‘Have you ever killed a man with your bare hands?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ I said.
The publicist smiled. ‘Have you ever killed a man with your bare hands? You know, choked the life out him, crushed his windpipe, dug your fingers in till his larynx collapsed and the veins bulged out on his temple.’
I shook my head. ‘No, sorry.’
She smiled. ‘Garrotted anyone?’
I shook my head again.
‘Shot, perhaps,’ she suggested, ‘stabbed, disembowelled, beheaded, eviscerated. Run anyone down with a car?’
‘Sadly, none of the above.’
She moved her pen down the checklist.
‘Been jailed, blackmailed, kidnapped, falsely accused of a major crime or committed a major crime and gotten away with it?’
‘Still no, I’m afraid.’
‘Are you now or have you ever been a forensic pathologist?’
That shake of the head again.
‘Ouch, too bad,’ she said. ‘A forensic anything? Or anything pathological? Psychopath, Osteopath, Naturopath? Vegan, vampire, vivisectionist? Been hooked on drugs, kinky sex, straight sex, sex on drugs, drug-free sex, sex-free sex?’
‘Nope to all of those.’
‘Do you have any unusual pets? Or pictures of yourself with celebrities? Got a famous girlfriend, boyfriend, penfriend? Any major illnesses, transplants? Get a kidney, gave a kidney? Do you eat kidneys? Ever escaped from almost certain death? Might you perhaps know an easy way to get stains out of carpets?’
I could see the desperation building in her eyes.
’For gods sake do you at least own a gerbil?’ she begged.
‘It’s just me and the book,’ I said.
‘And it’s a good book, perhaps even a great book but it’s not enough.’
‘Goods books are a dime a dozen, or $19.95 with the tax, but we need more. We need more from you, we need a package. We need a hook, an angle. We need to tease the press, tempt them with your dark side, exploit your feminine side, market your smouldering good looks, your battered face, your bad boy ways, your sensuality, your confused sexuality, bi-sexuality, tri-sexuality, your coming to Christ, selling your soul to the devil, your days as a Broadway chorus boy. Don’t you get it, in publishing today the words just aren’t enough anymore.’
I leapt the desk and she gasped, ‘What are you doing?’ as my fingers closed around her long, elegant neck.
‘Writer strangles publicist,’ I grunted, squeezing tightly. ‘That should be worth a hard cover edition, with a minimum fifty thousand initial print run,’
‘And don’t forget the foreign sales and film rights,’ she wheezed.
Throbbing veins stood out on her temple and just as the light went out in her eyes she stared up at me and gasped, ‘It’s great to be working with a real professional.’