by Melinda Gallo

Magdalen Nabb at McRae Bookstore

When I went to the McRae bookstore last week to pick up a book on Munich before going, I received a flyer, indicating that Magdalen Nabb was going to be there. I hadn't heard of her before, but I was eager to meet a British murder mystery writer who lives in Florence. I know that there are many writers who live here even though there aren't any writing groups that I've heard about.

When I arrived at the bookstore a little before 6PM, I browsed through some of her books. I figured that I had time since I was early. I didn't imagine them starting before 6:15. There were a few other people in the bookstore waiting for her to arrive.

We were told to go upstairs to a room where Ms. Nabb would be speaking. I hadn't been to see an author in quite some time and generally, there were big crowds involved.

I sat down in the 20 available seats and watched Ms. Nabb with great curiosity. "Hecklers!" she yelled at a few people who came up the steps. In the end, almost everyone in the room knew her quite well. I was probably one of about five strangers to her.

She said that she never reads her books, which was good because I've never had much interest in that. She took us on a walk of Florence that started in Piazza della Signoria. I found myself following the guided tour with the interest of a 1st grader. I felt as if I were in another world. She spoke of many old Florentine families, feuds, love, loss, and revenge. It was interesting to hear about a historical side of Florence that I know nothing about.

I was even more interested in reading her books after listening to her speak. I ended up picking one of her many books (her latest novel called, "The Innocent") and stood behind two people who were speaking to Ms. Nabb for a few minutes. I felt almost embarrassed to ask her to sign it, but I figured that I would kick myself if I didn't.

When it was my turn, after a woman told Ms. Nabb that I was patiently waiting for an autograph, she said, "Would you like me to write your name?" A bit stunned, I said, "However you'd like." I didn't want to tell her what to write to me and I was hoping for a little more sincerity. I know my mom met an author once and told her that she was going to send me the book when I was living in France and she wrote a brief, but sweet message to me. I was very touched.

I blurted out my first name to her and she wrote, "Best Wishes to Melinda" and signed it. Before she finished, I asked her how long she'd been living in Florence and she responded, "Thirty years." A silence fell between us until she told me to blow on the page to dry the ink. I took my book and went downstairs to pay for it.

I left feeling a bit disappointed in myself for having had thoughts that we would be able to have a brief conversation. I was, however, happy to have bought one of her books, which is a genre I generally don't read. I'm looking forward to reading it and seeing what bits and pieces of Florentine culture I'll learn about.

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