Local

Author Pat Conroy draws a crowd at Beaufort book signing

Cynthia Johnson, right, of Hilton Head Island, is all smiles after chatting with author Pat Conroy, left, as he signed copies of his new book, "South of Broad," on Saturday at Bay Street Trading Co. in Beaufort.
Cynthia Johnson, right, of Hilton Head Island, is all smiles after chatting with author Pat Conroy, left, as he signed copies of his new book, "South of Broad," on Saturday at Bay Street Trading Co. in Beaufort.

Some came carrying not-yet-opened copies of the newest novel.

Other had of well-worn copies of their favorites tucked under their arms.

They were among the hundreds who lined Bay Street to give novelist Pat Conroy something of a homecoming Saturday afternoon.

Conroy, 63, who lives on Fripp Island with his wife, novelist Cassandra King, was in Beaufort on Saturday for a three-hour book signing at Bay Street Trading Company to promote the release of "South of Broad," his ninth book and first novel in seven years. The book hit shelves Aug. 11.

People began queueing up outside the shop at about 9 a.m. Less than an hour before the scheduled 1 p.m. start of the signing, the line had snaked down a small stretch of Bay Street and down an alley toward Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

After missing a signing two days earlier at a Barnes and Noble in her hometown, Charlotte John of Mount Pleasant was determined to add a signed edition of "South of Broad" to her library Saturday.

"There's something about (Conroy's) books that so perfectly capture the spirit of our area," Johns said. "This author and these books are a local treasure."

Conroy's visit to Bay Street Trading Company has become something of a tradition, said the shop's owner, Lisa Estes.

Estes said the author, who first came to Beaufort County to teach English on Daufuskie Island after graduating from The Citadel, has hosted a signing at the store after the release of each of his nine books.

"I'm lucky to have a part of that legacy with this store," said Estes, who has owned the 30-year-old shop for about three years. Conroy was also in the store last week to pre-sign more than 1,000 copies of his newest work, she said.

Anticipating a large turnout Saturday, Estes ordered more than 600 additional copies of "South of Broad," and employed a legion of T-shirt clad, line stand-ins to temporarily relieve those who needed it.

"We have some line waiters here so if someone wants to go get a drink, use the restroom or shop on Bay, they can do that and not lose their place in line," Estes said.

Saturday's book signing capped off a week in which Beaufort celebrated its adopted native son.

In celebration of the release of "South of Broad," the Beaufort Historical Foundation hosted a free 30th anniversary screening Thursday night of "The Great Santini," the 1979 film starring Robert Duvall. The movie was based on Conroy's third book. The screening kicked off the foundation's new Movies in the Park series, sponsored by Main Street Beaufort.

It was also announced this week that Conroy will be presented with the Jean Ribaut Award for Outstanding and Inspiring Original Material for Film at the Beaufort International Film Fesitval in February. Four of his books have become feature films, some of which were filmed in the area.

Across the street Saturday from the Bay Street Trading Company, actor Michael O'Keefe, who portrayed Ben Meechum, Conroy's fictional counterpart in "Santini," signed copies of the book and the DVD at the Verdier House.

Michael Browne of Beaufort said the weekend's festivities were a fitting tribute to Conroy and his work.

"The guy's done an awful lot for our area and for the entire Lowcountry," Browne said as he waited in line Saturday.

  Comments