Today a book of mine is published: Scarface Nation, which my publisher has subtitled "The Ultimate Gangster Movie and How It Changed America." You can buy it here. Yes, it's primarily about the 1983 Al Pacino-Brian De Palma film (publication coincides with its 25th anniversary), but it's also about Howard Hawks’ 1932 Scarface starring Paul Muni, and about the fascinating 1930 pulp novel that inspired the character, Armitage Trail’s Scarface, and about all things Scarface, from its effect on hiphop music to its pervasiveness in YouTube political videos. (One that didn’t make my book’s deadline: check out McCain-as-Scarface here.)
I have been invited to write here about what it’s like to send a book out into the world, and as the many writers who read this blog know, it is at once exhilarating and undewhelming. On the one hand: Yay! It's done and can be found in Barnes & Noble. On the other: Oy! B&N is only stocking two copies of it at my local suburban store?
But today I had a nice experience. After asking at the information desk where the devil I might find Scarface Nation (not on the New Books table—that’s the kind of placement a publisher has to pay for, and mine is thrifty), the cheerful B&N employee insists on escorting me to the movie-books section and we discover it together. We talk a bit, I show him my picture on the back to prove my authorship, he returns to his post, I move the two copies to the New Books table. Then I go poke around at the magazines (a new issue of Black Belt featuring “Reality-Based Fighting”! a new issue Poetry with a section on “visual poems”! I snap up both to purchase).
As I'm walking to the cash register, the helpful employee brings along his manager, a smiling woman who says she'd be glad to have her store host a book-signing for me as a local author. She gives me her card; I tell her the name of the publisher's p.r. person. She promises me I'll sell "a lot of books." This is very kind and optimistic. I remember the last time I published a book and did a reading at a Philadelphia Borders. Five people showed up: my wife, two friends, and two people who looked as though they needed to get in from the cold outside. Purchases that night: 0.
Did you know that Al Pacino went through nine suits to shoot the final, copiously bloody, "Say hello to my little friend!" machine-gun shoot-out in Scarface? Oh, this book is just full of fun facts like that…