It was almost ‘ladies only’ at Waterstone’s in Deansgate last night. We’d come for the sex. A little bit of love, too, but mostly sex. I noticed on the poster that it was titled Adult Author Talk, which would explain the ban on under-13s. Melvin Burgess is no longer the only one. William Nicholson has joined him in the very small club of writers who have tackled sex for YA readers, without confusing the issue with vampires and things.
William and Melvin warmed up in the adjoining Costa, and when they arrived in the events room they sat down in the wrong chairs, but dealt with it by swapping their books round to where they sat. Alistair Spalding from Egmont introduced them, and didn’t seem to get them too mixed up.
The very well spoken and polite sounding William started, on the grounds that it was he who has a new book out, Rich and Mad. (It’s confession time again, because I’ve not had time to read it. Yet. I’d seen the news that William’s doing the Groucho Club tonight, with his book, and been a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it. So a last minute piece of intelligence that he’d be coming here pre-Groucho was more than welcome. I lead such a boring life that I was free. Naturally.)
He may be 62, but inside he’s still 16, and he told us about his early love life, such as it was and about what passed for p*rn in those days. He feels there’s a need for more books like the one he’s just written, and he and Melvin did that thing where people admire each other’s work. Whereas William’s teen years were quite chaste in his boys’ school with the purposely ugly ‘hags’ employed so as to avoid stirring any sexual feelings, Melvin reckons that a film from his teens would need to be an 18. Yes, well.
Melvin claims to have been scared of girls in his teens, while William was taken to a brothel at 18. He fantasised about American cheerleaders, and Melvin really didn’t like school at all. And as Anne Fine found, he did want to shock when he wrote Doing It. William has been all set for a ‘storm of outrage’ and it hasn’t materialised. Could it be that we are seven years on from Doing It?
We all agreed that the hardest thing with books like these is to get them past the parents of prospective readers. The cover of Rich and Mad might make it hard for it to be unobtrusive, and I heard there was one school that has cancelled an event due to fears of upsetting people. The head teacher read the book between booking William and the event.
Not surprisingly, Melvin wants readers to be ‘empowered rather than protected’ and feels that schools are just the right places to do this, if they could just escape their fear of complaints to the press. He told us about Morris Gleitzman turning up at an event wearing his dressing gown which didn’t go down well with the school. On a brighter note, William had a good school event on Wednesday morning, and was heartened by the students’ discussion on love and sex.
Anyone who wants to discuss anything with William is welcome to email him on his website. He describes it as ‘Paypal’ style, where your email address isn’t made available to him, so you’re quite safe. He’s used to silly questions, but would most likely prefer good ones. He’s had mainly good feedback for Rich and Mad, and he read us a short excerpt from the book.
For the signing afterwards it looked like many in the audience had brought all their favourite books along. Not great for sales, perhaps, but it’s good to see how keen people are. I believe my local blogging colleague from Wondrous Reads was present. I meant to say hello properly, but gaga-hood struck (me) again, and then she was gone. When Waterstone’s staff started removing the chairs I took the hint and stood up. It takes more than some missing chairs to make a bookwitch leave. I hung on to the bitter end, but not so late that it was dark for my walk through Manchester.