This is the thirty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 821 words.
The next morning I told Helen I would be completing the interview that day, and would stay as long as was needed. I mentioned that I woud pop back the following day with papers for her to sign that gave me permission to ghost-write her book, and I would have credit as co-writer. She was happy about that, and settled straight in to the conclusion of her story.
“Very soon, I learned the reality, Martin. I received more replies than I had expected, but I could tell from some that they thought I was either a charlatan, or a crazy old woman. A couple of the newspapers took me more seriously and said someone would be in touch. When someone phoned to ask me to talk him through the story, he said that there was no chance it would be printed. The government would issue a D-Notice to stop publication, and by cooperating with someone breaking the Official Secrets Act, the newspaper could find itself in court. As for the book publishers, their replies varied. Most wanted me to have an agent to use as an intermediary, others asked for three full chapters, a synopsis, and a personal biography before they would even pass it to an editor. I didn’t feel up to that, Martin. It’s one thing sitting and talking about it, quite another getting it down on paper as something coherent and interesting. I will make you some tea”.
Helen came back with the tea, and the usual full glass of vodka for herself.
“They were also wary about me not asking for any money. I tried to explain that I was unlikely to be long for this world after a lifetime of poor diet, heavy smoking, and copious amounts of vodka down my neck. I wanted to leave my story as a legacy, hopefully see it hit the headlines before I died. But I wasn’t doing it for gain, I just wanted to shame the Establishment. As for the literary agents, they showed no interest whatsoever. Only four replied, and all wanted to see some examples of my writing. I wondered if they had even read my letter, in which I clearly stated I would need someone else to help me. So I let it go, thinking I might just eventually get around to writing my own story. But of course I never did that, or you wouldn’t be here”.
She was answering most of the questions I had wanted to ask the previous night, but I still had one needing an answer. So I asked how she came to contact Colin Magee.
“Some months back, I forget exactly when now, I received a parcel one morning. Someone at the Foreign Office had sent it to me at my old address. Shows how lax they were at updating records. Whoever lives in that south London flat now refused to accept it, and it had languished back at the Foreign Office until someone asked some questions. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect some MI6 mole found out about it, and arranged to have it sent on to me here. There was no note or covering letter. It contained my late father’s personal effects, well some of them. His wedding ring, his very old watch, and six copies of books he had published after I had disappeared. They were dry stuff, I’m sad to say. Justifications of Stalin, memoirs of his travels in the Soviet Union before world war two, and one about why he believed Marxist theory would be the best way to educate children in schools. He was very old when they were writen, and I doubt anyone ever bought a copy. But the publisher was Colin Magee. So I thought if he had bothered to try to sell my dad’s books, he might do the same for me. I think they call that serendipity, Martin, and it seems to have worked”.
How her letter had arrived on Magee’s desk had long worried me. Now I knew why. I told Helen that it would take at least three months for me to get the draft to an editor. Then there would be the usual re-write after that, choosing a title, and sorting out a cover photo. But that would all come in time. Meanwhile, I would be back with the paperwork the next day, then return to my flat and begin the first draft. I would contact her by telephone if I needed to ask any questions. As for the chance of a documentary, that would take longer. I would need to get all the hours of camera footage to someone who knew what they were doing, and that would have to be tied in with any book launch. She seemed happy as I left.
“OKay, I will see you tomorrow. Don’t even think about using a photo of me on the cover though. I look bloody awful”.