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Looking for a good time sailor?  How about checking out a book signing? 

Okay, I know.  I’m preaching to the converted here, but I’ve really enjoy book signings.  Admittedly, there have been a few duds.  On more than one occasion, my ass has gone numb sitting on a folding chair, listening to a writer ramble on and on about some plot device I could care less about.  For the most part, however, they’ve been great.  Going to see Charlie Huston and Marcus Sakey a few weeks ago reminded me of that. 

Put simply, for the low, low price of one book, I get to listen to an author I admire wax poetic on the craft I love.  What could be better?

But try telling your non-writer pals this.  The words will barely leave your mouth before you see their eyes glaze over with stupification.  You can read it in their faces, plain as day.  "Why would anyone want to a book signing?"

Because they’re damn entertaining, that’s why.  And I’ve got the list to prove it.

What follows are some of the most entertaining authors I’ve gone to see.  My criteria has nothing to do with their insights on the craft, or the thought provoking discussions they inspired (that’s another list altogether).  Instead, I picked them for one reason and one reason only–they made me laugh.


Jen3 I’m the first to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about being dragged to a Jennifer Weiner signing.  My wife absolutely lovers her books, and I have no doubt she’s a very good writer.  But frankly, I’m guy.  And I’m guessing the main character of IN HER SHOES rarely if ever breaks out in a killer, karate rage.  With that established, I’m here to tell you Weiner is one of the funniest, most engaging speakers I’ve seen in a very long time.  I’m not exaggerating.  This woman could give up writing for a career in stand-up.  She was so funny, I quickly forgot that I was one of only four people in the room with testicles.


JamespattersonI understand the criticism of Patterson’s work, but I also admire his ability to create page-turning plots, and I’m fascinated by his phenomenal success.  So when Mr. P visited the Poisoned Pen on the Jester tour, I jumped at the chance to hear him speak.  To give you an idea of the pull Patterson has, the president of Time Warner books traveled with him, introducing the mega-seller at each stop.  After a few minutes of gushing by the pres., Patterson regaled the audience with funny vignettes about his life, his fans, and about the wild ride of success.  In his most endearing story, Patterson described going to his local bookstore and counting copies of his novels on the shelf to see how many had been sold.  I guess multimillionaires are neurotic just like the rest of us.   



You can call James Ellroy many things, but boring isn’t one of them.  Ellroy has earned a reputation for being cocky, outrageous, and totally uncensored.  And it’s all true.  Sans microphone, his voice boomed over a crowd of fans, answering questions with a wit and style all his own.  I vaguely remember the mention of his unrequited love for his dog ("She’s a dyke," said Ellroy) and his opinions of then presidential candidate John Kerry ( who he described as a donkey filater).  But through all the bravado and cursing, I heard glimpses of Ellroy’s brilliance and saw a true appreciation for his fans.   


Bio_pic_2 At last year’s Thriller Fest, when I heard children’s author Stine was speaking at a luncheon, my first reaction was, Well, I’ve already paid for the grub so I might as well go.  I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember Stine.  In a convention full of highlights, this man was a star.  He had the whole audience quivering in their seats with laughter.  From tales of his early writing careers, to descriptions of fan letters, each story was better than the last.  Walking out of the ball room, I noticed just about everyone had smiles stretched across their faces.  A complete stranger turned to me, shook his head and said, "I can’t believe how good he was."   

I can’t help but notice each of these writers is a huge bestseller.  Is this a coincidence?  Or is there a correlation between being an engaging public speaker and a bestselling author?  What do you think?


Let me hear some of your picks.  Who should I go see next if I need a good chuckle?

18 thoughts on “Gambling casino online.

  1. B.G. Ritts

    I’d recommend Tim Cockey, aka Richard Hawke, who is side-slapping funny and Katy Munger, aka Gallagher Gray, who is totally irreverent (don’t think I’ve seen anything by Katy since the TART NOIR anthology, though).

  2. Alex Sokoloff

    Katy Munger IS a riot, also very inspiring. I can’t get enough of the sidesplittingly funny and charming Charlaine Harris and Margaret Maron – I really could follow them around to just to hear them talk.

  3. Guyot

    I certainly love to laugh, probably too much, but I have also had great book signing experiences because of the author just being so damn interesting and educational.

    And I’m not sure being a good speaker makes a bestseller, or whatever. Margaret Atwood sucks at public speaking, maybe because she hates the public.

    Signings that I have really enjoyed over the past few years:

    Lee Child before he blew up (this was on the Die Trying tour when he was still forming Reacher).

    Ridley Pearson – here’s a guy with TONS of terrific anecdotes about writing, hanging out with the Rockbottom Remainders, how one of his books helped solve a real homicide, how the DCPD consulted with him on the DC sniper case, and on and on. Fascinating.

    Stephen J. Cannell – stories, stories, stories, and some good process advice.

    Max Allen Collins – Mike, you HAVE to go see this guy!

    Jim O. Born – a sick dog.

    James Swain – his signings are also educations in poker, card tricks, and the myriad of ways people cheat the casinos. I try to never miss him.

  4. Mike MacLean

    My wife is a big Charlaine Harris fan. So much so, that when I told her Harris was coming to the Poisoned Pen just a few weeks after her due date my wife asked, “Do you think I’ll be up to it by then?”

    Paul and Alex,

    You’ve sold me on Born. He’s signing with Joe R. Lansdale (who is pretty damn entertaining in his own right) in March. I’ll have to check out Born’s book by then. Sigh, another to add to the long list. So many books, so little time.

  5. Mike MacLean

    My wife is a big Charlaine Harris fan. So much so, that when I told her Harris was coming to the Poisoned Pen just a few weeks after her due date my wife asked, “Do you think I’ll be up to it by then?”

    Paul and Alex,

    You’ve sold me on Born. He’s signing with Joe R. Lansdale (who is pretty damn entertaining in his own right) in March. I’ll have to check out Born’s book by then. Sigh, another to add to the long list. So many books, so little time.

  6. Alex Sokoloff

    Omg, Joe Lansdale read one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard in my life at the WFC this year. Born and Lansdale together? I might have to book a flight to Phoenix.

    You need to make sure your wife gets to see Charlaine Harris. Really.

  7. Elaine Flinn

    Wish I could offer some great names, but alas – no one ever came to Carmel and absolutely no one comes to Eugene.

    Speaking of Jim Born – he’s my guest at On The Bubble this coming Wednesday. And yes – he does have a sick sense of humor. 🙂 He also has a few things to say about Guyot and Eisler.

  8. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Mike,I haven’t seen any of the folks you mentioned yet — but do agree with the comments here about Born and Harris. Lisa Tucker is another great speaker; she writes YA that easily morphs into women’s lit. But, like Weiner, she’s funny and engaging. Tony Hillerman was an absolute joy in his younger years — the stories he wove about life in OK and his early years in journalism were wonderful.

  9. Louise Ure

    Margaret Atwood may hate public speaking, but she’s one of the stand out presenters in my mind.

    As is Lee Child. Especially when he’s teaming up on the road with Cornelia Read.

    But you say you were at Thrillerfest in Phoenix, Mike? You mean I missed my one and only chance (so far) to meet you? (Clive Cussler was a pretty fabulous presenter at that same dinner, don’t you think?)

  10. billie

    Adriana Tragiani was hilarious. I had not read her books, and still have not, although one of these days I will – I just happened to be in the bookstore and she was reading. Funniest author reading I ever attended.

    Lee Smith is always a treat, too. She does such a great job reading her characters – brings them to life right there in front of you.

    I love readings where the author gets the audience involved and the ensuing discussion takes on a life of its own.

    I know I’m not remembering all the readings I’ve gone to, either.

    Not sure about the connection between best sellerdom and good readings… I would guess that any publisher loves an author who can go out and not only draw a crowd, but entertain them. It’s bound to sell books.


  11. JT Ellison

    I wasn’t supposed to be near my computer today. I’m weak.

    As far as booksignings, John Connolly, hands down. He’s naughty as hell and brilliant.He was my first signing, and I took away more knowledge from that hour…

  12. Mike MacLean

    Jesus, I’ve got plenty of author’s to keep in mind, don’t I?


    I’ve seen Ken Bruen, and can’t think of a more gracious, likable speaker. He did a great job of mixing humor with a bittersweet reminiscence of his life growing up in Ireland. I would’ve included him, but my list was all about the laughs.

  13. Mike MacLean


    Was Cussler at the RL Stine lunch? I don’t remember. I didn’t attend the awards banquet, and there was a discussion with Cussler I missed. That’s saying a lot about the conference. There were so many good things going on, you had a hard time picking. I wish I could go this year.

  14. David J. Montgomery

    Barry Eiser is always fun at signings. He usually reads one of the dirty parts from his book, which gets me all worked up. (They all have at least one dirty part. It’s become his stock in trade.)

    Speaking of James Patterson…I was on a panel with him at BEA last year and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was a very laid-back, friendly and easy-to-talk-to guy.

    He was also VERY smart about publishing.


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