MIAMI BEACH, April 22 — My Sleuthfest 2007 kicked off last Thursday with an afternoon margarita, and climaxes now–Sunday–with a celebratory shot of tequila. I’m fuzzy on what happened in between, but Elke the Bartender just told me I met hundreds of fans and sold dozens of books. “Really?” I say. Elke leans forward over the counter to pour me another shot, says, “Screaming masses is what Barb said.” The sides of Elke’s blond pageboy fall to cover her cheeks. “Like the time Frank Sinatra was here.” You’d think I’d remember something like that. I definitely remember signing books for two very nice young women, so even if Barb or Elke exaggerate my numbers, this convention not only produced fun and education, Sleuthfest also racked up my personal record for book sales at live events. “Are you sure Barb didn’t say that line of fans was for Linda Fairstein?” I say. “Or Rene Balcer? Linda and Rene were the guests of honor, big big stars of the crime fiction world.” “Nope,” Elke says. “Barb claimed you were signing for an hour.” The surface of the golden tequila shimmers with reflections of the overhead party lights. I’m perched at the open-air, pool side bar of the Miami Beach Hotel and Spa, the old Doral on Collins Avenue. It’s warm, breezy, and very entertaining here with Elke. Even before you sit, it’s like going over to a friend’s. Verbal hugs. You meet interesting people at mixers like this. “Is that What’s His Name by the pool?” I say. Elke glances up from the sink. “Yup.” My favorite bartender seems to be pouring, chatting, blending, washing, taking drink orders, and yelling down waiters all at the same time. Elke may be the best barkeep I’ve ever seen. “That man doesn’t know it, but he’s helped me mucho with my marketing,” I say. “I should go over and introduce myself, thank him.” Silently mouthing the word mucho to me with her eyes squinted, Elke next says, “What marketing exactly was that?” I lean back, shocked and appalled. “What are you suggesting? That I spent too much time down here by the pool; missed too much of the fantastic program of writers, agents, and editors? Barb said I was great on the author panel this morning, right?” Elke says, “That’s true, honey, but remember Barb is…well, not exactly impartial.” “She’s very honest though.” Elke shrugs and simultaneously mixes two vodka tonics. A retired couple from Minnesota with three kids, eight grandchildren, and thirty-eight pure bred Alaskan huskies at home just sat down next to me. Elke has them doing their own introductions. “You should be meeting more people, Jack,” the newly retired huskie-breeder says. “I was in marketing for forty-two years. Senior Vice President for twenty. It’s all about branding.” Elke hands me a bill. Oops. Apparently, I’ve had enough for today. I must have crossed the line when I used the word mucho. Guess it’s time to fly home. Yes, definitely. There’s my wife Barb with the suitcases. I give Elke a big tip. Next, the 2007 Big Numbers World Tour heads for Arlington, Virginia and one of mysterydom’s biggest shows, Malice Domestic, home of the Agatha. I’ll have to mind my Ps and Qs, as my agent, publisher, and editor will all be in attendance. Glad you’re on the bus. Jack Getze.

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