At the London Book Fair. Extract from Written Off.

Back over at Olympia the man on whom Belinda, if not his client, was pinning all of her hopes was taking a well-earned break from his busy schedule at the London Book Fair. As he looked around for a seat in the busy cafeteria Emily Chatterton beckoned him over to her table.

‘Hugo, I didn’t think I’d see you in here – are you hiding from someone?’

‘Just taking a well-earned breather away from the madhouse. But you’re here so you must be avoiding somebody too.’

Emily laughed. ‘Let’s just say I had the same idea as you. We should be safe for fifteen minutes.’

‘Aren’t you doing a seminar this afternoon?’

‘Yes. Will you be coming? Surely you’re dying to find out more about why “Bigger is Better” when it comes to publishing?

‘You might have to let me pass. Preaching to the converted and all that. You’re going to have to be careful nailing your colours to the mast, aren’t you? People coming back for the next five years quoting you if it turns out that “smaller is more beautiful”?’

‘I had the same thought myself, but unfortunately Rocket agreed to serve me up on this particular topic with onion rings and a side salad.’

‘Is Malcolm Sollitt here?’ Hugo said. ‘I’d really like to meet him.’

‘I bet you would, Hugo. You’ll have to join the queue I’m afraid. Many would like to touch the hem of his cloth.’

‘Ah, I take it that you’re not one of them?’

Emily looked around to check there were no colleagues around before she answered. ‘Well, to be honest, he’s shaken things up a bit since he arrived. I can see where he gets his nickname from.’

‘So I’m right in deducing that Reardon got singed in his afterburners?’ Hugo wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass to confirm his suspicions that all wasn’t well at Franklin & Pope.

Similarly, Emily knew how to be loyal and discrete while dishing the dirt. ‘Him and another fifteen mid-listers. And he’s not going to stop there. You didn’t hear that from me, of course. How did poor old Reardon take it?’

‘Oh, he took it as well as can be expected. He was always a moaning old bastard so it was hard to tell the difference.’

‘Well, I’m sorry, you know that. It’s a sign of the times.’

‘That “Bigger is Better”, you mean?’

‘Very funny, Hugo. Very funny. Have you had any interest for Reardon anywhere else?’

Now it was Hugo’s turn to be on the defensive. ‘Well, it’s early days and all that, but no is the answer. He’s absolutely plaguing me as well.’

‘It will be difficult I suspect. And if you do get anyone interested, they’ll offer a tenth of what he was on before and knowing Reardon he’ll tell them to shove it.’

‘To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing pushing him too hard – it sort of reflects badly on my authors who are on the way up.’

‘Flogging a dead horse, literally. How far has he got with Original Motion so far?’

‘Well, that’s the irony – it’s nearly finished.’

‘He could be self-publishing it at this rate.’

‘God forbid he’d do that. I think he’d rather take himself off on a one-way trip to Switzerland than do that.’

‘Well, changing times. If he’d put some effort into communicating with his readers he might have had a ready-made audience.’

Hugo nodded, remembering the number of times he’d urged Reardon to embrace Twitter, to build up followers and to create noise around his work. All he’d been met with was, ‘Hugo, I have no desire to waste a single word on anything but my books. Talent will out.’

Emily looked at her watch, and made to leave. ‘Well, looking at the amount of self-publishing and marketing companies here this week, he’d have been able to get plenty of advice.’

As Hugo bade farewell, the image of Reardon haggling a deal with Dignitas jumped into his mind.


Written Off by Paul Carroll is now available in paperback and as an E-Book from Amazon and usual sources.