Seventeen … the number so far of texts and emails from journalists wanting to know why they haven’t been invited to the launch party for Maya, my new novel published TODAY!!

Three … the number of others asking the same question.

The journalists are likely to think this is because I have so few friends.***(see note at bottom) More likely is that my real friends know I am not a launch party kind of person. And the ‘why haven’t I been invited’ stats comfirm me in my view that book launches tend to be events for the media, rather than events that might help get you good media for the book.

It doesn’t stop them being paranoid about missing something though. The Evening Standard have tried via my agent, my publisher, my charity, my party and my website to find out where this mystery event is being held.

So this morning I thought, let’s put them out of their misery, let’s have the launch party here, online, on the website, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever people want to hold it. Welcome to the virtual launch.

Here I go, I’m a bit late, a bit edgy but I’m arriving at the launch party … there’s someone from the publishers to meet me, oh God I’ve forgotten her name …

Hi, er … mwah, mwah.

‘Great turnout,’ she says. ‘Gail’s on her way.’

Mmmm. ‘Come on in …’

‘Have you met Cindy from the Times diary?’

‘Lovely cover,’ says Cindy. ‘Is it based on anyone you know? (subtle sexual innuendo in the word know?)

‘Er, no, not really.’

Man sidles up.

‘Hi, I’m from the Telegraph diary … great turnout … can I ask you about the sex scene?’

‘Alastair,’ says publisher person, looking over shoulder of Telegraph man. ‘Gail’s arrived.’ (Gail is uberpublisher, and young publisher person knows who boss is.)

‘Excuse me,’ I say to Telegraph prurient ‘Gail’s arrived.’

Mwah mwah. ‘Thank God you’re here,’ I say (Gail is old friend and knows how much I hate looking-over-shoulder type social events. ‘Just smile and be nice,’ she says. ‘Treat it like the dentist. It’ll soon be over and it won’t hurt when you’re home.’

‘Hey Gail,’ says man, loudly. Gail introduces him to me as visiting exec from US. Makes introduction. No mwah mwah. Manly handshake.

‘Love the cover Alastair,’ he says. ‘Very different to The Blair Years.’

‘Yes, it is. Different sort of book really.’

‘Can I leave you two to it?’ says Gail. ‘Ian’s arrived I think.’

‘What? Where are you going?’

Diarywriteralert beeps in rear of my brain. I turn.

‘Hiiiiiii,’ says pretty twentysomething in skimpy black cocktail dress. ‘Feel a bit overdressed, but going onto another doooo later.’

‘Which diary do you work for?’ I ask, pulling back slightly to avoid having to mwah mwah complete stranger.

‘How did you gueeeeess?’ she asks. ‘Wow, that is amazing.’

‘Kind of instinct. Trained observer you know … comes with writing novels I guess.’ Do my James Bond eyebrow raise.

‘Go on then, which paper, bet you can’t guess that?’

Standard I’d say.’

‘OMG that is unbelievable’ … giggle … flirtatious eye contact … ‘so tell me about Maya? Who is she, that’s what I reeeeally want to know?’

‘Alastair,’ says publisher person ‘do you think we can do some pictures?’

‘Yeah sure … excuse me. Got to do some pictures. You know how it is.’ Skimpy Standard girl does mock hurt. Eyebrow raise turns to wink. Castigate myself for flirting with someone less than half my age

‘Thought you needed rescuing,’ says publisher person.


Freebieloving-scroungeralert beeps in front of mind.

‘Al, how ya doin’ … not seen you since we were on the Mirror doing shifts together. Lot changed since then.’

(Vaguely) ‘Oh yeah. How are you?’

‘Any chance I can get a few signed copies, for old times sake maybe?’

‘Er, not sure what the deal is on getting copies.’

‘Speak to Vicki over there,’ says publisher person. ‘Freebie loving scrounging e-bastard,’ she adds, steering me to the photographer.

‘Do you want to say a few words?’ asks Gail.

‘Do you know what, I think I’d rather tweet’ …

And so I do …. Maya out today. FB/twitterfriends go Waterstone’s and make sure well displayed. Launch party at

Then I do a few mwah mwahs, evade the Mail on the way out (at least the publisher had not let them in) and jump in a cab for home.

Enjoy the book, those who get it.

* Meanwhile, thanks for the messages from those impressed with the quick delivery of The Blair Years. Remember it is 15 quid, with £7.50 going to the Labour party.

*** Need a bit of advice. I understand 5000 friends is the limit on Facebook. I am just short of that and have almost 1,000 outstanding friend requests. I think it looks a bit winky-wanky to set up a fan page, so what do I do?