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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. After his rescue by an old man on a motorcycle, Fleming is back at the library.





Mary Ann “Annie” Lankowski

Editorial Assistant

Knopf Publishing


Dear Annie,

I’ve arranged the dot matrix printers into an almost-comfortable recliner and made a pillow out of eight plastic typewriter covers tucked into each other and folded. The darkness at night is complete. I’ve given up on taking notes for my novel. Instead, I live out the scenarios as in a dream. They may actually be a dream. In a library storage closet at night, dreams and thoughts bleed into one another, just two more colors in a spectrum of stories.

Here are some of my ideas:

Q:  Remember the villain in the suit watching MJ till the soil, even as Nick Carraway is watching both the villain and MJ?

A:  He’s still there.

Q:  Who is the villain?

A:  The villain is a member of the secret international society that regulates performance standards, the same society that supplied the tomatoes for the audience to pelt MJ with at his farewell concert.

Q:  Why is he on Easter Island?

A:  Informants informed him.

Q:  Why does he care?

A:  He doesn’t, particularly. But he has a job to do. The society has the market cornered on rotten tomatoes. The higher-ups are concerned that MJ wants to make inroads into that market or, worse, that MJ is developing a new tomato variety that doesn’t rot.

Q:  Couldn’t this so-called “secret society” simply use another vegetable or fruit to throw at awful performers? Raspberries rot like crazy! Plus, they’re also red!

A:  The projectile characteristics of raspberries are weak.

Q:  Peaches?

A:  Splatter effect minimal.

Q:  Melon? Cuke? Avocado?

A:  You’re forgetting the longstanding history of tomatoes as the chosen projectile for aesthetic failure. The kind of cultural shift you’re talking about can’t be made overnight. The entire apparatus of the secret society (nothing “so-called” about it) depends on the public understanding the proper use of rotten tomatoes. Imagine if, in the midst of a terrible stadium concert, pallets of rotten avocados suddenly rose out of the floor. Would the public know what to do with them?

Q:  Make guacamole?

A:  The throwing of which would be like duck hunting with a sawed-off shotgun.

Q:  Fine. And Nick Carraway?

A:  He peers at the man in the suit through an old spyglass. He sees the glint of something in the man’s hand. That something is a knife.

Q:  You said bad shit was going to go down.

A:  It is. Because Nick Carraway also has a knife.

Q:  There will be blood.

A:  The novel’s palette begins and ends with red.

My time at the computer has nearly expired, so I’d better go. I’m trying to avoid the attention of the librarians. I’m lying low. I’ll go to the back of the library now, where there’s a chair that gives me a view of the front door between stacks. I have to keep an eye out for Hans and Vik—and for anyone else who might be suspicious.

How are things at Knopf? Write when you can!


John Henry Fleming