Grady Hendrix Knows “How to Sell a Haunted House!”

I was never interested in attending a book signing until I learned Grady Hendrix was coming to Chicago. It was five years ago that his book, “Paperbacks from Hell,” rekindled my love of ’80s pulp and has had me scouring the shelves of local thrift stores and used bookstores ever since. I’ve also enjoyed his own works of horror fiction which include “My Best Friend’s Exorcism,” “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires,” and “The Final Girls Support Group.” Hendrix’s books are often more humourous than frightening but his knowledge of horror tropes is undeniable and makes for a fun read nonetheless.  I had heard that his promotional book tours were every bit as colorful as he was and quickly reserved a space on the Exile in Bookville website. 

My daughter, Jade, and I met up at the train station near our apartments and headed up to the city. As a suburbanite who quickly loses his bearings upon entering city limits, I was grateful our destination was right outside the Van Buren station. Exile in Bookville is located on the second floor of the historic Fine Arts Building – a structure that boasts the only remaining manually operated elevator in Chicago. Hendrix’s appearance was one of their “Authors on Tap” events; bringing in top-name writers while offering free beer to their thirsty guests. As we entered, the elevator man took us to the signing which was a few floors above the actual bookstore. I was disappointed not to be able to peruse the shop but, since it was so easy to get to, we promised ourselves a return trip soon. 

Although the event was free, you did have to RSVP before they ran out of space and it “sold out” – which it did. Fortunately, I subscribe to Hendrix’s newsletter and learned of this appearance far enough in advance to secure our spots. You also had the option of preordering Hendrix’s new book, “How to Sell a Haunted House,” and having it ready for you upon your arrival. I did not know this meant they’d also be pre-signed by Hendrix but more on that later.

The room was a small auditorium with a stage and chairs for the audience. On stage was a podium as well as a screen for Hendrix’s slideshow; something featured at all of Hendrix’s appearances.  In the back of the room, there was a table set up with copies of his new book as well as his previous works in paperback. I was not aware that Hendrix would sign three books per person and immediately bought an additional copy of “Paperbacks from Hell” for him to sign. I should note that if you had something pre-ordered and signed like I did, you could get three additional books signed in person. I would have purchased more of his books to do this but they were all paperback and prefer hardcover to display in my home library. 

While everyone was getting situated, one of “Exile in Bookville’s” owners, Javier Ramirez, passed out free cans of ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. He then distributed books to those of us who had pre-ordered.

That’s when I learned they had already been signed. Since I had ordered the books, one copy was personalized to me and the other was just signed. Of course, when I say “just signed” that has a whole different meaning with Grady Hendrix who not only writes funny things but also uses ink stamps for further comedic effect. In the case of my book, the stamp featured a mythical elf or dwarf. Since reading the book, I’m guessing the dwarf is a stand-in for something else but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

Hendrix took the stage and gave an incredible presentation that was the perfect blend of humor, history, and sentimentality. It went nearly a full hour but the time flew by. When it was over, we all anxiously got in line to meet him.

When it was finally my turn, I told him how much I enjoyed “Paperbacks from Hell” and he said he was trying to get a sequel made (which would be fantastic). I told him I really enjoyed his newsletters which always feature an ’80s horror paperback along with his hilarious synopsis. He said he was relieved to hear someone was actually reading them. He told Jade she had a great name and then turned to me and said, “I really should be complimenting you for that since you named her.”

With little time left, we thanked him again and ran to catch our train home. It was an amazing experience and I will definitely do this again…and with my good camera.

As for the book, it was great but not my favorite of Hendrix’s books. That will always and forever be “Paperbacks from Hell” which, in the five-plus years since I’ve read it, has seen my collection of rare vintage horror paperbacks go from a small handful to nearly 400 as of this date. I gave my old copy to my daughter and replaced its vacant spot on my shelf with this newly signed copy.




4 thoughts on “Grady Hendrix Knows “How to Sell a Haunted House!”

  1. And cake was iced with a PBR. Looks like this was a lot of fun, like a good meet and greet enriched the actual reading of the book.

    In response to the PBR jingle, “What’ll you have?” Looks like the answer was, a PBR and an excellent journey.

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