Novel Tease

As a first-time novelist, it's hard enough for Marc Acito to get even mild props from the literary establishment, much less any sexual play from adoring fans as a result of his newfound success.

So don't blame the guy for being open to a little bedtime storytelling when Acito and four fellow authors hit the road for the six-city First Fiction 2004 Tour, which finishes up in Tempe on October 22.

"Groupies would be great! Offers of sexual favors would not be unwelcome," says Acito, a Portland, Oregon-based syndicated humor columnist (once called the "gay Dave Barry") and author of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater. "But I'm hesitant to even dare dream that we would get that kind of reaction. I'll be satisfied if [audiences] just buy my book."

But Acito shouldn't be surprised if he and first-time novelists Lorraine Adams, Jason Headley, Samantha Hunt, and Joshua Braff get the rock-star treatment, thanks to First Fiction organizer and Changing Hands Bookstore marketing manager Cindy Dach.

Not only has Dach, along with independent booksellers in L.A., Portland, Denver, Albuquerque and Austin, booked bars and nightclubs as reading venues -- including Monti's on Mill Avenue in Tempe -- she even got famed rock poster artist Mike King (who's created promo art and CD covers for Ben Harper, The Polyphonic Spree, and Built to Spill, among others) to design tour posters and drink coasters.

"I very much want a rock-star environment for the tour," Dach says. "It's interesting who everyone thinks is cool these days. Sports stars rape a thousand women and they're still cool. To me, why can't authors be cool?"

True, not all can be Charles Bukowski, revered for his brutal honesty, womanizing and hard drinking, or Hunter Thompson, whose legend is owed more so to his mind-altering drug experimentation, Dach argues, than the words he's written.

Hence, Dach is hoping to create a scene, where hipsters come out en force to mingle amongst themselves, sip cocktails (some clubs are creating drinks named after each of the touring authors), and, most important, get exposed to the literary arts.

"I think part of it is how do you go and have a good book reading experience? It's not always in the bookstore, sitting in a Samsonite chair, where there's a bunch of kids, and everyone's saying 'shh, shh,'" Dach says.

Expect Joshua Braff -- author of The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, and brother of Zach Braff, writer/director and star of Garden State -- to at least dress the part for the tour, if not completely transform himself into a glamour boy.

"I plan on choosing some different clothing than what I might wear to a traditional reading," Braff admits. "Each of us is still a nerdy bookworm. The tour won't change that. But the notion that we're going to a nightclub where people will come out and hear our art . . .it's like the aftermath of Russell Simmons [Def Poetry Jam], where spoken word continues to be a draw."

And like a Monsters of Rock tour, don't be surprised if the authors -- or at least Acito -- aren't trying to one-up their fellow first-timers.

"I am a little concerned that this might become the 'First Friction Tour'! There is that element of, 'Who's gonna rock the house tonight?'" Acito says with a laugh. "Seriously, I think this could become really huge in two or three years. Maybe they'll turn it into a reality show, where we vote off an author at the end of every week. Kind of like a 'Last Author Standing.'"

Being cool just isn't enough.

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Joe Watson