Last night, for the second time in my life, I went to a book launch party. Shelley Harris’ second novel is Vigilante: a story of a housewife who decides to become a superhero, but with all the tedious real life stuff getting in the way, like having to clean the house and being unable to fly or do laser vision at nemeses. (Shelley explains it all much better here, which has to be the coolest book trailer ever.)
A midweek trek to Soho from Hampshire involved the inevitable delayed train, which meant I arrived horribly late and missed Shelley reading from her prologue. Sorry.
The dress code was ‘Masks’, and oh boy, we did not let her down. Shelley was resplendent in cape, mask and matching superhero outfit. Nobody achieved the Full Vigilante, but we did our best. Mine was beautiful but flawed, in that they had managed to stick the music on back-to-front. Obviously I distributed small mirrors to everyone so they could approach me as if I were the Gorgon and get the full benefit.
The first person I met was Lloyd Shepherd, who claimed to be wearing a goat mask. Frankly, I’m not sure. He looks like the god of small baguettes to me, though styling it out as only Lloyd can.
Isabel Costello was sporting a fine example of Venetian maskness, and looked her usual chic self. People sometimes mix us up on twitter. As you see, Ms Costello is the tall, glamorous one. I’m actually in this picture, but was somewhere beneath her elbow.
Anyway, I forgive him anything, because he strode to the middle of the bar to order me a drink. I had been cowering at the end and unable to attract the attention of any bar staff. But then I don’t have Jason’s charisma. (The bar staff, contrary to this image, were not actually reanimated red-eye zombies.) I drank something pink through a straw out of a jam jar. Absolutely no idea what it was. I’d never felt more daring.
I am a bit more involved with Vigilante than with most newly published books. Shelley is – as well as a wonderful writer – a forthright person who believes in doing the right thing. (Full disclosure: Shelley is my friend and everything I say about her here is completely partial.) When the Philippines were devastated by a typhoon in 2013, Shelley joined other authors raising money for the Red Cross appeal by offering to name a character in her next novel after the highest bidder. Reader, I was that highest bidder. It was a bizarre and exciting thing to see my name in the story, and I’m so proud to be a tiny part of their final total of nearly £60,000 donated to the Philippines.
Obviously, the main reason I did it was so I could be in the acknowledgements: the only true literary aspiration.
Almost as soon as I arrived, it was time to go. I carried my pink jam jar over to where Shelley was holding court in the corner. This is how good she looks at the END of a party (sitting here with Nicci Cloke). I seldom look this good at the start.
But then I’m not a superhero. Shelley is.