I only went to the Patricia Cornwell signing because she wrote an amazing book applying forensic science to identify Jack the Ripper. When I saw that she was going to be at Warwick’s, I asked her online if she’d sign that book instead of the new one. As soon as she said yes, I bought the book.
Assigned seating was already gone by the time I made my way to La Jolla to get the book. So, that just meant that we had to get to the store early. Add to that the Warwick’s employee said that Dan Aykroyd would be appearing with her and that upped the time a bit more.
We got to the store around 4. People watching in La Jolla is some of the finest you’ll ever see. At one point I thought Greg Kinnear walked by… But I was wrong. Around 4:30, they put out a sign indicating where the line for the free-for-all seating would begin.
The lady behind me was complaining about having to wait an hour before they let us in. I couldn’t stop laughing at that. I wanted to tell her that an hour was nothing.
Also, the forensic photography professor who was responsible for putting me on academic probation while working on my Masters degree by giving me a C+ was in line. I instantly knew it was her, it took her some time, but I think she figured it out.
They let us in at 6. We ended up in the 7th row, in group A. The free-for-all seating filled up quickly and so did the store. Within minutes, it was standing room only, with people crowding around any open space.
We were told that personal photography wasn’t allowed. There was a professional photographer who was taking pictures of the entire event. They would be posted on Patricia’s Flickr and we were allowed to download any of the photos.
Patricia came out to a standing ovation. She started with a Q&A after telling the story of her first book signing in 1990. She got $6k advance and spent $1200 on posters that she made and put up in grocery stores and restaurants. She used her lunch hour to go to a religious bookstore only to have no one show up.
When it came to her Jack the Ripper book [which is what I was there for], she received dreadful feedback. Most people who complain about it didn’t read the book or look at the photos, which are in the National Archives. She likened it to “picking on a holy cow”. Mary Kelly was the most mutilated body she had ever seen, same for one of her ME friends.
After the Q&A session was over, they lined us up in groups by letter. We were A’s, so we were able to line up right away. They wrapped the line up around the store and had velvet ropes up everywhere with serious security.
You handed the book to the Warwick’s employees, she handed the book to Patricia, it was signed and then slid over to the edge of the table for pick up.
There was no personalization and only about 10 seconds in front of her. Just enough time to say hi and thank her for signing the Jack book instead of the new one.
While she was supremely polite and extremely personable in her stories and our brief interaction, there just seemed to be something weird about the entire situation.
Maybe it was seeing full on security, complete with ear pieces and the possibility of concealed weapons.
Maybe it was just the enormity of the crowd.
It could always just be my imagination.