Well, I’m happy to say she loved it, and emailed me that she’d be calling from the UK to talk further. I missed her first call, so she ended up chatting with my wife about music and the topic of freedom of expression, among other things. (Maria said she was delightful.) She said she’d try me again later in the week, and sure enough, as I was sitting at the dinner table with a mouthful of eggplant parm, she called again. “It’s her! It’s John’s sister!” Maria said, and I spit out my food and got on the phone.
Mrs. Baird repeated that she loved the story, having read it in one long sitting as her assistant brought her cups of coffee, in her office in Liverpool, where she runs Cavern City Tours (she was a special ed teacher for many years in her previous career, which could be one reason for her being so kind to me). She said the themes of the book came through strongly, and that my historical accuracy was spot-on. We talked about my lifelong interest in the Beatles (she and John were just as passionate about Elvis and the early black rock and roll singers). The whole time I kept telling myself I can’t believe I’m having a normal chat with John Lennon’s sister! So I was on cloud 9, until some 30 minutes later, when she closed with, “I just hope the powerful title/cover image you went with doesn’t discourage people from reading this story. You know, Paul, your goal is, after all, to sell books.” [I should mention here that she has written a book about her brother called Imagine This, which was later made into the movie Nowhere Boy, so she knows what she’s talking about.]
And so, after a somewhat sleepless night, I awoke with the idea of changing the title/cover, and emailed Julia to tell her. She said that was wonderful, and offered to have me bounce ideas off her. So began a week’s worth of correspondence. Finally, I hit on 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story, and she said, “Eureka!” My sister Carol Young, who created the original cover, did the alteration to the design; my formatter, Judi Fennell, adjusted the text; I obtained a new ISBN, and we were in business. Amazon has pulled the first book (except for used copies on the secondary market), and the new one will take its place. And Julia Baird, who graciously sent me an autographed copy of her book, said she’d be passing along a copy of 30 Minutes in Memphis to her friend, Sir Paul. Wow.
So, what does this all mean? Well, as Julia reminded me, people DO judge a book by its cover (or title). Of course, I’ll be making this a teachable moment with my students. For those of you who own a copy of The Beatles Must Die, I guess you have a limited edition book. And for those of you who haven’t read it yet, I don’t think you need any more of an endorsement than the one from the person whose brother is on the cover.