He called back with an incredible report: there were people lined up around the store already.
Wow, I thought.
Wow didn’t begin to cover it. People lined up on two floors of the store to talk to Chris and get their books signed, hours before he was even scheduled to arrive. Chris was overwhelmed when he got there, and so was I. The week before, he’d been just another guy walking down the street. Now, all of a sudden he was famous.
Except he was still the same Chris Kyle, humble and a bit abashed, ready to shake hands and pose for a picture, and always, at heart, a good ol’ boy.
“I’m so nervous,” confided one of the people on the line as he approached Chris. “I’ve been waiting for three hours just to see you.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Chris. “Waitin’ all that time and come to find out there’s just another redneck up here.”
The man laughed, and so did Chris. It was something he’d repeat, in different variations, countless times that night and over the coming weeks.
We stayed for three or four hours that first night, far beyond what had been advertised, with Chris signing each book, shaking each hand, and genuinely grateful for each person who came. For their part, they were anxious not just to meet him but to thank him for his service to our country-and by extension, the service of every military member whom they couldn’t personally thank. From the moment the book was published, Chris became the son, the brother, the nephew, the cousin, the kid down the street whom they couldn’t personally thank. In a way, his outstanding military record was beside the point-he was a living, breathing patriot who had done his duty and come home safe to his wife and kids. Thanking him was people’s way of thanking everyone in uniform.
And, of course, the book was an interesting read. It quickly became a commercial success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, including the publisher’s. The hardcover debuted at number two on the New York Times bestseller list, then rose to number one and stayed there for more than two months. It’s remained a fixture on the bestseller lists ever since, and has been translated into twenty-four languages worldwide.
It was a good read, and it had a profound effect on a lot of people. A lot of the people who bought it weren’t big book readers, but they ended up engrossed. A friend of ours told us that he’d started reading the book one night while he was taking a bath with his wife. She left, went to bed, and fell asleep. She woke up at three or four and went into the bathroom. Her husband was still there, in the cold water, reading.
The funny thing is, Chris still could not have cared less about all the sales. He’d done his assignment, turned it in, and got his grade. Done deal.