Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bob Hoskins Would Be Proud

As I mentioned before, I had a fine lunch recently with author Richard Montanari at Soho House in London. What I forgot to say in that post was that, since I was traveling by train, I allowed myself to quaff a bit more wine during the meal than I would normally have done. Which made me even more loquacious than normal. Well, it seems that Liz Thomson of Bookbrunch had her notebook out during the lunch, and she later wrote about one of the escapades Roger Jon “R.J.” Ellory and yours truly had while we were visiting Baltimore last fall for Bouchercon. In her words:
Montanari had not set foot in London for more than 30 years, having last been here on a student exchange to the LSE. “I can’t remember if I did any work,” he said, though he recalled going to lots of gigs, not least by the Groundhogs, whom most people round the table were too young to remember. On this trip, his publisher Kate Elton and publicist Emma Finnigan kept him too busy to go gigging--the closest he came was a stop outside the celebrated 100 Club in Oxford Street. But let no one say he didn’t see the sights--Welwyn Garden City to meet the Tesco crew and Leeds to see Asda.

Still, it will all be worth it--his combined sales are fast approaching the million mark, so, with a little push and a fair wind, Play Dead and the new one, The Devil’s Garden, due in August, will push him through the barrier.

Meanwhile, Karim revealed that a life in crime books gives you an attitude: in Baltimore for the Bouchercon crimefest, he and a friend wandered off-piste after a few beers too many and found themselves on the wrong side of the tracks in the murder capital of America. No sooner had they realised their mistake when some tough-looking dudes rounded a corner ... and fled in the face of what they thought was trouble.
The full story of how Ellory and I survived our encounter in one of Baltimore’s more dodgy districts is contained in Part II of a report I wrote for my personal blog, Existentialist Man:
Particularly pleasant were the St. Martin’s cocktail party, Meet the Brits, and Lee Child’s annual Jack Reacher bash in an Irish bar called Lucy’s. This was a real buzzing event, but in a rather ropey area of town, that caused an issue when Roger and I made our way back to the hotel through ‘The Hood’.

It was a rather frightening experience, but thanks to [our] reading so many thrillers, and both knowing lines from the classic London gangster movie--The Long Good Friday--Roger and I put on our grimmest Jack Reacher whiplash smiles and spoke loudly in tough faux London gangster accents. That was enough for the hooded Baltimore men to part the pavement and cross the road to allow us through.

Without sounding jingoistic, as tough as American gangsters are; there’s nothing scarier than a British baddie to really put the fear of God into an American baddie. Reading a lot of thrillers and crime fiction can have its upsides. However, I must warn you, that snarling in a loud cockney accent on the streets of Baltimore is not really recommended unless you are prepared to imitate lines from ... The Long Good Friday. So I whispered the plan to Roger, and then nudged him as the thugs approached, to get him into character and into cockney ...

Ali - “Notice anything unusual? Different Nobbers, or the usual Wifflers?”

Roger - “It was a good night. Nothing unusual.”

Ali - “Nothing unusual, he says! Eric’s been blown to smithereens, Colin’s been carved up, and I’ve got a bomb in my bloody casino, and you say nothing unusual?”

Roger - “When was this, then?”

Ali - “When was this then? When was this then? Is that all you can say, you fucking Nobber! I’m glad I found out in time just what a partnership with a wanker like you would’ve been. A sleeping partner’s one thing, but you’re in a fucking coma! No wonder you got an energy crisis your side of the water--‘The Mafia, I shit ’em!’ The world’s full of Wifflers!”

The Baltimore hoods just moved away crossing the street, while Roger did his best to keep a straight face as I trembled with fear (but the hoods assumed it was with anger). ...

When we got back to the hotel, intact but shaking, Roger and I drank hits of Scotch on the rocks to reduce the leg trembles.
Remember, don’t try these tactics at home.

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