The small mob descended on Monty's Garden, an Italian restaurant in downtown Leominster. The guests all shared a love of books: most of the crowd sold them; one man wrote them.
R.A. Salvatore, fantasy author and Leominster resident, treated the six employees of the Searstown Waldenbooks store to dinner. The staff had won a contest held this summer to see which Waldenbooks in the region could sell the most copies of Salvatore's recent DemonWar book.
"I didn't think you guys had a chance," Salvatore said, a brawny arm reaching for the calamari. Many people in Leominster know Salvatore from Little League games, his days teaching at Leominster High, and other activities, and get the books from him. Salvatore's large, extended family has been known to sneak into his house when he's not home and print his books before they've been sent to the publisher.
Why should the locals buy books they can get free from the author?
As the evening wore on, it became apparent that this was not R.A. Salvatore, author of over two dozen books of fantastic tales and worlds. The gentleman enjoying a meal with his wife and some fellow fantasy fans was Bob Salvatore: father, husband, daydreamer.
The topics of conversation were often unrelated to Salvatore's books. When quizzed about his opinions on recent movies, he offered high praise for Sixth Sense, American History X, and The Mask of Zorro. Due to contractual obligations related to his new book, Salvatore declined to comment on The Phantom Menace.
What about his taste for literature? When people are reading Salvatore's books, what is Salvatore reading? "I don't read anymore," he lamented. "It affects my writing style. I read Hemingway, and all my sentences get short."
Salvatore also spoke on some issues related to his profession. He expressed concern about the recent buy-out of Wizards of the Coast (the publisher of his Dark Elf books) by Hasbro, joking about a fight between his popular character Drizzt Do'Urden and G.I. Joe.
He spoke highly of the Seven Swords, his original gaming group and now an online company (www.sevenswords.com). Through the web site, surfers can order artwork and t-shirts of Salvatore's characters, and signed copies of books by Salvatore, Terry Brooks, and other fantasy authors.
It finally came time to order dessert. "Can I have coffee, but in a tea cup?" Bob requested, noting with disdain the glass mugs the other diners had.
A tea cup?
"I can't drink coffee if I can see it through the cup," Bob explained as his drink was delivered in an opaque container.
The waiter returned shortly with news that only two of the three orders of chocolate mousse could be filled. Salvatore offered his mousse to his guests, but the booksellers quickly insisted on seeing the New York Times best-selling author get his just desserts.