Thursday, September 17, 2009

Great Booksellers Answer Not So Great Questions About Great Books, In The Warwick's Octagon with Reggie Style. Volume One: Jim Stewart

Jim Stewart's prolific Warwick's career began part time in February of 2002.  As his online Warwick's profile states, "if Jim gets behind a book, its true destiny as a monumental bestseller will be revealed."  Towards the end of our riveting interview we are joined by the Book Department manager Adrian, who is denoted by an 'A'.

R: Let’s pretend Warwick’s is on fire.
J: On fire?
R: Yes, on fire.
J: Oh my gosh, ok.
R: You’ve safely evacuated all the customers and there’s just enough time to go back in once more before the roof collapses. What book do you chose to save from the flames?
J: Shantaram!

R: What if my limp body was draped over the last copy?
J: Then I would pull it away from you. And since you’re already dead I don’t care, so-
R: No, I’m still alive, I’m just stunned.
J: You’re still alive? And you want that book?
R: No, I’m begging you to leave me and save the book.
J: I would save the book. No, I would save you. That doesn’t sound as exciting though.
R: Now, with Shantaram, you’re approaching a big milestone- the 1,000th copy sold.
J: 1,000 copies, cool, and how many we’re stolen?
R: That’s quite a feat and a testament to handselling. Shantaram will be up there with books like The Da Vinci Code, The Kite Runner and Secret Life of Bees. What do you think the key to your success has been and is there a copy you wish you hadn’t sold, if you had it to do over again?
J: Well, I do regret selling a copy to this one groom to be of a wedding couple because he took it with him and when he got back the bride was upset with me that I had given him a book that was so much more interesting than talking to her on the plane.
R: Incidentally, have you ever actually read Shantaram?
J: (Indignantly) Yes, and I have the 48 CD set at home.
R: Wow, how many hours is that? Two days?
J: Right, two days, it would be.
R: Let’s do some role playing. Imagine I’m a grandmother browsing in the children’s section.
J: Oh, that is so easy.
R: Because of the pony tail?
J: And the beard.
R: All right, here we go. Excuse me sir, do you work here? I’m shopping for my grandson.
J: Yes, I can help you, I hope. How old is he?
R: He’s six months old, but he’s very advanced for his age. He reads at a fourth grade level.
J: Oh yes, I totally understand.

Awkward Silence.

R: So what would you sell her?
J: I would probably suggest an anthology of stories, because a lot of people spend a lot of money on one book and they have one story. You should buy a book that’s going to have a shelf life . . . and some mileage.
R: Speaking of shelf life. I notice that you’re reading Paws & Effect. What drew you to the book?
J: I have two Corgis. So anything that makes me more enamored with my dogs.
R: So do you think that your dogs have healing powers based on your reading?
J: Oh, definitely. Last night I wasn’t feeling well so I laid down on my bedroom floor (Editor’s Note: Passed out?) and Penny sat next to me and I put my head on her. She never lets me do that.
R: And you felt this healing energy?
J: I definitely felt something.
R: I had a friend whose black lab would poop in the bathtub every time there was thunder. Do you think he was a healer dog, according to Paws and Effect?
J: Hmmm. Probably not, unless he could do something special with the poop.
R: If dogs could read do you think they would all buy coffee table books of pictures of owners throwing tennis balls?
J: Now, they’d want dog pictures of the opposite gender.
R: What would you try to handsell a dog, assuming they’ve read Shantaram?
J: I have a book on how to make dog treats.
R: That would be good. Do you have the ISBN on that one? 
J: I’d have to order it. 
R: What would your biography be called and who would you want to provide a blurb for the back cover?
J: Oh my gosh, biography. I’ll Never Go There Again, would be the title. And I’d probably get . . . I’d get John Stewart. And I would be able to go on his show then.
R: You’ve already planned a tour?
J: Sure. See, I’m not actually going to interview him, I’d just write the blurb myself and put it on the back cover.
R: Oh, it would be a fake blurb?
J: When he finds out what he wrote he’s going to want me on the show.
R: So a little guerrilla marketing?
J: Exactly.
R: If I came over to your house and browsed your library what would I see? Books stacked on the floor? Alphabetical by author?
J: No. The books I purchase I put on the top shelves. The books I need to read pre-publication are on the two bottom shelves. They’re sorted by date, so when October rolls around I know I have to read these books. That’s the idea at least . . . then reality sets in.
A: Who distributes Client?
R: Perseus. Perseus is Client. If you don’t like a book do you put it down or are you one of those people who just have to finish?
J: No. If I’m not caught up in it by the third or fourth chapter I’m outta there. Unless somebody tells me different.
R: What kind of food would they serve on a flight full of Vampires?
J: Oh man, Vampires. Well . . .
R: Is there anything you’re reading right now that this would pertain to?
J: Well, yeah. There’d be . . .
A: Blood sausage.
J: Yeah, blood sausage.
A: Sorry.
J: Well, most vampires don’t really need to eat. All they want to do is drink.
A: Hagis.
R: Just in-flight cocktails.
J: Yeah, so you’d have to put the blood sausage in a blender.
R: So is The Strain any good?
J: It’s very good. It’s a different approach. This Vampire spirit from Eastern Europe gets on a plane. And victimizes everyone on the plane, including the pilots- drains all their blood by the time they land. So when they’re released, it releases a virus in the people, so they become Vampires, and it becomes this huge Vampire plague.
R: Okay, final question. I know you loved the Zookeeper’s Wife and I know you’ve worked as a newsman before, so let’s pretend I’m Diane Ackerman and today is October 1, 2009, the day she appears at Warwick’s for her new book, Dawn Light. You have one question, which I will try to answer as Diane Ackerman.
J: Well, the thing I’m always interested in with writers is what inspired them. I know they get that question all the time, but it is interesting to me because being a wanna-be writer, I’m always looking for ideas that inspire people.
R: As Diane Ackerman, I would say having readers like you is what inspires me. And thank you for coming tonight.
J: You’re very welcome.
R: I would be happy to sign your books.
A: That’s a bunch of B.S.

Note: for more of Jim's adventures, check out his blog -


  1. But what is his favorite word?

  2. Shantaram!! Definitely up there with Crime and Punishment, The Palace Walk and A Fine Balance!!