Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/12/2009 (2747 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hundreds of Winnipeg book lovers braved the cold Tuesday afternoon to have their fantasy come true -- a meeting with superstar author Neil Gaiman.
The prolific British-born writer of the Sandman comics, the hit animated film Coraline and such novels as American Gods and Neverwhere read from his work and signed books well into the night at McNally Robinson Polo Park, which had won a North American-wide contest to attract him here.
"He is one of the great storytellers for our generation," said Kyle Owens, 31, one of an estimated 600 fans who crammed into the bookseller's mall-basement location.
"He's got that English accent, and even though he lives in Minnesota now, he feels exotic."
Gaiman, 49, a multi-award-winner who moved to St. Paul from England in 1992, read for about 20 minutes from his recent children's novel Odd and the Frost Giants.
Then he answered a series of questions that his Winnipeg fans had submitted in advance, before settling down to give his right hand a serious signing workout.
The store's general manager, Alison Letourneau, said the event was the largest to date at McNally's new Polo Park location, which opened in April 2008.
Many of the store's gift-display areas were cordoned off, and no one was admitted who was not there to see Gaiman. Some fans, Letourneau said, had begun lining up at 9 a.m. that morning to obtain free admission tickets.
"We didn't do any advertising for this," Letourneau marvelled. "His fans did it themselves by spreading the word on the Internet."
Dressed all in black and with his curly black hair hanging over his ears, Gaiman looked like a cross between a young Mordecai Richler (the novelist) and a younger Ron Wood (the Rolling Stones guitarist).
Before reading, which he did with great panache, he told the crowd the story of how he came to be there.
Last spring, at the BookExpo America trade show in New York, he won an award for his youth novel The Graveyard Book from North American independent booksellers.
At the awards luncheon, he was deluged with requests for readings, so he invented a contest on the spot. He would appear at the store that held the best Halloween "graveyard party."
Forty stores in North America entered by submitting videos of their events. Unable to choose from 11 finalists, Gaiman ended up selecting two.
The other winner, The Little Shop of Stories in suburban Atlanta, hosted his reading Monday night to a reported 1,000 fans. He signed books until 1:15 a.m., according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
"I couldn't choose randomly," said Gaiman, who was here in the mid-1990s to sign his Mr. Punch comic book. "If I had chosen randomly, it wouldn't have been Winnipeg in December."
The McNally chain's senior inventory manager, Chris Hall, guessed that only wrestler Chris Jericho and the late fantasy writer Robert Jordan have attracted bigger crowds in Winnipeg.
Gaiman was certainly the largest literary celebrity to appear here since Indo-British novelist Salman Rushdie in October.
"(Gaiman) takes a unique and new look at ancient myths," said Mitchell McPherson, 23.