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Singing with James Patterson

The final BOOKED! event was an interview and Q&A with the immensely popular U.S. thriller author James Patterson, held at Harbourfront on Sunday afternoon.  The crowd wasn’t particularly large – about 60 – but they were vocal in their fandom. But the event’s host, bookseller Ben McNally, seemed rather uneffusive in his introductory remarks, and a later exchange suggested that he and Patterson are unlikely to share a friendly beer in the future.

Patterson completed his initial talk by saying how much he loved the writing life, and he told the crowd that every morning you should “wake up singing.” (Patterson delivered several examples of this sort of observation.) Then McNally returned to the stage to introduce Globe and Mail books editor Martin Levin, who was there to interview Patterson. McNally referred to Levin as a “bon vivant,” to which Levin replied, “Most days I’d be happy just to be a vivant.” Heading offstage, McNally shot back, “Well, as long as you go to work singing, that’s all that matters….”

Patterson looked nonplussed, and he shouted after McNally: “You misunderstand me. I didn’t say that you should go to work singing, I said you should wake up singing.” Then he trailed off and turned his attention back to an uncomfortable-looking Levin.

Things went better after that, and to Patterson’s credit, he was an often witty speaker who seemed to have a healthy understanding of his limitations as a writer. At one point, a member of the audience claimed that he had “graduated to Patterson’s books” after reading Le Carre’s Smiley series, to which Patterson replied, “I wouldn’t call that graduating…. that’s more like flunking out.”

Sunday’s other BOOKED event, a joint reading at Harbourfront featuring debut novelist Gil Adamson and British author Clare Clark, drew a total of 14 people another indication of the overall up-and-down attendance at the consumer fest.