Marathon Book Signing Event

It was a calm warm day. The sea was like frosted glass. Perfect conditions for my marathon book signing event on the Wightlink ferry, St Clare. All started well with the added bonus of watching HMS Illustrious glide into the narrow entrance of Portsmouth harbour with the lads and lasses of the Royal Navy standing proudly on deck, scouring the horizon for their loved ones. It was a truly awesome sight, particularly because it was high tide and you could see the grey ship towering over the ancient houses of Old Portsmouth. I only wish I'd got a photograph of it. ( Note to self - must put this in an Andy Horton Marine Mystery). No wonder the national media weren't interested in little old me, and who can blame them. I'd picked the wrong day and the wrong week to generate some quirky media coverage. And let's face it, the boys and girls in uniform returning home are much more newsworthy than a crime writer. And I couldn't compete with the big "literary" guns at the Hay Festival. I'm not complaining though because my local daily newspaper, The News, covered the story magnificently before the event and I did a radio interview with the Isle of Wight radio, who were broadcasting the event throughout the day after every news bulletin.

As I said, all started well. The mobile bookshop was set up by Colin and Marie Telford of the Hayling Island Bookshop in record time despite Colin suffering from a cold. We had a great spot just by the shop exit so that I could trip up people as they came out carrying their Lattes and Espressos and then shove a novel under their noses. (I hear that Anne Widdecombe is magnificent at browbeating people into buying her books, must take some lessons from her). We sold lots of books on the morning crossing, except for one trip that seemed to be full of Germans and riotous children from Camberwell in London. The noise was so deafening you couldn't even hear the Captain's announcement as he told the passengers there was this top crime writer on board signing copies of her latest marine mystery, Deadly Waters! I don't think these children had ever seen the sea before let alone been on a ship. They were SO excited, and although noisy I have to say they were extremely polite even saying 'excuse me' and 'thank you' when they asked us where the toilets were (we had a lot of requests for that on our trips across the Solent) and the kids were anxious to know where the arcade was. There wasn't one, only three slot machines beside us which were hardly used.

Wightlink had a change of captain over the lunch period and took the St Clare out of service for one round trip, in order for it to fit in with the timetable. Wightlink sail five ships back and forwards at one time, and it is a terrific logistics and operational exercise. This is when things started to go a bit pear shaped. We would have been OK if the ramp that is lowered to allow the vehicles and passengers off the boat hadn't got stuck as we were on a pontoon near the harbour at Gunwharf Quays. (This has happened to me before and when the crew knew this I was fast being nicknamed as albatross Pauline. Second note to self-another must for an Andy Horton novel). Our lunchtime became extended and we watched the mechanics trying desperately to fix this hydraulic thing that allows the ramp to be lowered, with the Captian looking on anxiously along with us wondering if we were actually going to be able to sail at all that afternoon. They did a sterling job and, duly fixed, we pulled into the port to load half an hour late. This allowed The News photographer to come on board and take some photo shots of me for a follow up story (I'll post these later). He had to be escorted on to the ship by the delightful Sam, whose job has been to help us organise this event. Sam urged the photographer to hurry up and he did, but he wasn't quite quick enough, our speedy and hyper-efficient Captain, who had to do his best to make up lost time and get the Wightlink timetable back on course - an impossible task - set sail. So the photographer and Sam were stuck - they were on their way to the Isle of Wight whether they liked it or not! They took it on the chin. The photographer, Malcolm, decided to use the time to take some more photos of me. I think The News must have a complete portfolio of Pauline Rowson over the years and various hair styles and be sick of the sight of me, not to mention their readers. He had a coffee and relaxed, missing his meeting with the editor and knowing that he'd have to work late to catch up. He is one of the nicest press photographers I've come across. Thanks, Malcolm. I gave him a signed copy of Tide of Death. Unfortunately, because we had sailed so late, our last trip had to be cancelled, so we didn't do so well on book sales in the afternoon. But as the saying goes - it was all good fun and an experience.

Thanks to Wightlink for allowing me to disrupt their crossings, to The Hayling Island Bookshop for all their hard work and support, to my long suffering husband for listening to my anxious moaning and for taking photos, and to all the passengers who bought my books. I hope you enjoy reading them. And shall I repeat the experience? Well Wightlink have kindly asked me to do it again, so maybe I will, but I won't tell Colin and Marie at the bookshop that yet, they might have to go and lie down in a darkened room.


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