BLOG POST: Meeting Ben Aaronovitch
A blog post from Louise, our ‘newest and youngest’ member of staff’.
Friday the 8th of April, 2022, was my first time working an event for Red Lion Books, and it was a biggie.
The first book in the Rivers of London series, aptly titled Rivers of London, came out when I was 11, so Ben Aaronovitch is a name I have heard for half of my life. Now, in 2022, eleven years later, book 9 of the series, Amongst our Weapons, was being released, and Red Lion Books was part of it. The event was an author talk, with Ben coming to Colchester and chatting away – he’s a marvellous speaker. When I first met Ben, he was lying on the floor, his legs resting on chairs as he stretched his back.
Jo introduced herself and me; ‘This is Louise; she’s our newest and youngest team member.’
‘Hello,’ I said.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Ben lifted his hand, ‘I’m normally more upright than this,’ he assured me.
The event started at 6pm, and we got to ask him questions and listen to his public declarations of love for Germany, where they had 8 varieties of bread available in the hotel breakfast bar.
‘And yet, some guests complained that there was a lack of variety – they wanted more.’ Ben chuckled as he recalled one of his trips to the country.
As I mentioned, Rivers of London has been around since I was 11. Yet, I had only just started reading it. While most people were getting their 9th book in the series signed, I was there clutching the titular first novel in paperback, practically vibrating with excitement.
Ben signed my book when the event was officially over, the guests had left, and it was just Ben, his publisher, me, and Jo remaining in the lobby of First Site. They were waiting for their taxi as Ben signed the remaining stock for the shop; when Ben signed them, Jo and I put them back on the trolley to take them to the shop. We chatted away as everyone did their job.
‘There are two kinds of people,‘ Ben said, ‘those who watch Silence of the Lambs for Hannibal Lecter and those who watch it for Clarice Starling – and I watch it for Clarice.‘
Maybe it’s the English Literature Student in me that analysing and symbolism are bordering on second nature, but Ben’s choice said a lot to me. Clarice Starling – Quiet, pensive, intelligent, and keeps her cards close to her chest as she plays the calm and collected cat and mouse game with Lecter.
Ben admitted he doesn’t enjoy much horror despite briefly voicing his interest in Silence of the Lambs.
‘When I’m writing, I try to avoid anything dark or nihilistic,’ he told me when I asked what other horrors he enjoyed, ‘I want something light when writing.’
‘If you like light and wholesome, I recommend Studio Ghibli movies – can’t get anything more wholesome than that.’
His eyes lit up at the animation studio’s name, and he knew what I meant.
‘Have you seen Porco Rosso?’ he asked me. At that moment, I hadn’t, but I’m watching it as I write this post and thoroughly enjoying it. The more he and I talked, his appreciation and interest in hand-drawn animation came through. I’d mention ones I had watched and appreciated, and he’d repeat their names quietly, under his breath, as though to remember them. Having written comics that take place in his Rivers of London Universe, it does surprise me that Ben would be interested in other artistic media – the role of a writer is to enjoy art in all forms.
He knew I was a new reader, still on book one, and was excited to talk to me about it. Most, if not all, guests had been followers of his work for a long time, and here I was at the beginning, only knowing a handful of information and characters. He got to see a fledgling fan before they evolved into a mature veteran of his work.
Every time I asked him a question, he paused, deeply thinking, before answering with consideration. I enjoyed the night because Ben treated every question from every reader with that same consideration – he thought about what he said before he said it. Every word he chose with a precise meaning, articulated to perfection, and even though he claimed he could keep a coherent train of thought, diverging onto an unrelated branch on the tree of conversation, there was still thought in his words, and it was impossible not to enjoy.
Louise Prior, April 2022