Tall Story (part 9) – Issue 16

Fedora’s smug expression slipped just a little, but soon regained its former arrogance. “I think your recollection of events may have become a little hazy with time, Richard. It is over two years ago after all. Now, following my slight accident,” Fedora tapped his head, “my memory may not be at its sharpest, but I’m willing to clarify matters for you. Here, before I begin, at least look as though you’re having a good time.” Fedora handed Richard a glass three quarters full of champagne.
“ Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, won’t you?”
The thought of standing with this odious little man listening to him ramble on in his self-righteous manner filled Richard with revulsion, but a morbid fascination had gripped him and he stood almost transfixed as Fedora began.
“Early in 2009, a young man walks into the offices of a struggling literary agent by the name of Yvette Pestis and hands over a manuscript. It’s rough – it’s the writer’s first novel – but it has some very nice touches, well-defined characters and a believable, original plot. Yvette likes it and sends it to you – a once-successful, but now also struggling publisher who hasn’t had a hit for some considerable time and for whom bankruptcy is a very real possibility. All okay so far?”
Richard nodded reluctantly. “Go on.”
“You like the story and think it could make big bucks. One problem, though. First novels, in general, don’t make big bucks. Unless, of course, you’re already a celebrity in your own right with a bit of a following.” Fedora pointed to himself.
“Minor celebrity,” Richard corrected.
“Ha! Anyway, you contact Yvette and tell her that you like the idea and think it could be a minor success, but you say it’s a pity it hadn’t been written by a name as the advances, and by extension, your and Yvette’s cut, would be, should we say, life-changing?
This puts the germ of an idea into Yvette’s head and she contacts my good self. We’d dealt with each other previously on some minor comedy book deal and she knows I’m saleable. She sends me the manuscript and says, ‘Ben, what if you put your name to this, you become insanely famous and we make millions?’ Good idea, I say, but what about the actual author? You see, Richard, I do think of others.”
“You try not to let it happen too often though, eh, Fedora?”
“Yvette assures me that he’s not a problem. We’ll bung him a few quid and he’ll be happy. Okay, fine, I say. Let’s do it. Yvette sends the manuscript back to you with a little note letting you in on the arrangement and you agree to go along with it.”
“Wait just a minute, Fedora. Yvette told me the original author was fine with the deal. That’s why I went along with it! It seemed a safe, easy way to make enough money to get myself back on track. No-one ever said anything about killing people.”
“I didn’t hear you complaining when the cheques were hitting your bank account. And I’ll thank you to keep your voice down.” A crack appeared once more in Fedora’s veneer of haughtiness. He looked around furtively, then continued, “In fact, I think we’ll carry on this conversation in my study where it’s a little less crowded. If you’ll follow me.”
The Mummy and Superman made their way through the milling revellers to a door at one end of the living-room. As they did so, Richard scanned the guests hoping to catch sight of his wife, but she was nowhere to be seen. Fedora took out a key, unlocked the door and ushered Richard into the room, locking the door behind them.
“Is that necessary?” Richard asked, uneasily.
“Well, I don’t think either of us would like to be disturbed while discussing this delicate matter, do you? Please, take a seat. Now, where was I?”
“You were about to tell me how a young writer ended up dead!”
“Well, much as I hate to disillusion you, dear boy, I am not a killer! Unknown to both of us, apparently, Yvette hadn’t been entirely straight with the young man and had informed him that his manuscript had been rejected. Naturally he was upset, but he accepts the rejection as part of the life of a writer and goes about his business. However, one day, he’s rummaging through his local bookstore and sees a book by one of his favourite comedians. He picks it up and reads the first couple of pages. It looks familiar, so he flicks through the rest of the book and quickly realises it’s his story. Naturally incensed, he visits Yvette and demands an explanation. She tries to fob him off by saying he’s mistaken, but he persists. She offers him money, but unfortunately, our writer friend has principles and he threatens to expose all of us as frauds. I don’t need to tell you what that would have meant, Richard.”
Richard glanced briefly at Fedora, but said nothing.                    (to be continued)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *