Having just returned from my first reading/signing tour of bookstores, mostly in Maine but also the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH and Barnes and Noble in Paramus, NJ, I thoroughly enjoyed Joe Queenan’s essay in the July 16th edition of the NY Times titled “Escort Service.”
Queenan riffs on a little known niche profession which serves the literary industry by schlepping established authors around strange cities on their frequent book tours. Here’s an excerpt:
“I have always loved book tours. I became a writer only so I could go on book tours. I have done tours as small as four cities and as large as 16. They have taken me to places I never expected to visit — Iowa City, Coconut Grove, Hay-on-Wye — and introduced me to passionate book lovers I will remember forever. Among these book lovers, the most memorable are the “literary escorts” who ferry authors around town.
Literary escorts, by and large, are middle-aged women who make a living by picking up authors at the airport, shuttling them from one media outlet to another, filling them in on the next interviewer’s background, buying them lunch, telling them where the liquor store is, preventing them from having nervous breakdowns. Some do it as a job, some as a hobby. Escorts are always smart and invariably funny. A lot of them smoke.
Escorts immediately make you feel as if you had known them for decades. Their duties range from bypassing pileups on I-95 to purchasing double soy lattes to explaining why only one person showed up at your reading in Winnetka. In Los Angeles, where your first interview might be in Malibu and your second in Pasadena, no author could function without them. The same is true in Kansas City, a burg the size of Asia. But literary escorts are not simply chauffeuses; they are coaches, reconnaissance experts, debriefers, psychologists, comrades in arms. With few exceptions, they adore writers, and consider themselves lucky to ply their arcane trade.”
Needless to say my only escort on my recent book tour was my wife. After reading Queenan’s essay she informed me, in no uncertain terms, that regardless of future fame or fortune as a writer of thrillers, things would stay that way.
You can read Queenan’s entire piece, “Escort Service,” at: