People who scribble in books usually fall into one of two categories: authors or toddlers.
This tale is about a lesser-known third category—and it is a cautionary tale. Booksellers beware.
Once upon 2005, I went into a Barnes & Noble in New York to see if they had any of my books. To my surprise, they did, and I asked a bookseller if I could sign them. He asked me for ID.
Authors regularly walk into stores unannounced and ask to sign stock. Most of those authors, including me, are unrecognizable to the general public. Yet that was the first time a bookseller wanted me to prove I was the person I said I was.
Every previous time, I'd wondered why the bookseller didn't.
This time, I asked why he did.
He said he didn't used to. Once, however, the author of a successful mass-market paperback series strolled in and got instant permission to sign all copies of his books that the store carried—all 150 copies. (Other authors—I'll wait a moment while you dream of a store carrying that many copies of your books.)
Only after that author left did the store determine that he was not, in fact, the author.
His prank had ruined 150 books. His crime was identity theft. His weapon was a Sharpie.
And he's still out there.