BLOCKBUSTING The Burlington Barnes & Noble hired a police detail and took on 30 extra staff for the Martin event.
Thirty minutes before was due to arrive at Brookline Booksmith last Tuesday afternoon, events director Evan Perriello lugged 150 copies of A Dance with Dragons to the basement. He removed the books from their cases and folded their front flaps over a carefully shaded map of the fictional continent of Westeros. He lined up a handful of Pilot G2s and a box of Sharpies on a gray plastic table, then waited for the biggest novelist in the world to show up.
Martin arrived in Boston that Tuesday for the first stop on a 10-city book tour for A Dance with Dragons, published that day. As Perriello was laying out the Sharpies, Martin was sitting in the WGBH studios, fielding questions from Tom Ashbrook and the listeners of On Point. Later that night, after two top-secret stock signings at the Booksmith and Harvard Book Store, he would make an official appearance at the Burlington Barnes & Noble before darting off to New York.
Thanks to the exposure from the HBO series Game of Thrones and its concomitant, perpetual reruns of Martin's behind-the-scenes commentary, most any fan who happened upon the author couldn't help but recognize him. When he appeared on the stairs of the Booksmith just after noon, his white beard gave him away — as did his glasses, flat cap, and black jeans. Trailing him were David Moench, the New York–based head of his 30-person Random House publicity team, Lynn Cannici, the ace author escort, and two of the publisher's local sales representatives.
Once Martin was safely ensconced at the signing table, the coterie formed a production line. Ron Koltnow, one of the reps, stood at the helm, passing off books to Cannici, who held them open for Martin to sign. As soon as Marin finished, Moench grabbed the books and handed them to Perriello, who placed them on a waiting cart. Working in this manner, they dispatched the formidable stack in around 30 minutes.
"This is the biggest book I've ever worked on," Moench said. He's not talking about size — but at 1040 pages and more than three-pounds, A Dance with Dragons rivals Infinite Jest in this respect. Although other authors in Moench's division include heads of state, movie stars, and the comedian and plastic-surgery advocate Kathy Griffin, Martin outstrips them all.
"A Song of Ice and Fire," Martin's bestselling series, had already become a sensation when its fourth installment, A Feast for Crows, came out in 2005. In the intervening years, Martin's readers grew restless waiting for its sequel. A few months ago, the New Yorker reported on the complicated relationship Martin has developed with his fans, some of whom had spent an untoward amount of time haunting message boards speculating what would happen in A Dance with Dragons, and on what might have caused the delay. Last week, Amazon's German division rent the hearts of eager fans when it leaked more than a hundred copies of the book. In a blog post, Martin called for the beheading of those responsible. Soon, the Internet was awash with spoilers, and public anticipation stoked to a frenzy.