where the writers are
Putting a Choke Hold on BEA

Suzanne Kleid is invincible. She writes for McSweeny’s and blogs about lit on Bay Area PBS Station KQED’s website. She has a day job slinging books. Seeing her selling Bukowski to British tourists, you wouldn’t think that she was one badassed SOB, but she is. At Book Expo America last weekend, I, Count Dante, The Deadliest Man Alive no less, applied a devastating chokehold to her and look... She laughs—not even fazed by the expertly applied submission! She’s no-selling the move just like The Undertaker!

Count Dante's most dangerous hold is no match for Suzanne Kleid, bookseller.

I was in LA for Book Expo America last weekend. I stood at the ECW Press booth at the LA Convention Center in full Dante drag on Saturday morning and applied chokeholds and full nelsons to bewildered booksellers and hapless librarians. You can see several pics of my path of destruction by clicking here for ECW’s Picasa gallery of the event. But after terrorizing all those who dared to stray through the Independent Publisher’s Group (my book’s distributor) section of the convention, the tables were turned on me by Claire Thompson of Turnaround Publishing Services, who cranked on this extremely painful arm bar on yours truly...

That's gotta hurt!

After I was done hawking Beer, Blood and Cornmeal to the entire North American literary community, I surrendered the ECW booth to Edward Winterhalder, celebrity biker and author of The Assimilation from ECW Press. Winterhalder had the most amazing pitch line ever. "Do you know any Harley riders?" he'd ask every book dealer who passed by. "Do you want to make them owe you for the rest of their lives?" This line worked every time. He just had the charisma. He drew people to him and gave away every last one of his books while me, with all of my expert grappling, only managed to move about half of mine. Winterhalder's got the hustle. You (and I) could really learn a lot from him. I was in awe.

BEA also gave me the chance to finally meet some people from ECW Press who, up until now, have only been voices on the phone. I got to hang out with Simon Ware, ECW Press Publicity Director, who's done a smash up job handling BBAC's media relations. I also met ECW co-publisher Jack David, who really did a lot for me by giving the green light to my weird wrestling memoir. If I didn't say it enough times this weekend, thanks Jack. Here's a shot of me, Winterhalder and Ware. One is a biker from Oklahoma and the other's a literary publicist from Canada. Can you guess which one?

One of these guys works at a publishing house.

After standing around and meeting book people all day, I strolled over to the Pantry on 9th and Figueroa for an open-faced beef sandwich. This was the same sandwich that I ate at 3am the morning before getting my ass handed to me in the only Gracie Jiu-Jitsu tournament I ever entered. What was I thinking. That Pantry sure makes a good gravy smothered beef sandwich though. It's worth the agony of defeat, but on Saturday it just tasted like... Victory.

8 Comment count
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Okay, Love the shots

Seems like you had more fun than I did at BEA--and I mean lots more.  Great post!

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Thanks Jessica! I'm just taking everything I learned about working crowds from seven years of strange wrestling and applying the hard fought wisdom to publishing. You seem to be with the consensus though -- "Quill and Quire" put up a little post about the ECW booth on their website titled "ECW + BEA = LOL" that includes some pics of me choking out Canadian literary types.

As for BEA, when are they going to hold it in SF at Moscone? I think it would be a great venue for it.

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Carry your BEA ruse into the arena!

Hey! You and Claire Thompson look brutally authenic in your action photo together. As a pair, you might go over big with the WWF.  The "Literary Tag Team" from Hell!  After every match you'd easily sell hundreds of autographed copies of "Blood & Cornmeal" to ecstatic fans.

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bea tag teams

I don't know. I see Thompson and Kleid double teaming and laying me out backstage just as Monday Night RAW is beginning.

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Bob David, I wrestled . . .

. . . for years in high school and college, and there were easy counters for the first two photos. Suzanne Kleid, if she'd done a knee drop (her knee) and leg lift (your leg), she could have taken you out. On the ``That's gotta hurt,'' your best move would have been to turn into your female assailant. It doesn't work, you're out no more than a broken arm. Or broken date.

By the way, the list of wrestlers that became writers is formidable. A few off the top of my head: David Mamet (still works out), Ken Kesey (just missed making the Olympics), and John Irving, who writes about his wrestling in The Imaginary Girlfriend.

Now if only life had as many easy ``counter moves'' as wrestling.

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It would have been easier for Suzanne to just drop her center of gravity below mine, grab the forearm that's around her neck and judo throw me before I could fully apply the choke hold.

Mamet just made that mixed martial arts movie red belt that I really want to see. My first book writing project was co-authoring (credited ghostwriting really) "Judo" Gene LeBell's autobiography "The Godfather of Grappling." Gene was a two time national judo champ in the 50s, a Hollywood stuntman and has more recently trained some successful UFC fighters. He met Mamet on the set of "The Shield" one day while Mamet was writing red belt. I really need to see that movie (did I say that already?).

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The judo moves does seem . . .

. . . more effective. I met Mamet at a San Francisco art opening and we talked wrestling. When people moved in and I moved off, he yelled after, ``Do you still wrestle?'' I think that's the forever question of athletes. Do writers get, ``Do you still write?''

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Do you still wrestle?

Since I've been promoting Beer, Blood and Cornmeal, people at book signings have been asking when I'm doing Incredibly Strange Wrestling again. "Well," I say, drawing out the word, "since I've gone and written this book, I doubt they'd have me back." People usually nod with a "no shit" look on their face after I tell them that.