Doesn't junk mail make you feel inadequate? Constant offers to grow your penis "so she'll be begging for more" and loud emails mocking you for not having jumped on yesterday's soaring boiler-room stock, leave you with a crushing sense of being either under-equipped or under-funded. Or both.

But not all unsolicited mail is unwelcome. Take this, that I received a few weeks ago:

"Dear James. My name is X and I'm 16 years old girls from Finland. Just wanted to write and let you know what a fan of yours that I am. I really enjoy your work and you really inspirate me as a writer. I just read one of your novel and I love it! I could not stop reading it. You're really are my model! I would like to be like you someday, absolutely fabulous author. I was wondering if you could send me an autographed photo? My address is below."

How good is that? On so many levels? Go on, read it again. God knows I did. She wants an autographed photo. Of me. I "inspirate" her as a writer. I am her "model." I am an "absolutely fabulous author." Result.

I played it cool, of course, waiting a few days before answering to give the impression that I was inundated with emails from similarly smitten readers. But rest assured that I wasted no time in telling as many of my mates as possible, heavily emphasising the words "16 years old Finnish girl", of course. And o
ne of them came up with a worryingly (given he has just got married) brilliant suggestion: "Why not Google her? She could be hot!" Genius.

So I did. And guess what? I got two hits, each on other authors' message boards. A coincidence, I assumed, until I clicked on the first one, posted to a female writer, and began to read the message that my Scandinavian admirer had left her:
"Dear X. My name is X and I'm 16 years old girls from Finland ..." I think you know the rest.

Needless to say, I have spared my friends this hubristic revelation. No point in shattering their illusions as well as mine. The lesson seems to be that when something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is.

Now where did I file that email guaranteeing to add 3 inches to my ...

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