Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Book Signing with James W. Hall

I just returned a little while ago from attending a book signing for south Florida author James W. Hall's new book "Silencer." You can read a little blurb about the book at this link, and you can learn a bit more about James Hall at this link. The book signing was held at Circle Books on St. Armand's Circle just over the Ringling bridge from Sarasota. Unfortunately Circle Books does not maintain a website or I'd post a link to it here.

"Silencer" is James Hall's 20th published work (well 18th if you don't count his first two works of poetry published in soft cover back in the 1980s). I started reading his work in 1992 when I was on loan to the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges and picked up a copy his 1991 work "Bones of Coral." It was his fourth book and sixth publication. I was hooked on his writing style and his story telling before I finished the book. I continue to be hooked to this day.

Hall's main character is a "vagabond" named Thorn who lives on Key Largo (surprise, Jim Hall used to live on Key Largo). Thorn is rather quite and reserved (surprise, Jim Hall is also) and makes his living by tying some ass-kicking flies for fly fishermen. Despite his rather introverted personality (surprise, Jim Hall is also) Thorn finds himself in all manner of harrowing situations that result in him investigating and solving mysteries set in the Keys, the Bahamas, and as far north as Lake Okeechobee. When I met Jim Hall today I asked him "Is Thorn your alter ego?" Jim smiled and said "Good guess"!

I am lucky enough to own a complete collection of first editions of every one of Hall's 20 published works, including the hard-to-find first two that deal with poetry. My copies of the poetry books and his 10th book "Body Language" had been signed by Hall earlier (I purchased all three signed copies at Key West Island Books on Cayo Hueso) so including the new book I had 17 unsigned first editions in my collection. I asked Debbie at Circle Books if Jim Hall was the kind of person who would sign an entire collection for his fans. Debbie told me "Jim would love to." My friend Jon Andrew who collects Jim Hall books also mailed me the nine copies of his work that he had in his collection so this afternoon I showed up at Circle Books with 27 copies of Hall's books (including 2 copies of Silencer purchased today). I asked Jim about signing them and just as Debbie had predicted he said he'd be happy to do it for me.

I talked with Jim as he worked his way through all 27 copies of this work and told him how much I enjoyed his books, especially because of his focus on south Florida wildlife and south Florida habitats. I then handed him my business card that carries the US Fish and Wildlife Service logo plus my name, email address phone number and blog address. I told him "this is why your concern for the environment is so important to me." Without batting an eye Jim asked if it would be OK to contact me when he has biological questions in future works. I told him it would be an honor to help him out.

The line of fans for this signing was nothing like what it will be on March 13 when mega writer Randy Wayne White shows up at Circle Books to sign his new tome. Still the turn out was more than respectable. Of course nothing will ever compare to the circus that happened when my friend Ramona Polk and I went to the signing for Al Franken's excellent tome "Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." The signing, held at a Border's Books in suburban Washington DC was a madhouse. When Ramona and I arrived there were more than 5,000 people in line to get in the store. Yes, that's right five THOUSAND people. Border's was letting people in the store in groups of 50 at a time. After three hours of standing outside waiting to get in (plus having a bladder on the verge of exploding) I told Ramona I'd see her at work the next day and left. And I never got the book signed because Ramona gave up shortly after I did.

After packing up my books and Jon's and getting ready to leave I shook Hall's hand and told him it was an honor to meet him. I added "I look forward to seeing you at the signing for next year's book." He smiled, thanked me and said "don't be surprised if you get an email from me with some questions only a biologist can answer for me."

I look forward to it.

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