This is an old story, from the days of my first book, back in the ’90s, but you may not have heard it.
Twice a year, members of Sisters in Crime of Northern California host a “showcase” where we’re invited to read from our newly published work. One after the other, usually about 8 or 9 of us at any given event, stand behind the podium and read a selected passage. Maybe the first chapter, maybe a particularly funny or gripping section from the middle. We have 5 minutes.
Question: How many typos can you expect to find in an already printed book in 5 minutes?
Answer: I don’t know, and I certainly don’t want to find out.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, I never read from my latest release, or any book of mine that’s been published. I know I couldn’t stand it if I came across a typo and could do nothing about it. In fact, I never even open my books once they’re published. Call it Typophobia.
At the showcases, I read from a Work in Progress – that way if there’s a typo or an awkward phrase, I can fix it on the next draft.
I guess it serves me right that one day at a signing, I came across the WBT—the World’s Biggest Typo in one of my books.
A woman bought a copy of “The Hydrogen Murder,” in hardback, from the bookseller and brought it to the table for me to sign. At least, on the outside, it looked like “The Hydrogen Murder.” The wrap-around paper cover was right, the flap copy and photo were correct.
I opened the book, ready to pen my name. But something was off. What was Simon & Schuster’s logo doing on the first page? Avalon was my publisher at the time.
I kept going, flipping pages, gasping as I went. The printer (or someone!) had put the entire text of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″ between the covers of my book. I removed the paper cover and saw that the printing on the hardback spine was correct for “The Hydrogen Murder.” In the photo, you might be able to make out the flap copy (mine) on one side, and the title page (Bradbury’s) on the other.
I’m sorry to tell you that there is no resolution here—the bookseller had no idea where she’d gotten the book; no other book in her stock of Hydrogen Murders was like this one. I did, of course, keep the book, making sure the purchaser’s money was refunded. It remains in my inventory as one of a kind.
I’ve often wondered if the great Ray Bradbury ever opened one of his copies of “Fahrenheit 451″ and found “The Hydrogen Murder,” by Camille Minichino.
If so, it might not have fazed him—after all, he wrote sci fi.
Can you top that for a typo? I’m willing to relinquish my title to the WBT for a good story.