Thursday, January 13, 2011

More On Clancy

Since were on the subject of Clancy, here's a piece from Thriller Guy's pal, Kathleen Ewing.

“I’ve been writing stuff all my adult life, mostly on the subject of fine art photography for press releases, artists’ biographies, short catalogue entries, etc., etc. At the suggestion of my dear friend, Bill Garrison, I did write one book, A. Aubrey Bodine, Baltimore Pictorialist, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. I believe that would qualify me as a published author and, as a result, a veteran of book signing events.

Researching, writing and illustrating the Bodine book in three short months is a story unto itself. But this little essay is about enduring the agonies of a public book signing event.

When my Bodine book came out in the fall of 1986, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The publication was just what I had hoped for: a scholarly essay on Bodine and his place in the history of American Pictorial photography and 62 full plate duotone illustrations of his best work from the 1920s to the 1960s. As a result of the Johns Hopkins connection, I was immediately considered a “Maryland author” and began to receive numerous invitations to participate in events for “Maryland authors.”

The first of those events was scheduled for a bookstore in a shopping mall outside of Annapolis. Full of high hopes and great expectations, I arrived in my best purple outfit with several black pens in my purse. I had been told some 15-20 “Maryland authors” would be attending the book signing, but no list of authors had been provided in advance. To my shock, I found myself seated next to Tom Clancy, whose enormously successful first novel, Hunt for Red October, had been published that same fall season. I had seen the ads, President Ronald Reagan says it’s a “great read,” and the rest was history. How could I be so lucky, seated next to the great Tom Clancy?

Not only did I write a book about A. Aubrey Bodine, I represented the estate and was actively working to sell his extraordinary photographs to museums and private collectors. This would be a golden opportunity: Tom Clancy, a native of Maryland, with ties to the Baltimore area, now with plenty of money. Just ripe to become a Bodine collector. All I had to do was be my usual pleasant personality and make a new friend.

For four hours, I set next to Tom Clancy and he never once looked in my direction. For four hours, his stack of books went from 20 high to 1 or 2 and another 20 books would miraculously appear from the hands of some invisible store clerk. The line of Tom Clancy fans stretched down the halls of the shopping mall. He shook hands and greeted everyone as if they were great old buddies. I kept smiling, but no one gave me a second glance. My stack of Bodine books started at about 20 high and at the end of the afternoon there were still 19 sitting in front of me.

When there was a momentary lull in Clancy’s popularity, I purchased four copies of Hunt for Red October, asking to have them personally signed as Christmas presents for my brothers and other good friends. Clancy never took one second to look at my Bodine book.

At the end of the afternoon, when we politely shook hands to depart, he finally looked me in the eyes and said, “Success is hell.”

Thank you so much, Tom Clancy.”


  1. Well, if it makes Kathleen feel any better, I'm impressed that she, and you, got to the point where you have a book or books to sign in the first place. I'm still in the wannabe category.

    On that note Thriller Guy, my day job has been so mentally exhausting for so many months that I haven't been able to spend much time working on my project at all. I'm working on making some changes so that I don't have to be in a position where I only have work/family/sleep/crisis as the targets of my efforts.

  2. I think most of us would quite like a piece of that kind of hell.