Standing behind Rum Curious stacks and Plantation Rum, I observed a line wrap around Quarto’s book trailer. They carried bags, wore Book Expo America badges, and all took in the waft of rum entering tiny plastic cups. “Oh, that smells so good,” one said, “I love rum.”
I was signing my new book to booksellers, publishers, agents, authors and librarians. All industries have big trade shows. The American book world’s most important is BEA’s, and it’s an honor to sign books in the same hall as Hillary Clinton, Neil Patrick Harris and John Grisham, among others. Here, authors hope to make an impression with the decision makers at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and other big players in the book business.
Last year, Quarto brought me in to promote Bourbon, but the rum crowd was twice the size. Why? I would soon find out.
I poured Plantation Jamaican 2002 and Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple, and one by one they took their cups and signed books, while asking questions: “Did you mention Jamaica? Because if you didn’t, then, it’s not a real rum book.” (Of course, I did.) “Why did you go from bourbon to rum?” (I love rum, and its history interests me.) “Rum is okay, but I’m a whiskey gal. Do you like whiskey?” (Yes). “Can you pour me another one?” (Hmmm….) “Hey, that is good. Mind if I have another?” (Ummmm…) “Cuba? Is it happening?” (Who can say? But I hope so.) “Can I have three books?” (Sure.) And on, and on, and on.
I interacted with more than 200 people at the booth and noticed a commonality: librarians. While I visited with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and noted independent booksellers, the line was filled with children, adult, public and private schools, college and government librarians, who chose my book signing over much bigger authors than me. They each thanked me for writing the book, as if they had been yearning for a rum tasting guide to follow Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Only a handful of librarians visited my bourbon tasting last year. So why rum?
Rum is storied in literature. While bourbon has its moments, Ernest Hemingway has his own rum cocktail, and rum is a central theme in most pirate books. Both Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary and Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch also spawn rum-reading fandom.
Did their rum cravings begin with a pirate mystery or Hemingway biography? Who knows?
All I know, for one hour, librarian after librarian waited in a long line just for Rum Curious and a sip of rum. It kind of makes a fella wonder: Will they start keeping rum in the library?
Photos by Mary Aarons of Quarto