First day at BEA. Extreme humidity, coupled with crushing weight — and far more than my usual crushing weight.

It was around 90 degrees outside in NYC today. It was about 95 degrees inside Javits Convention Center. Not cool; not cool at all (pun). It was also the most crowded trade show I’ve ever attended. To complete our perfect storm, one of the biggest perks to this show are freebies. When you go to other trade shows, you get t-shirts, pencils, all kinds of swag with companies’ names on it. When you go to BEA you get books. Tons and tons of books.

Now, this is a good thing, a VERY good thing. BUT…it’s like one of those legends or fables: The hero becomes so greedy for riches that he collapses under their weight.

Ever try carrying 45 books around while wearing a sports coat, surrounded by 100,000 other people in a 95 degree airport hanger? It’s a Greek tragedy.

To make the free book thing even sweeter, most of the authors are there signing the books. This is totally righteous, made better still considering that they were usually more than willing to stop and chat with you a while, eventually composing a very personal message on the inside of the book. Unfortunately, this is not very good for the person standing in line behind you, or for you if you are the person behind the person who is bonding with the bestselling author in 95 degree heat, holding 45 other books and wearing a sports coat.

I had one episode in particular that was both embarrassing and worthy of a rant. I go through this one booth and there is one author signing away for a long line of people. I didn’t know her, so I was disinterested. Suddenly, someone began creating a second pile of books right next to her; books belonging to another author. I looked and saw that it was the latest release from Ian McEwan. I happen to be a fan (Enduring Love, Saturday; good stuff). I glanced up and there he was. The other author was still signing her books, there were no signs, so I figured I had lucked upon an opportunity to say hey to an excellent writer whom I had never before met. Furthermore, both of us are June 2007 Book of the Month Club features, so we had something in common (not much, but something).

I chat him up, he’s nice, and he signs a copy of his new book, On Chesil Beach (shameless plug for Ian) for me. As he’s signing, some woman begins beating me on the back while shouting in my ear loud enough to be heard in Hoboken, “We’ve all been standing here for an hour to meet Ian McEwan. Who do you think you are jumping in front of us?” Ian was still talking to me, so I couldn’t answer her, which only caused her to keep beating and keep screaming. Talk about someone destroying a moment for you. When I finally turned around, she was gone; perhaps security had maced her. I’m telling you, things get testy when a crowd is that large and the heat is that oppressive.

Outside of all that, I had a good meeting with some Bookspan/Madison Park Press/Book of the Month Club people (wow, talk about a long moniker). Enthusiasm is high for the rollout of FOURTH HOUSE, which should be happening any moment now. Covered some other issues that I must plead the Fifth on at this time. All good though.

Back again tomorrow to see if the Ian McEwan lady wants to go another round with The Kid.

Peace (to all of you who did not beat me or scream at me today),