Notes on the Devil’s tour

MELBOURNE — The initial tour for The Devil’s Cinema has reached its end with my return to Australia, leaving my book on the Mark Twitchell “Dexter Killer” case in the hands of the first wave of North American readers.

These past few weeks have been a fascinating and jolting experience.

A manuscript grows out of relative secrecy and then seemingly overnight these same words are suddenly appearing in hardcover, stacked on bookstore shelves, boxed up for shipping to people’s homes, and transmitted straight into portable e-readers: Kindle, Nook, and so on.

Authors are then subjected to great extremes while on tour: 4am wake-up calls, back-to-back interviews, then long pauses of nothingness that can quickly plunge into another round of public events and encounters with little to no warning.

But it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting many readers and stumbling into old friends as I walked these well-worn trails of book authors and their publicists.

Sincere thanks must go to a few keen and early readers who have spotted a couple of typos in the first edition, which have now been noted and corrected for all subsequent printings.

Many readers have also been messaging me with further questions.

I’ve answered some of them in a Q and A for Book Lounge, and another for Open Book Toronto. But please feel free to contact me with a question and I’ll try to post responses to the most common questions in future postings.

Until then, here some of the highlights from the tour:

Edmonton, Alberta

I arrived to a fresh snowfall blanketing the city, and this proved to be the best welcome home present I could ask for.

Canadians often complain about the bitter winters, but there is something quite refreshing about seeing snow once again for those of us returning after an extended absence (of course, this novelty quickly vanishes and the reality sets in, especially since it was early spring and the snow should have been long gone).

The city’s Garneau Theatre was the venue of choice for the official book launch, which was fitting considering this strange story’s links to the film industry and theatrical performances.

The Devil's Cinema: Book LaunchI was honoured to be opening Litfest, Canada’s non-fiction literary festival, with the official launch of The Devil’s Cinema, and to have such a great crowd in attendance, asking many interesting questions.

The first of the tour’s unexpected twists occurred moments after I exited the stage: my elementary school teacher was already waiting to get her copy of the book signed. It had been 25 years, but I recognized her immediately — after a burst of disbelief. How incredible to have her attend! And she was quickly followed by a long line of readers, with a few old friends from high school sprinkled in amongst them.

It is moments like these where I wish I could have stopped the clocks and slowed the tour down a notch. But I was being pushed out the door so I could make it to the airport for a late-night flight to my next destination.

Calgary, Alberta

There is a long-standing rivalry between Alberta’s two biggest cities, but it’s more like trying to compare your two children: do you really want to say which one is better?

Calgary, or “Cowtown,” often gets the big overseas tourism dollars with its bigger freeways, bigger buildings, and deeper pockets. (Being an hour’s drive from the Rockies helps too.) But I’ve always enjoyed my time visiting this richer southern relative of my beloved Edmonton.

There are quite a few boutique downtown hotels these days, including the lovely Hotel Arts that I had the pleasure of staying in. Had a coffee on 17th Avenue and noticed a cupcake shop I first spotted many years ago. Now, they are everywhere.

Vancouver, British Columbia

There seems to be too many great restaurants in Vancouver. Decision paralysis!

The rain was steady during my three-day visit, but I enjoyed a night out, catching up with old friends at Burgoo, a rustic-feel bistro that offers the best in comfort food for those chilly, soggy evenings.

The clouds parted and cherry blossoms exploded the morning I left, of course.

New York, New York

Why is everything so inexpensive in America? Five dollars for a six-pack of beer ($16 in Australia)? Incredible.

I had one of those surreal New York moments during this trip: wine and cheese on a Manhattan rooftop, gazing out at the world-famous skyline.

Took a walk down Wall Street the next morning — it certainly had a different feel to it than six years ago. Then I stood in line for an hour to see the 9/11 Memorial, and it was such a baffling, overwhelming experience that I may write more about it later.

Los Angeles, California

One look at my hotel room confirmed I had arrived at or near Hollywood: snakeskin had been wrapped around the hotel dresser drawers. Adding that extra bit of pizzazz, I guess.

Santa Monica is truly one of the most beautiful spots in America. The vast library at UCLA is certainly worth touring too.

My cab driver turned out to be a former Edmontonian. He had moved from Iran to Canada but after six months suffering through the Edmonton winter he said he couldn’t take it anymore and moved down south to sunny Los Angeles.

“It was so cold,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that anyone could actually live there.”

He was particularly astonished that even the machines couldn’t survive the winter without a bit of help.

“They have to plug their cars in so they will start in the morning.”

I left five days later. Didn’t stumble across a single celebrity.

Melbourne, Australia

The southern hemisphere winter is coming. The leaves have yellowed and disappeared, signalling darker days ahead.

There is something about Melbourne that reminds me of home, especially with these changing seasons.

But the city also has just enough of the exotic to provide new discoveries around every unknown laneway for a new arrival like me — just past that rumbling tram track, the Italian coffee shop, the local milk bar.

Meanwhile, back in North America, interest in the book is continuing. I’ve been up early, or having to stay up very late, for further phone interviews with journalists in other time zones, from Saskatchewan to Manitoba, and Ontario.

While I’ve ended this part of the journey, the book hasn’t stopped its own.

This is a good thing — great in fact.

And I thank you.

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