Organizer Robie Scott called The Post and Courier’s Spring Book & Author Luncheon “a good-luck stop for authors” because it has seemed to signal literary success for several of the event’s participants.
Frank McCourt won his Pulitzer Prize just before appearing at the annual Charleston event; one of Michael Connelly’s books hit the New York Time’s Best-seller List a few days after his appearance. And John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” became a smash success at about the time the writer was addressing the lunch gathering in Savannah’s sister city.
Earlier this week, one of this year’s guests, Bob Dotson, saw his latest effort, “American Story,” arrive on the Times’ Best-seller List.
Dotson was one of six visiting authors who briefly discussed his work and writing from the podium of the Charleston Marriott ballroom Friday. The event drew perhaps 350 book enthusiasts who had a chance to meet not only Dotson but commercial fisherwoman Linda Greenlaw, the mother-son mystery-writing team of Charles and Caroline Todd, mystery writer Deborah Crombie and the widely syndicated Miss Manners herself, Judith Martin.
Greenlaw, the Maine native who survived the “Perfect Storm” in 1991, went on to write several autobiographical books on fishing and on parenting, including “The Hungry Ocean” and “Lifesaving Lessons.” The latter, which she called “a horror story with a happy ending, chronicles her experience as the legal guardian of a teenage daughter.
Crombie, a Texas native who lived for many years in England, called herself an “unlikely writer.”
“I realized that when you put words together in certain ways, you can make words sing,” she said of learning to write.
The Todd team spoke of their working method, obsessions with the U.K. and determination to convey a little of what the World War I era was like, through two characters they’ve developed over the years, Inspector Ian Rutledge and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford.
Martin, who Scott referred to as the “pioneer mother of today’s civility movement,” said she was only “a harmless little old lady” working hard to subvert staid commercial practices that are accepted too readily as etiquette but ought to be cast aside in favor of simplicity, dignity and useful enterprise.
She spoke of etiquette, to be sure, but also shared some of her passion for the city of Venice, which has provided a fine example of civility and where she spends many weeks of the year. Her latest book is about La Serenissima; it’s called “No Vulgar Hotel.”
Before and after lunch, participants purchased books and solicited signatures. Laura Ayers of Sumter came with other members of her 44-year-old book club.
“It was a different mix of authors this year,” she said. But entertaining indeed.
That Miss Manners surely isn’t timid, Ayers added.
“She doesn’t mind saying exactly what she thinks.”