With its complex and fascinating history, hospitable people, and beautiful scenery, Turkey has always been one of my favorite countries to visit. So when I got an invitation from the Marti Publising Group to come to the Istanbul Book Fair, I was thrilled to accept. Marti, which means “seagull” in Turkish, has published a number of my thriller novels, and has the rights to my earlier romantic suspense novels as well. The Book Fair coincided with the Turkish release of “Under The Knife,” (a romantic thriller originally published by Harlequin Intrigue). With a new book in the shops, I was hoping that at least a few of my Turkish readers would come to the signings.

Way more than “a few” showed up!

I realized this was going to be a visit unlike any other when I saw the group of fans waiting for me at the airport, all wearing Tess Gerritsen tee shirts, and ready with a gorgeous bouquet.

From there, we headed straight to the D&R bookshop in Cevahir mall, where a long line was waiting for me, and I signed for two straight hours, without letup:

And that was just the first day. Every day that followed was equally as surprising, with larger crowds of readers (several times in the hundreds) than I’ve ever seen at any U.S. event. The Istanbul Book Fair is a huge event, drawing crowds of 500,000 during its one-week run.

Here’s the line waiting for me at the first day of the Book Fair:

Here’s the line waiting for me at the Inkilap bookstore in the Metrocity Mall.

And believe it or not, here’s the line waiting for my SECOND signing day at the book fair. We had thought the crowd would be smaller, since I’d already signed there once. But it was even larger, and I signed for three straight hours:

These were wonderfully welcoming readers, who brought gifts and hugs and heartfelt joy. Even when they had to wait hours in line. Some of my most ardent fans were invited by Marti to a special dinner at the lovely Papalina fish restaurant, where I found out that many of them are aspiring authors, including one young man who’s already written 600 pages of his first novel. Afterwards, we posed for a photo with the Marti team:

And I had a fun chat with the Marti president Atif Ermis (directly on my right), and his very good friend Firat. Atif started the company after working for many years in the cruise ship business, and he’s a hands-on publisher who manned his own company’s booth at the fair, selling books and offering reader recommendations.

The book business in Turkey seems to be fueled by female readers, as it is in most other countries. Most of my fans everywhere are women, but what’s strikingly different about my Turkish readers is how young they are. Many were high school or college students or young women in their twenties. And they buy real books. E-readers haven’t yet made inroads in Turkey, and Turks will probably sample e-books by reading on their iPhones or iPads. Amazon is expected to arrive in Turkey about three years from now, so online bookselling will certainly boom. Already there is a Turkish online bookseller called Okuoku (owned by Marti) and its sales are growing.

I spent a few hours signing books for Okuoku, so that online customers who couldn’t make it to my events could order a signed copy. In just a few hours, I signed 500 books!

Along with booksignings, there were also media events. I was interviewed by two Turkish television stations, and had a really fun photo shoot and interview with journalist Ozlem Yurtcu, who conceived this cool photographic theme around Agatha Christie, who lived for a while in Istanbul. So we met at the historic Pera Palace, where I rode the first elevator ever installed in the city:

Posed in the “Agatha Christie” Room (411), where Agatha herself stayed on her visits (photo courtesy of Adnan Gul):

And had a little fun with Ozlem as we played noir medical characters:

The city of Istanbul itself, as always, amazed me. With close to twenty million inhabitants, it’s quickly outgrown its highway system, so we spent a great deal of time in the car, stuck in traffic. But that gave me a chance to look at the scenery, which is always fascinating — from the moment when I got up in my hotel room and saw this view of the Marmara Sea from my window…

… til the evening, when I was able to climb the historic Galata Tower (oldest tower in the world open to tourists) to see a nighttime glimpse of the city.

I visited the Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosporus, home of the old sultans, where you can see the apartments of the Sultan’s wives and favorites.

Here too is the room where the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, died. The clock over the bed is frozen at 9:05, the time of his death. I noticed that several clocks in Istanbul are frozen at that precise time, to honor Ataturk. When you enter the palace, you may see guards marching past, and I managed to sneak in front of them for a photo:

On my free day, my publicist Kerem took me to the spice market, where I of course purchased some Turkish Delight for my husband, plus a powder called “Sahlep”, made from the ground bulbs of orchids. You add it to hot milk and sprinkle with cinnamon, and it’s the most luscious and warming drink on a winter’s day. Better than hot chocolate!

Here’s Kerem, who so kindly escorted me throughout the week, standing outside the spice market:

And of course there was the food. I was treated to a series of delicious meals by Marti, by my Turkish literary agents, and by my other publisher, Dogan. Turkish meals often start with an array of mezes. Here I am at the Cumhuriyet Restaurant in Beyoglu, with my translator Cumhur, trying to pick which delicacies to eat.

I saw tempting foods everywhere, from cheeses to arrays of fresh fish, to this pretty display of marzipan fruit in a candy shop:

But the best part about Turkey is the people. Whatever your vision of what a “Turk” looks like, there’s no way to stereotype them. Some are blonde and blue-eyed, some are dark or Asian. Some wear head scarves, some wear mini-skirts and high heels. Walk through an Istanbul shopping mall, and you’ll feel like you’re seeing the whole world’s variety under one roof. And you’ll see astonishingly gorgeous women and strikingly handsome men. I had conversations with Muslims, Christians, and agnostics. What Turks do have in common is they are friendly, welcoming, and very, very proud of their country.

5 replies
  1. techiebabe
    techiebabe says:

    Good for you doing all that signing – your wrist must have ached after so long. It’s great that you are there for your fans. I liked the mini travelogue too – now I know why you tweeted about the wonderful welcome you enjoyed! What a fun trip.

  2. pirharun
    pirharun says:

    If visiting Istanbul and residing near Sultanahmet then you will be hounded by several tour guides offering you a hop-on hop-off tour of the Bhosphorus. I strongly recommend arranging tours through your hotel with I opted for the full day tour of the Bosphorus (on a boat) and Dolmabahce Palace Package Bear in mind that Dolmabahce Palace is closed on Monday and Thursday, and you cannot enter the palace without a guide.

    The agency will collect you from your hotel in the morning and you will be taken on a slow private boat cruise through the Golden Horn and along the Bosphorus. This is an amazing experience which enables you to take in the Ottoman architecture (including Topakapi Palace), the old city and the new city from a wonderful angle, and because the cruise begins at the Golden Horn you can view the entire peninsula and see Istanbul properly (utterly breathtaking). Additionally, a guide will explain all the buildings and their significance throughout which adds that little bit more. The cruise is followed by a drive and short walk towards Pierre Loti Hill and a cable car ride down the hill so you can view Istanbuls real skyline and amazing beauty. Subsequently, you are given a three-course meal (covered in the price of the tour) and en-route to lunch you will pass Constantinople’s city walls which guidance throughout. Post-lunch you will spend 2.5 hours going through the Palace. The Palace is huge and not all rooms are open to view, but the tour takes your through the main quarters and each aspect is explained. You cannot take pictures inside the palace but the gardens are beautiful and you will have ample oppurtunity to snap away outside the garden. Finally, the tour drives you over the famous Bosphorus Bridge taking you from Europe into Asia and leading you towards Camlica Hill (highest peak in Istanbul). The view here is beyond description and you will be in utter amazement.

    The best thing about the experience was having a tour guide who was passionate about his history and culture.

  3. billur
    billur says:


    I appreciate that you’re making us feel so proud with your comments about our country and our people. When i first recognized your books, i found out that you’ve already visited Turkey and you’re very well known and loved. And, you’ll always will be. Take care, we need you in the world 🙂

  4. deniz
    deniz says:

    I’m sorry I wish I was there. I didnt hear that you came turkey. I’d be coming from Antalya to Istanbul. I happy you love istanbul. I like your books so I like you and you like my country. This situation makes me happy.

    Book fair held in Antalya for 2 years. You should came this fair 🙂
    I wish you continued success

    NoT: My English is not very good

    Have a nice day

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