January 2007

The Magnificent Storyteller - John Jakes

Author: Paul deVere

Best-selling author John Jakes’ latest novel, The Gods of Newport, is a compelling story of greed and romance set during America’s “Gilded Age,” the three decades before the turn of the 20th Century. But the real story at Jakes’ book signing at Jump & Phil’s Bar and Grill in Hilton Head Plaza on the evening of November 28, was the fans. Hundreds lined the patio and walkways leading up to Jump & Phil’s to get Jakes to autograph their copies of the novel—a testament and tribute to Hilton Head Island’s popular author.

As a reminder of Jakes’ status in American letters, he was the first author to have three books on the New York Times bestseller list in one year (The Kent Family Chronicles); his Civil War trilogy, beginning with his book, North and South, was made into an ABC miniseries and remains one of the highest rated miniseries of all times; and he has had 16 consecutive best sellers on the New York Time’s list. In a recent review by the Los Angeles Times, Jakes was called, “the godfather of the historical novel.”

“This is our 14th book signing, and it’s just great,” said Phil Henry, co-owner of Jump and Phil’s, smiling as he looked over the hundreds of people filling his unpretentious pub. It was standing room only for the scheduled two-hour signing that stretched into three. Through it all, Jakes had a friendly word and smile for all who came to his spotlighted table.

Among the crowd was another New York Times best-selling author, Hilton Head’s John R. Maxim, best known as author of the Bannerman series of thrillers. Maxim wasn’t in line. He was in his regular seat, taking in the scene of his friend’s success. Maxim has also had signings at Jump and Phil’s, filling the place with his fans. So has writer Kathryn Wall, another Jump and Phil’s regular and author of the popular Bay Tanner mystery series.

When asked why Jump and Phil’s attracts authors like Jakes, Maxim and Wall, Phil replied laughing, “Well, we’re open late. But I guess it’s just the people here, long-time islanders.” And, when the night is not so frantic, it’s obviously a good place to tell stories.

John Jakes signs his newest book, The Gods of Newport , at Jump & Phil’s Bar & Grill.

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