Essential events

<p>For Dirk Bogarde, his deepest professional satisfaction came not from film roles but from his signing session at Hatchards, meeting fans of his books. </p>
<p>Events can be transformative and they are as essential to our survival as great staff and range, atmospheric buildings, cafes, toilets and, preferably, a decent under-store ley line. Sad, then, that the exploding quantity of book festivals has lured authors away from bookshop gigs, especially as festivals can be so elitist, if only by their ticket price.</p>
<p>The bookshop event, it&rsquo;s true, had become costly for publishers, risky and tired in format. It needs to be revived without past errors. The drunken bookseller introducing Amis as Barnes before falling off the podium (before my time, that one) is as bad as the nameless author asking me to check his teeth or the prominent crime writer asking for cocaine (&quot;but I always get it at Waterstone&rsquo;s!&quot;). Walking Amy Tan&rsquo;s dog and getting the chippie to stay open for John Major was a breeze by comparison. Too many authors want their book in the chart, insist on signing piles of stock, or expect huge sales on the night, forgetting that the store has already promoted the book for weeks.</p>
<p>Booksellers should not put authors next to crashing doors or clanging tills, in draughts or a fug. They should allow five weeks&rsquo; promotion time, remove grinning flunkies, provide refreshments and amplification. Authors should be greeted by an enthusiast, not a timeserver.</p>
<p>The era of the talking head event is over for all but a few superstars. Authors are often rotten at holding an audience. Novelists are the worst and should avoid reading from their books unless they are performers. Put them in twos, or in conversation. Non-fiction is safer, but still benefits from combinations. Jenny Uglow arguing with Peter Ackroyd over the location of Gin Lane is one of the Canterbury events I wish I had filmed. Craft and therapy demonstrations are bankers. My mistakes were the wood-carver (blizzards of chips scything across the shop) and the foot reader. But the DK &quot;snake man&quot;, the painting demonstrations, the past-life regression, guided meditations, reiki healing and remote viewing were highly profitable. I would repeat the past-life regression therapist, the palm readers and the head massager. Get authors to do what they are best at:&nbsp; Ray Davies brought his guitar, Dankworth his sax, Hom his wok, and Brian Blessed his climbing kit.</p>
<p>As I saw in Oban recently, often there is nothing on the high street, or even the whole town, as magical as a good bookshop event, luring customers out on a rainy night and away from their flashing screens.</p>