy. But he was a very interesting one guy (I learned a lot of surprisingly cool stuff about embedded traffic sensors that I’m going to steal for a future project, bet on it) and BOOKSTORE OWNER Sara Barnes was a delightful host who provided chocolate cookies.

That infusion of sugar was necessary, because after the event I had to drive an hour and a half back to Milwaukee, where Priceline had hooked me up at the downtown Hyatt, on the site of which in 1912 an insane man tried to assassinate
Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt was on his way to address a political rally, and his life was saved when the manuscript of his (characteristically lengthy) speech, in the pocket of his coat, stopped the assassin’s bullet. How’s that for the power of the written word?

The next day, I had a signing event at Mystery One in Milwaukee, a richly atmospheric bookstore that looks and feels like – I mean this in the best possible sense –a crime scene, or at least a place where homicide detectives would grill a shifty KA, or where criminals would gather to split up the take from a Brinks job. At Mystery One, it was both my honor and pleasure to chat with Jon Jordan of Crimespree Magazine (he would be the leader of the gang that took down the Brinks truck, and who then popped the other members of the gang – loose lips sink ships – when they showed up to split the take). Dave Biemann, a caporegime at the shop, was an excellent, cheerful source of local lore. I was also glad to get to spend some time with owner Richard Katz. Richard is a great guy, and I say that not only because Richard liked Gutshot Straight, but also because he was the first person I’d met outside Oklahoma who had a full and informed appreciation of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was back in January, remember, which means Richard was on board the Durantula bandwagon well before most non-natives.

Did I mention that the windchill in Milwaukee was something like forty degrees below zero? Teddy Roosevelt was wearing a heavy winter coat when the assassin shot him, and that helped stop the bullet too. I’m not sure what lesson to draw from that.

Next: Sunny and Warm Thank God Arizona.
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