Late night Murakami in St. Paul

The door at Common Good Books in St. Paul decorated for the Lit Up Late event where copies of the new Haruki Murakami novel went on sale at midnight Monday. Euan Kerr/MPR News

“What’s up St Paul! It’s midnight and you’re up!”

Thus opened the first Lit Up Late event at Common Good Books last night just before the witching hour. Some 50 people wandered through the door in search of copies of Haruki Murakami’s new novel “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” which was the focus of the event.

The book is officially published in English today, and fans were eager to snap up the book as soon as it was available.

“Colorless” sold 1 million copies in a week when it was released in Murakami’s homeland of Japan, and there has been great anticipation here amongst fans of his other books including “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Kafka on the Shore,” and “IQ84.”

Staff at Common Good Books provided Japanese snacks and drinks for the Lit Up Late event. Euan Kerr/MPR News

While a couple of customers tried to convince Common Good to release copies before midnight, bookstore staff politely rebuffed them saying they signed a contract which obliged them to keep the books in the boxes until then.

They did offer Japanese snacks, beer and sake to soothe the wait.

Lit Up Late is a collaboration between Common Good Books, Magers and Quinn Booksellers and Moon Palace Books, both of Minneapolis.

Magers and Quinn will host an 11:30 p.m. event on Sept. 1 to release David Mitchell’s “The Bone Clocks,” and then on Sept. 15, also at 11:30 p.m. Moon Palace will have a release event for John Darnielle’s “Wolf in White Van.”

Readers who attend all three events are eligible for a prize drawing for a night in the St. Paul Hotel.

Getting the Murakami book seemed more on the minds of last night’s crowd however, particularly when folks learned there was a signed copy of the novel being given away as a door prize. As midnight approached, a huge grin split Bob Martin’s face as his name was drawn from the fishbowl.

“I was going to buy a copy because I am a big Murakami fan,” he said as he examined the remarkably legible handwriting inside the book, complete with rubber stamped name. “I think I still will, and give that copy to a friend.” Martin then admitted to being with the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, laughing as he said the drawing wasn’t fixed.

Reader Edy Elliot got the other copy. She works at Radio Talking Book, and had come directly from work to get her copy. She said she has “IQ84” but hasn’t read it yet. “I love the art work” she said paging through her new copy.

At midnight the crowd was asked to raise a glass to toast the new novel. One young man who was clearly not of drinking age joined in by raising his spectacles. “Glasses!” he called.

The line quickly formed at the till and the staff efficiently moved them through.

Then at 12.19 a.m., the phone rang. A customer was running late but wanted in on the Murakami.

“We’ll be here until 12.30,” the staffer said down the line. The race was on.

The late night line at Common Good Books for the new Haruki Murakami novel. Euan Kerr/MPR News