Are Book Signings Worth Risking Your Personal Safety?

I almost got attacked over this book!

I almost got attacked over this book!

My writing group met today and we got on the topic of book signings and how some big-name authors seem to dislike them. Perhaps you’ve experienced authors who barely look at you while signing your book and who seem unhappy to be doing so. My writer friends and I supposed it could get tiresome writing one’s autograph all those times, and perhaps the authors were only doing signings because it was in their contract – but come on! All the dozens of people in line are your fans. You are getting money from them. Is it too hard to give them back a bit of appreciation?

Apparently, it was too much to ask for prehistoric romance writer Jean Auel when I saw her in Minneapolis in the mid-1980s. She looked like she would rather be anywhere than the B. Dalton Bookstore downtown. I decided to go to her signing of “The Mammoth Hunters,” after work one dark winter evening even though two months before when I last left work late, I had gotten robbed at knifepoint while scraping the ice off the back window of my car.

After that incident, I had switched parking lots, but it soon proved too expensive on my student’s wages and I returned to the lot where the robbery occurred. I figured as long as I left work at 5 p.m. when everyone else did, I was less likely to be a target.

Returning to the lot at around 7 p.m. from the unsatisfactory book signing, I was vigilant. I walked purposefully and locked my car door as soon as I entered, a habit I’d gotten into after the robbery. As I started the car, I looked into the rearview mirror. A man was approaching, wearing a ski mask. Even though his face was covered this time, he looked very similar to my robber and he was wearing the same jacket.

I froze in terror. The robber had stolen my spare car key along with my wallet before. What if he remembered what my car looked like and he happened to have the key with him? I clutched the door handle, trying to keep it shut in case he had the key. The man walked up to my car, jiggled my door handle, and when it wouldn’t open, kept walking as if nothing had happened.

Relief flooded me. Then I got mad. There were no cars parked between me and him. My car was already running. I raced the engine and took off toward him. Was I going to scare him or run him over? I know I wanted to run him down for what he put me through, but at the last moment, I swerved. I couldn’t do it.

And apparently, I didn’t scare him very much either. After filing my police report, I found out later that he ended up attacking and raping another woman in the parking lot that night. A few nights later he got picked up. Eventually, there was a trial. Of half a dozen of his victims who filed police reports, I was the only one who saw his face, so I was the “star” witness. He got five years in jail.

Although almost thirty years have passed, my hands are shaking as I type this entry. See what trouble being a book fan can get you into? Seems the least an author can do is to smile and say “thank you” to their admirers. You never know what they went through to get to your signing or what might happen to them afterwards.

Stay tuned for a more pleasant book signing story coming next!

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