Monday, May 5, 2008

Who says readings don't yield results

You never know who is going to show up to a reading at Book Soup. One of the biggest and sadly, last, major independent book stores in the country, Book Soup is located on the infamous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. The quirky shop is known for lots of things: floor-to-ceiling book shelves, a great blog, unusually famous clientele and well-attended events.

Among publicists, Book Soup is to readings in LA what BookPeople is to touring authors in Austin—the most sought after venue for the biggest events. Over the next few weeks Book Soup will host events for Augusten Burroughs, Barbara Walters, James Frey, Arianna Huffington and other famous authors. Though top publishers have their sights firmly set on the bookstore, true to its independent roots, Book Soup also opens its doors to small publishers, university presses and other non conglomerated publishers that have authors touring in the area.

One of our titles last fall, Entering Hades (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Sarah Crichton Books), by John Leake, received widespread coverage and rave reviews from everyone but Janet Maslin. The book is a fascinating true crime tale about the world’s first intercontinental serial killer, Jack Unterweger. John did not do a formal book tour, but had signings at the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople, Book Soup and other locales throughout the campaign. Book Soup made sense as a venue because the story had a significant local connection.

From the LA Times:
“In 1994, Unterweger was convicted of murdering nine prostitutes, including three in the L.A. area. The bodies of Shannon Exley and Irene Rodriguez were found in Boyle Heights, and the body of Peggi Jean Booth, who also used the name Sherri Ann Long, was discovered in the Malibu hills. Police determined that Unterweger had strangled his victims using their brassieres.”

Each event he had was well-attended but the one that stood out was his Book Soup reading. Why? None other than John Malkovich was seated in the audience. Apparently Malkovich had followed the Jack Unterweger case in the early ‘90s and according to the LA Times, Leake’s book “reignited his interest in the notorious killer.”

As it turns out, Malkovich was not just a casual observer. On Friday the LA Times announced that the actor “is playing real-life Austrian serial killer and bestselling author Jack Unterweger in a world premiere production, "Seduction and Despair," which debuted over the weekend in Santa Monica.

Not only is Malkovich starring as Unterweger, he’s also directing the play. According to the LA Times,
“The idea for "Seduction and Despair" originated nearly two years ago when Malkovich first met Martin Haselböck at a dinner at the Austrian Consulate in L.A. The two fell into a heated debate about European politics but later agreed to work together on a project that would somehow bridge Austrian culture and Southern California.”

Apparently the two had originally settled on another piece for their collaboration, but thanks to John Leake’s event at Book Soup, they found a fascinating new source for their work together.

It all goes to show that book signings, which do demand a lot of extra time and energy from an author (not to mention time-consuming tour media from their publicist), can yield some outstanding results - and sometimes book sales are only the beginning.

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