Okay, here’s my first entry … and it’s a long one! It’s basically like one of those ‘previously, on 24’ catch-up sequences. Once it’s out of the way, the next entries will be wa-a-ay shorter, I promise. So … How many unpublished manuscripts does that average wannabe author have stuck in his or her hard-drive? Me, I’ve got at least six that I can think of – there are probably more, but I can’t face the shame of actually diving into the disk and counting. Still, it only takes a moment’s thought to recall the two historical novels; the comedy-thriller that’s a thinly disguised account of life in my own English village; the mid-life crisis comedy that was all crisis and no comedy; and the crime drama inspired by the fight for fathers’ rights that couldn’t tell its story for all the preaching going on. Of these, three or four have got to the stage of being shown to agents or even sent out to publishers. And, of course, every one of them has been rejected. As it happens, I reckon quite a few of the stories could still be turned into decent books. A couple might even make best-sellers. But everyone on this site knows how it is out there in the real world of publishing - no one’s going to pay my books the slightest bit of attention because I don’t have a big name. I’m not marketable. No one gives a shit. Well, not yet, anyway. You see, that might be about to change. Three years ago I had an idea for a book. To be precise, I had a vision of a man, standing astride a motorbike at the end of the Alma Tunnel in Paris, about to assassinate Princess Diana … and I thought of the meeting where my agent would tell a publisher in London (or New York, Paris, Tokyo, Ulan Bator), ‘This is a book about the man who killed Princess Di – and he’s the hero.’ Well, that was a high concept all right. Trouble was, I couldn’t work out how to write the book that went with it. I spent months, then years getting nowhere. My agent was going nuts – at one point his business-partner gave me a three-and-a-half-hour roasting, which began with the words, ‘It’s depressing enough to read a bad writer. But it’s much, much worse to read a good writer, writing badly.’ I worked and re-worked and re-re-worked the first 30,000 words of the book. A mate and I sat in a Pizza Express restaurant with a list of words that might go into a book-title and tried to complete the sentence (spoken in the tones of one of those pompous movie voice-overs), ‘Tom Cruise is …’ After we’d got rid of ‘a crazy Scientologist, ‘a sofa-jumping loony’ and ‘a man in a closet on South Park,’ we came up with … ‘The Accident Man’. Finally, last June, there was enough to send out to publishers. We weren’t remotely optimistic. But forty-eight hours later we had a serious British offer for ‘The Accident Man’ and a sequel. Two months later, we’d tied up a US deal. Then it got optioned by a Hollywood studio. Then the translation rights began to go. No one was paying crazy money. It wasn’t making me rich. But for the first time in my professional life I felt like something I’d done was generating a serious buzz. It might just take off. After all these years, maybe my ship might come in. A couple of days ago, my UK publishers, Transworld, sent me the list of major orders they’d had for hardback edition of The Accident Man from book chains, supermarkets and online sites, plus details of their nationwide poster campaign. Meanwhile, Viking, who’ve got the book in the States, sent an ecstatic report from their latest marketing meeting yesterday, plus a series of elegantly typeset page-proofs to go with the absurdly stylish cover they’ve designed. Right now, I feel like someone sitting in front of a TV lottery draw. Five of my numbers have come up. Now I’m waiting for the sixth. Within the next few weeks I’ll know if I’ve hit the jackpot or not. I might finally strike lucky after 30 years of trying. Or the book might not sell, another door might slam in my face and another disappointment will have to be swallowed. So when I talk about ‘The Accident Man’, don’t think that I’m being proud or boastful, because I truly am not. I’m excited, of course. I’m hopeful, because who wouldn’t be? But what I mostly am is just scared. If, like me, you’ve got a big heap of unpublished manuscripts, I think you’ll understand why …

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