After the festive season, it always seems to take ages before literary events get going again. So, it was great to finally get back out to book events this month. My first two events of 2020 were very different and yet quite similar in that both authors managed to take serious topics and deliver very entertaining evenings.
In 2018, This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay was one of my favourite reads and I’m not alone in loving this memoir of the author’s previous career as a doctor. The memoir is an international bestseller, so it was no surprise that the Kings Theatre in Glasgow was packed. I was intrigued to see how Adam would turn his book of diary entries into a show. I’d read an article he’d written in the Society of Authors magazine about how he’d learnt the hard way at the start of his book tour days that often he’d appear at a library or bookstore for no fee simply to get exposure for his book. This isn’t uncommon for new authors to agree to deliver an event for free and I know from personal experience that I’ve ended up out of pocket after covering my travel costs as the percentage of royalties from each book sale amounts to pennies rather than pounds!
Adam Kay is a smart man. He decided to create a different approach for his book promo tour and turned the event into a theatre show. At £25 per ticket he’s making a LOT of money on top of the millions of copies his book has sold. I wouldn’t attempt to charge readers to hear me talk about my novels but I’m not a bestselling author! Also, I’ve not got Adam Kay’s talent to entertain an audience with anecdotes that are funny and moving in equal measure. To break up sections of him reading aloud he even played a keyboard and sang medical themed songs which involved audience participation. It might have been cheesy but it worked and reminded me of Victoria Wood’s style of comedy. The most impressive aspect of the show was that he made serious political points about protecting the NHS but delivered his agenda with a perfect mix of humour and pathos.
Politics was the key theme too when I was back in Glasgow a few days later at the Mitchell Library to hear John Bercow discuss his autobiography, Unspeakable. It was another full house event with a lively audience keen to hear his life story and of course some juicy gossip about his time in the hot seat as the Speaker in the House of Commons. I don’t share his party politics but that aside, he’s a very interesting man and a true performer! There was no music this time, he didn’t need any props. He barely drew breath as he showcased his talent for sharing political anecdotes. The journalist, Ruth Wishart, attempted to chair the event but despite her many years of experience interviewing high profile figures she hardly got a word in edgeways. There was no shortage of hands in the air for the Q&A and I’m sure that John Bercow, who clearly loves the attention, would have talked for hours on end and the audience would’ve lapped it up. He ended the event with a ‘party piece’ of him performing a monologue whilst impersonating Tony Benn. My only tiny disappointment was that he didn’t treat us to his famous roar of “OORDEEEEERRRRR!” I haven’t read the book yet but after listening to this witty and clever man it’s sure to be a great read.