Mother With An Eye For A Bargain calls me from the supermarket.

'They've got your book.'

These calls are not unusual - since Damaged Goods was published she's spotted them with the trained eye she turned on me as a teenager with hickies.

'There are five on the shelf,' she says. 'So I'm happy with that.'

There's a but comming. I can smell it like a dog before a storm.

'But,' there you go, 'the position's all wrong.'

'These things are decided by the manager,' I say.

'You're right at the top.'

She sniffs derisively as if this were a personal slur on our family.

'I'm Helen Black,' I point out. 'The B's are bound to be at the top.'

She sniffs again. 'I've tried to move you.'


'I thought I'd swap you with one of the cook books,' she says. 'They're in the middle.'

'You can't do that.'

'Oh I've seen the woman on the telly, she's very nice,' she says. 'I'm sure she won't mind.'

I take a deep breath. 'I'm sure she's lovely but you can't rearrange stock. Security will catch you.'

Oh the guard's already spotted me,' she says.

I have visions of my 66year old mother being carted off by the police. 'What did he say?''

'That I can't move the books around.'

I know what's comming next. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach.

'So I told him,' she says. 'My daughter wrote that.'


I hardly dare ask. 'Is everything okay?'

'Oh yes,' she chirps. 'We had a little chat. Turns out I know his wife, Val, from Weight Watchers.'

It's perfectly feasible that in the small mining town where I grew up and Mother With An Eye For A Bargain still lives that she knows every member of the guard's extended family spanning three generations.

'So what's going to happen?' I ask, praying she hasn't been arrested.

'All sorted, love,' she says. 'He's rearranging the books for me now.'

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Comment by Mari Sloan on January 21, 2008 at 2:00am
HAHAHAHAHA! I know your mothers. I wish mine were still around. She wrote, too, and she would be bursting with pride for me, although I don't know if she would have ever left me alone to finish the book. I do know she would have been sitting right behind me editing the strong language out. I'm the first in a line of unpublished family members to be published, but I can hear her now.

"Marilois, you do know there is more than ONE way to express displeasure. There is no need for that word in there. Everyone will think I brought you up that way."

But that wouldn't mean that she wouldn't have been my number one promoter. She was tiny, but she carried a big walking stick. She had no problem making it to the front of any crowd. I miss her.
Comment by Neil White on January 20, 2008 at 11:06pm
Great blog! It must be a Yorkshire-thing - every piece of good news comes with a "but". I had the same thing, except mine was, "but it was right at the bottom," with me being a W.
Comment by Ken Isaacson on January 18, 2008 at 10:18pm
Helen, I had to smile when I read this.

Shortly after SILENT COUNSEL was released, my 82-year-old mother happened into the Barnes & Noble just a town over from where I grew up. She reported to me that my book was nowhere to be found.

So what did she do? She sought out the manager and gave him a proper dressing down. "What's the matter? You have Grisham, you have Baldacci, but you don't have my son's book? Grisham and Baldacci didn't grow up here. My son did. I expect you to get his book in."

The manager, a bit cowed, allowed "I didn't know your son was local. I'll get some books in."

Not quite satisfied, mom continued. "Oh, I don't mean just get some in. Next time I'm here, I expect to find a display where everyone can see it. Not just a few books hidden on a shelf."

And she left.

By golly, don't you know--within a few days, it was there. A SILENT COUNSEL display, and a call from Barnes & Noble asking me if I'd come in for a signing. (Manager says to me on the phone: "Uh, met your mother....")

I'm considering sending my mother on a national tour....

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