The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. The Book I Will Write is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent. He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and was living at the library before being kidnapped by an organization known as The Zeppelin Society. Now he seems to have been rescued by a mysterious figure on a motorcycle. This latest email comes from the illegitimate son of Reid Markham, whose famous book, The Devil’s Good Graces, Fleming thinks will help him write his own—if he can locate a copy.
Mr. Henry F,
Never mind how I got your name. I got it. You’ve been asking questions about my dear old pop. Don’t.
As far as you know, I might have killed him out there in the train station in Pennsylvania. As far as you know, if you keep asking questions, I might do the same to you.
They ruled pop’s death a suicide. They didn’t do any investigation. He could have been killed. It could have been me. They didn’t even know I existed at the time.
My mom’s dead too. My mom was the genius in the family. Not Pop. You’re right, all Mom did was model. She sat on cars and stretched out her long legs and let her long golden hair fall back across the hood. There’s genius in how she did it. Not that you or anyone else really appreciated it. The genius is not noticeable because it’s absorbed by a crass sales pitch. She was called many things but never a genius.
My mom was a genius. In everything. Math. Gardening. Plumbing. Crafts. No one knows that but me.
When she died, no one cared. No one but me. She was living on the street then. I was in foster care. Pop never came back for us. He never admitted I existed.
He was wrong.
I call him Pop as a kind of sick joke. But I’m not laughing.
So why do I care that you’re asking questions about my pop?
Because I don’t want Pop’s name on a book. I don’t want to see his name anymore. I don’t want people to know him, and I don’t want people saying he’s a genius. You can’t be a genius and leave my mom. Only the dumbest person in the world does that.
Stop talking about my pop. Stop doing whatever you’re doing, if what you’re doing has something to do with my pop.
I swear I’ll kill you. I’ll come find you. You think I won’t? Somehow I found out about you asking about my pop. I can find out all sorts of things. I have connections you can’t imagine. I will use them. I will hunt you down.
You don’t know what I look like. I could come up to you any time like a total stranger. I could kill you before you know it. Or maybe I could get to know you first, pretending I’m someone else. Or I could hide in the dark and come up behind you. That’s how it’s often done. As far as you know, I might have done that to my pop at the train station in Pennsylvania. I would have been young then, but I was a capable boy. I picked up on all kinds of things. I like to think I inherited the shadow of my mother’s genius.
I’m that shadow who will follow you around and then kill you.
I can do it.