Thursday, April 27, 2006

An Evening With Stuart MacBride

Well, the Aberdeen trip is now officially over. I am back in Fife and tomorrow Wales will beckon. it's been a whirlwind ride, but it's been fun too. So just what did actually happen?

Casa MacBride was in a bit of turmoil when the Horse Doctor and I arrived. Mr Stuart being the closest Aberdeen has to a home-grown celebrity, he had spent the morning in town doing civic things, which meant that he was only just back home when we tipped up. I tried to engage him in cheerful conversation, but the phone just kept on interrupting. So instead I made some tea and taunted Grendel until it was time to head into town.

The big do was scheduled to start at half past seven. Having picked up Mrs Fiona (aka, She Who Must...) from work and fought our way through the Aberdeen traffic, we were still parked up in the High Street, just across from the Auld Toon Cafe by quarter to six. There was nothing for it but to repair to the Machar for a swift pint. Or not so swift, since we were in no hurry to get anywhere.

About half an hour later, we were joined by the lovely Sarah (Editor to the stars) and Fiona (Publicist to the stars, and not to be confused with She Who Must...), fresh from the airport and still trailing luggage. They had been brought to the University campus by a taxi, and realising they had arrived early, had decided to repair to the nearest bar. Synchronicity? Great Minds? Who knows. But without any great organisation we had all managed to gravitate to the same place.

On then to King's College, where Vicky from Ottakar's was fending off a hoard of keen Stuart MacBride groupies anxious to get their hands on his works. Due to a misunderstanding on the part of the college (for which read 'balls up') there were to be no canned apes for the general public, but us important types were whisked off to the green room, where an assortment of goodies awaited. Stuart managed to grab a solitary cocktail sausage before being whisked off to have a roving microphone clipped to his person. The rest of us tucked in with gusto.

The Horse Doctor and She Who Must... look on whilst Mr Stuart
rolls up some of the canap├ęs to go in his pocket for later.

There was some concern, when the great man returned, that his microphone might have been still turned on, and our conversations relayed to the great hall, even now filling with adoring fans. Each of us was despatched in turn to make sure that this was not the case.

Come the allotted time, we left Mr Stuart in the green room and took our seats in the auditorium. This was more like the debating chamber at the UN, with row upon row of neat little desks, each with their own microphone and voting buttons. Chatter dulled to expectant silence as the lights were dimmed, then Vicky stepped up to the speaker's podium and made a short announcement. Cue thunderous applause and Mr Stuart stepped down into the debating pit.

I've not been to many book launches. Well, two, to be honest. The last was nothing like this one. At first, since we were all a bit shy, it took the form of a rambling monologue. Regulars to Halfhead would not have found much that was new in the anecdotes, but there is a delight to be had in hearing them told by a true raconteur.

MacBride holds forth to a rapt audience.

After a while, the bold began to ask questions, and the whole event descended into an informal chat. Stuart MacBride Senior tried to persuade his son to read a passage from the new book, but it was deftly avoided. After some considerable time, Vicky began to make quiet noises about running out of time, and it was then that Mr Stuart made his surprise announcement.

Ottakar's in Aberdeen has, over the course of a single year, sold 1200 copies of Cold Granite in hardback, and for this notable achievement, Mr Stuart created the first ever Golden Rowie award. Lovingly crafted by the great man himself, this prestigious award was made even more valuable by the idiot engraver, who managed to inscribe it with the title of the book spelled 'Granite Cold'. Since this was the only part of the creation of the award that Mr Start had entrusted to another person, this was rather annoying. Less annoying, however, than it would have been had The Horse Doctor not reminded him to bring it as we left the house.

The first ever Golden Rowie Award

The presentation at least was flawless, and booksellers around the country, indeed the world, will have to work hard to be in the running for next year's award.
Finally, to tumultuous applause, the first stage of the evening was concluded and everyone stampeded out of the debating chamber in the direction of the free drinks.

Ah, the seductive power of fame.

Fortunately a few of the assembled bon-viveurs were polite enough to buy a book in exchange for Ottakar's hospitality. They were rewarded with the now legendary 'MacBride Squiggle' and a series of pictures of teddy bears doing very un-teddy-bear-like things. Word of this unique style of autographing obviously spread, for soon there was a cue snaking right through the building.

All these people for one bearded writist?

Booze flowed freely, and the literati of Aberdeen mingled, basking in the reflected glory of the city's most famous son. Or something like that. They might just have been there to cop a free drink, or to get a cheap copy of the book that they could flog on ebay later for a vast mark up.

It's hard, the life of an author.

Finally, an hour and a half after he had started, the last book was signed, the last flame-thrower wielding teddy bear sketched and the last glass of red wine downed in one. Only a few hard to discourage groupies still hung around, desperate to be noticed by the great man, or maybe hoping for an invitation to the post-gig party. Those of us who had a right to be there were beginning to get anxious about food, and the King's College staff were keen to shove us out the door so they could get home. Weary, but pleased they were getting paid overtime, the Ottakar's crowd packed up what few books remained unsold, begging Stuart to stop by the shop sometime and sign them all. We left, tired but happy, and headed out into the dark Aberdeen night in search of food.


Anonymous tambo said...

Thanks for posting the pictures! Looks like a great time.

Why aren't there any with you?? ;)

April 27, 2006 7:02 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, thanks James!

Don't worry Tambo - I'll be sure to photograph the elusive Mr. James at Harrogate. Right after they tar and feather him for his birthday.

April 27, 2006 8:20 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

Yup, we're going to embarrass the hell out of him all weekend. Bwahahahaha!

Well, it worked for Agent Phil last time. He got a kite!

April 28, 2006 8:08 pm  
Blogger Trace said...

Stuart's nose looks good since the nose job he had done.

April 28, 2006 8:35 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

And now that Stuart's been and gone it's safe to say shame about the facelift.

Seriously, he does seem to have recovered nicely.

April 28, 2006 9:39 pm  
Blogger luna_the_cat said...

Yow, you got me in one of those photos. Ouch. I am not good in profile, and I don't like being reminded of that fact.

But good photos, though, and excellent account! I'm going to have to start reading your blog, now...

April 28, 2006 10:14 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Tambo - I was behind the camera at all times. No one else is clever enough to operate it.

Sandra - Tar and feathers are traditionally the attire daubed on soon-to-be-wedded bachelors. At least in Huntly they are. I wasn't planning on any nuptials soon.

Trace - that's a stand-in nose, hired specially for the event. The real one's about three times as big and covered in ugly black and blue bruises. Stuart's keeping it in a jar under his bed until it's all healed again.

Luna - Sorry about the profile, but welcome to my little world.

April 29, 2006 10:40 pm  

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