Regular readers will probably recognize the name John Camp. A former reporter, John's now a committed amateur painter who's made himself quite knowledgable about art. He's also built a very successful career as a novelist, writing thrillers (at the gruelling pace of two per year) under the nom de plume John Sandford. He's been reading TOP and writing comments for a number of years now, and we've corresponded by email for a long time. (He's also currently collaborating with Ctein on a novel.)
I got to meet John in person a couple of days ago, finally. He was passing through town for a series of book signings. He's a vegetarian, and Google helped me find a heretofore undiscovered-by-me vegetarian restaurant (they're not common in Wisconsin). The conversation was as every bit as good as I expected it to be and the food was much better than I expected it to be.
Then I got to observe him in action.
We arrived at the Barnes & Noble at Mayfair Mall to find a crowd* of very enthusiastic people waiting, many of them in a long rope line. The manager of the store told me they no longer have facilities for author talks because some of the new toy displays can't be moved ("they fall apart"), but John gave a short talk anyway, giving the eager audience some inside information about his upcoming plots and answering questions.
Example question: Why are some of the counties he mentions in the books real and some fictional? The answer makes sense: he mentioned a book on his in which a local school board votes, during a regular official meeting, to murder a journalist. Couldn't exactly pin something like that on a real school board in a real county!
Later, as he signed books—"the trick is not to use your wrist," he told me, "use your whole arm"—I had some very nice conversations with a number of his fans. You might not guess it based on the sometimes lurid character of the genre, but thriller readers turn out to be very nice people, genuine, open, and interesting—at least according to my very small sample.
And the same might be said of thriller writers, at least going by my current sample of one.
The author as gentle critic: John, whose new book Field of Prey was at
#1 in "Murder" when I checked on Amazon this morning,
holds up a competitor's book.
A very fun afternoon and evening abroad for Yr. Hmbl. Ed., for sure. Thanks, John.
*The man with the beard at the right is the German-born American archaeologist Egon H. E. Lass, author of The Seasons of Tulul.
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Featured Comments from:
richardplondon: "The cover of the book being held in the photo may be reason enough alone to hold it as he did. It is an honoured tradition in (for example) cycle racing, if assigned a '13' number ('113,' '213,' etc.) to be sure to fix that on upside down. This simple technique (as luck has it) is sure to deflect disaster, albeit not provably."
Mike replies: Maybe he can tell us for sure, but I'm going to guess John knew that....
Albert Erickson: "Currently reading his new book now. It is clearly a page-turner and one I would recommend if you want a quick and entertaining read. Love his work; I have read or listened to every one of his books. Thanks for sharing."
John Camp: "Mike, nice to meet you at last. That moment with the Fuji X-T1 you were using may turn out to be an expensive moment for me—that thing felt like a camera should.
"I wanted to comment about Egon Lass. He is one of the more famous of the older generation of Israeli archaeologists (although he's neither Israeli nor Jewish.) Been everywhere, done everything. A man much like Egon turns up in one of my novels...anyway, his book, Seasons of Tulul, fascinated me. Egon spent several digging seasons actually living with a group of Bedouin workers near Jericho, and his life with them gives a seriously interesting peek into the lives of typical Arabs. Egon makes some judgments, but not intrusive ones: he mostly simply reports what he sees and experiences, and not all of it is pleasant. In fact, some of it would probably horrify typical American readers. But, it's the way things were—and still are, in many places. For anyone interested in other cultures, the book is a powerful experience.
"By the way, we got lucky with that restaurant. A lot of vegan places simply pour some fake cheese over a carrot and call it a meal; that place actually had some pretty decent food. I'm not really a philosophical vegetarian—I'm doing it because I would like my heart to keep working a bit longer. Okay, a lot longer. Anyway, I find a lot of vegetarian/vegan restaurants intolerable. The food just isn't very good, by any standards. Purity of motive isn't enough. The Chinese, Thai and Indians have excellent vegetarian dinners—so why can't vegetarian restaurants? Why do vegetarian restaurants also have to take on the extra burden of being health-food places? Why can't they have Cokes? As far as I know, Cokes have very little beef in them...[end of rant.]"
Mike replies: Well, if you get an X-T1, I just discovered one of the shortcomings of the 23mm lens...the indents on the aperture ring are very gentle, and if you inadvertently let the aperture ring slip off "A" just a bit, the camera will stop everything down to ƒ/16 and all your indoor pictures will be blurry until you discover it. I'll give you a hint how I learned this—it was at a Barnes & Noble.
And I'll add to your Chinese/Thai/Indian list that my favorite Japanese restaurant has some very tasty vegetarian rolls. I've been trying them one by one.