BOOK & BLOG
August 13, 2012
Book of the Week: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
While I was on the airplane (and if you go to Australia and visit several cities, you spend a lot of time on an airplane) I read several old Mary Roberts Rinehart mysteries, reread the latest Laurell K. Hamilton, and read the completely new-to-me Stephen King book, 11/22/63.
As always when I’m in the middle of a book that obviously required a stunning amount of research, I was deeply impressed by King’s fund of knowledge about Lee Harvey Oswald, his life and times, and the circumstances around the death of President John F. Kennedy. Since I remember the assassination of the president so vividly, I was really interested in King’s vivid evocation of life in a few years before the assassination. Since I always believed that Oswald acted alone, I was even more interested to hear if King also believed that, after all his reading. (He does.)
11/22/63, in case you don’t know, follows a high school English teacher who finds a way to go back in time and change the outcome of Oswald’s plot to kill the President. Since the assassination marked such a change in the course of society and the course of the United States’s history, it takes a bold writer to tackle such a charged subject; King is that writer, and this is truly a wonderful book.
As you all know, bffPaula and I just returned from Australia and New Zealand, courtesy of HUB productions and Hachette, my publisher. HUB productions had the lead-off, a two-day “True Blood” event. The first day was in Sidney, the second in Melbourne, and of course HUB didn’t want me doing any official signings in those cities to detract attention from their schedule (a common consideration). For two days I appeared with Michael Raymond James (Rene) and Lindsay Haun (Cousin Hadley), and we talked with fans, had pictures taken, met and greeted. This was a format I’d never done, and it was interesting. Michael was obviously talented and charming, and Lindsay is really adorable and multi-talented. She comes from a musical background, and her cd (Neon Gods, by the Haun Solo Project) is great listening.
After the HUB events, I was free to do my usual writer stuff under Hachette’s auspices. My publicist in Australia, Jaki, was amazingly organized and efficient, which is exactly what you want your publicist to be. She had kindly arranged for us to see several things while we were in Australia, but of course my first duty was to Hachette, completing all the interviews set up for me and all the signings. We did make a quick trip to the zoo (in Perth? Or Adelaide?) and went right to the Australian section. We were charmed by the animals and birds we saw there. And we saw an excellent art exhibit from the Prado at a museum. You can tell that the cities blurred into each other.
New Zealand was grayer and colder (for the most part), and we were handed over to Gemma, our publicist there. Gemma was great, too. She drove us along a coastal road in Wellington, and took us to the Weda studios, where many of the special effects for the Lord of the Rings pictures were created. Unfortunately, you can only see a glorified gift shop there, but the film is interesting. We flew up to Auckland for my last event, an appearance at a cinema where one of the theaters showed clips from past “True Blood” shows and presented an episode that had never been seen in New Zealand.
The interviewers and readers in Australia and New Zealand asked mostly the same questions that I’m used to getting in the States. It turns out Sookie has another meaning there, and they were glad to hear that it was originally a nickname with no pejorative connotation. Readers were just as interested in some of the plot lines as readers here, just as excited about the last book, and generally just as delightful and polite as readers everywhere have been.
We caught snatches of the Olympics everywhere we went, though of course the emphasis was not on American athletes, and we were often left wondering what had befallen them.
Lasting memories? The fact that readers Down Under felt Paula and I needed sweets. We were given TimTams galore (a wonderful Australian cookie) and countless other chocolates and candies. One of our most delicious gifts were cupcakes from The Cupcake Tree in Auckland, which were simply the best cupcakes I have ever eaten. The wonderful jewelry store at an arcade in Perth where we put some money back into the Australian economy. The pictures from the Prado, which I travelled across the equator to see, and the lovely little restaurant at the museum where we were able to sit outside and have coffee. The beautiful birds and the koalas and the pandas at the zoo. And most of all the hospitality and friendliness of everyone we met, and their uniform courtesy and determination to please. We really had a wonderful time.
Of course, the trip home was a pain. Three hours from Auckland to Sidney, a three-hour layover in Sidney, and a fifteen and a half hour flight from Sidney to Dallas. This makes for a very long journey, and because of the time change, we lived through Wednesday twice (and had to go through customs twice, to boot). I’m still feeling the effects of that trip.
Next month, the National Festival of the Book in Washington, D.C. Another trip, another story!
© 2012 Charlaine Harris