Summer Sales
Graphic Novel Round-up: Yellow-bellied Scoundrels

George Pelecanos & David Simon @ The Prince Charles Cinema, 22 July

2009-07-22 20.56 

The book: Despite the hard-sell from Orion and Waterstone's, this signing wasn't really about the books. David Simon and George Pelecanos mostly spoke about The Wire, prompted by audience questions that were nine-tenths about the TV series.  

The stars: The writers took turns to answering questions and supported one another's responses in a way that hinted at their strong working relationship. Pelecanos and Simon both fielded a lot of odd questions, but were largely unflappable. Simon demonstrated a pretty impressive vocabulary. Both demonstrably came to life when interesting questions engaged them (music, the legalisation of marijuana and basketball).

The crowd: This wasn't really about books. The audience was there to talk TV and film. Specifically, how to break into it. 

Outside of The Wire, I doubt many people even realised who Pelecanos was - and at least one audience member expressed the pleasant surprise that he'd actually written something else (16 books and counting...). 

There were a few annoying patterns - virtually everyone asked two questions when passed the microphone. And there were an inordinate number of references to supplementary sections of The Guardian (most of which were meaningless to the guests of honour). Without sounding too snooty, perhaps audience members would've been better off reading some novels instead?

The setting: The Prince Charles Cinema is a fantastic theatre. The authors were easy to see, the chairs are comfortable and there's even a bar. There were a few problems with the microphone initially, but once the air conditioning unit was shut off, it was very easy to hear everyone speak.

Waterstone's had a rigid structure in place for the signing. The attempt at procedure was great, but the logic was peculiar. At the end of the talk, everyone getting a book signed was asked to keep their seat. Everyone else (about half the crowd) was dismissed. Then, the rows were brought up one at a time to stand in line. This would have worked well, except that all the books for purchase were outside in the lobby. 

That weird hitch aside, the venue was great and the event was smoothly run with plenty of polite staff on-hand. The moderator asked some good questions, but the majority of the time was spent in audience Q&A - much to the delight of the crowd.

Suggestions: Row-by-row queueing made sense (in theory) - now it's time to perfect the process. Have a table of books for sale right before the authors, not in the other room.  A brief introduction from the moderator - of the guests and their work - would've been good as well. He jumped straight in, and I think some of the audience could've used a more background. 

At £7.50 a ticket, it was expensive for a signing and cheap for a night out. However, no matter how I judge it, it was completely worthwhile...