My British publisher, William Heinemann, flew me across the pond for the Galaxy British Book Awards, a black tie affair held in the grand ballroom of the upper-crusty Dorchester Hotel. I was nominated for Best New Writer of the year. Alas, the honor went to British author Tom Rob Smith for his novel Child 44, but I had a splendid time that night even so. They had a red carpet complete with paparazzi for us arriving authors — “Look here, luv! Smile swee-har!” — at which I did my poor best to channel Angelina Jolie and look insouciant and glamorous. After the ceremony we all drank champagne and danced till 1:30 in the morning, for which my head and feet paid dearly the next morning.
Apart from that, I had the luxury of some free time in London, a city I haven’t been to in twenty-five years. The first night, my lovely editor, Jason Arthur (pictured with me above), took me to a veddy traditional British establishment called Shepherd’s, where, surrounded by lots of red-faced, middle-aged men in three-piece suits who all looked like prime candidates for gout, we feasted on English favorites such as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (me) and kidney-something-or-other (him, and I tried very hard not to watch while he ate it).
Friday I had lunch with my old college friend Susie Schoenfeld, then spent two hours (or was it three?) primping for the awards ceremony that night. Saturday I slept rawther late, then had lunch and a nice browse at Harrod’s with another former classmate, Laura Wood Cantopher, after which I went to Fortnum & Mason, where a beautiful young man in a black morning coat escorted me round the store while I picked out items for a “bespoke” (meaning, custom) gift basket for the Heinemann team. Dinner Saturday night at the home of my dear friend and fellow writer Nick Rankin, whose new non-fiction book, Churchill’s Wizards: the British Genius for Deception, 1914-1945, has sold an impressive 15,000 copies in hardback. Kudos, Nick! Regrettably absent was Nick’s wife Maggie Gee, who’s currently working on her autobiography at an artists’ colony in Scotland called Hawthornden (where I will be myself in October). She also has a new novel out, the magnificently witty, moving and incisive My Driver, which I had the great honor of blurbing. My first blurb ever, actually.
Sunday I walked my legs off, beginning at the Random House corporate apartment in Marsham Street, up the Thames past Whitehall and Downing Street (which is gated off and presided over by very serious-looking blokes with machine guns) to Trafalgar Square. Paid my respects to Lord Nelson, then spent a happy few hours with Rembrandt, Botticelli, Velasquez, et. al. in the National Gallery, after which I went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey. Adored the singing of the men’s/boys’ choir, could have done without the praying (and in fact, I must confess I left before the sermon began). Walked all the way back to the flat, had an abysmal meal that night at one of the only open restaurants I could find in the area, then collapsed. I’m writing this from the plane home. Wish I’d had another week to explore this marvelous city, which I adore, despite the mostly execrable food. Must visit again very soon.