But as we got closer, he fingered the fabric and said dismissively, “Oh, that would wear really badly.” A striking chair in a delicate deep blue fabric was also rejected for practical reasons: “I have dogs, so that’s not happening.”
Another shopper stood and stared. “Didn’t I just see you on TV two hours ago?” he said as Mr. Norton passed.
“Yes, yes, that was me — thank you,” Mr. Norton replied briskly before checking the price tag of a low-slung mauve couch. “That is an interesting color, isn’t it?”
While we moved on, Mr. Norton turned to me and said, “It’s so funny. When I walked into the ‘Good Morning America’ building this morning, there were all these people there checking my ID and asking who I was and why was I there. Then after I had been on the show, and I came back out, they all asked me to take a selfie with them. They still didn’t know who I was, but they had seen me being interviewed and they knew I was famous, and that was enough.”
Mr. Norton had been on “G.M.A.” (and would later be on “The Rachael Ray Show” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”) to promote the United States publication of his first novel, “Holding,” a murder mystery set in a village in rural Ireland similar to the one Mr. Norton grew up in. With its tale of provincial life, gimlet-eyed spinsters and thwarted love — not to mention the discovery of a dead body — it feels almost like a Miss Marple mystery written by Colm Toibin.
Mr. Norton, who has drawn high ratings for almost 20 years, is the author of two best-selling memoirs, but this is his first novel.
Why a murder mystery?
“It’s a recognizable structure,” he said over lunch (a fried-fish sandwich and a glass of chardonnay) at ABC Cocina, where we went after he had bought a Frette duvet cover to replace the one he had bought 15 years earlier.
“You find a body. Then you find a second body. And then you go from there. And there is a reason to keep you reading. Even if it’s an awful book, you still keeping reading it to find out what happened.” (“Holding” is not an awful book. It is actually quite a good read, and received largely enthusiastic reviews when first published…