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,

This morning I awoke from strange dreams to the sound of a familiar voice. The Story Lady was arranging her young charges in a circle on the floor. I’d overslept. Now I’d have to stay in the closet through Story Time and not make a sound.

For Story Time, parents leave their kids at the door and wait outside for thirty minutes. When Story Lady shuts the door she says, “Now you are in the world of imagination, children. Step carefully and keep your voices low so you don’t miss anything!”

I could see the Story Lady through a crack in the door. She sat on a chair facing the semi-circle of fidgeting preschool kids. She had an old hardcover book on her lap. Perfect posture, as always.

There was something sad about her smile today.  “I have a special treat for you today, children,” she said.  She placed her palm lovingly against the book jacket and smoothed it a little.

“This is a book that’s special to me. Do you have things that are special to you?”

Every small hand shot up. The Story Lady continued without calling on any of them.

“This book was written a long time ago by a very good friend of mine. Something made me think of him this morning. Actually, do you know what made me think of him?”

Every hand shot up again.

“I saw a blimp on the way to the library this morning. Did any of you see that?”

They all raised their hands.

“This book has a certain kind of blimp in it called a zeppelin. So the blimp made me think of this book, which made me think of my friend.”

The Story Lady paused to gather herself. She took a deep breath.

“I feel like reading a passage to you. Would that be all right, children?”

The kids chimed a long yes.

“You might not understand the words. But I hope…I hope you understand the feeling. My friend’s name is Reid Markham, and this is his book.”

At the sound of the name, a sound escaped my mouth. The plastic printer casing creaked behind me. The Story Lady looked my way, and the children followed her eyes. “Mice,” she said. The children shrieked.

And then she began reading from The Devil’s Good Graces. A passage she’d marked with a thin, cream-colored bookmark that appeared to be silk.

I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The prose was like nothing I’ve read or heard. The words swept along like a mountain stream after a rainstorm, ripples implying the rocks beneath. At first you’re just standing there contemplating the stream. Before you know it, you’ve been swept into it. You feel its roil. You’re terrified, but you understand the stream has direction, that it’s taking you somewhere—a place you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Now, you can’t wait to get there. Except you don’t want to travel too fast because you don’t want to miss any part of the journey.

She only read a paragraph or so. But now I know. Everything that others (like Ms. Hollymore and Mr. Shill) have said about Reid Markham is true.

I also know I’m doomed to fail if I write anything remotely similar to The Devil’s Good Graces.

But somehow I’ve got to get hold of the book for myself. I’ve got to take it from the Story Lady.

Let’s hope I don’t get arrested.


John Henry Fleming