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 is now living at the library following a kidnapping episode with The Zeppelin Society. Now he’s being stalked by the murderous son of Reid Markham, the author of The Devil’s Good Graces, a book Fleming is trying to track down and read as an influence to his own, still unwritten, novel. Annie, the editorial assistant, has been filling in at Knopf while her boss is in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct.
THE DEVIL’S GOT BRACES
Mary Ann “Annie” Lankowski
Interim Senior Editor
I lingered in the stacks, watching and waiting until the Story Lady took a turn at the circulation desk for a clerk on break. I grabbed a book off the shelf that turned out to be Murderous Intent by D.P. Reasons. The name sounded familiar, but I didn’t stop to read his bio.
I walked the book to the circulation desk. I tried to be nonchalant. I found myself whistling. Someone stared at me. I’d spent extra time in the library bathroom this morning, and last night I’d washed one of my two shirts with antibacterial hand soap and hung it over the dot matrix printers in the meeting room closet. Still damp, it clung to my skin and made me feel coated in sweat. But it smelled good! Or, it smelled like the antibacterial soap manufacturer’s idea of floral-chemical freshness, an idea I had to hope the Story Lady shared.
“Next,” she said.
The check-out counter was unusually low to accommodate children with library cards, so when I slid the book over to her, I had to bow a little, which I somehow found appropriate. I might have done this a little too deliberately. Her gaze lingered on me.
“Do you have your card?” she asked.
“I do not.”
The bald statement surprised her as much as it did me. My chest pounded like a four-chambered gorilla.
“Would you like one?”
“Are you a resident?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you have a driver’s license or some other form of I.D.?”
“I do not.”
“A city water bill?”
“I don’t touch the stuff.”
“You’ll have to come back with one of those,” she said.
“Actually, I was looking for a different book.”
“Then why did you bring me this one?”
“An offering, I guess.”
“Which book are you looking for?”
“It’s a book by Reed someone. The Devil’s Got Braces?”
Oh, how cool the Story Lady. How calm in the face of a challenge. She neither shuddered nor gasped. Yet her eyes said everything.
“You’ll have to check the computer catalog for that,” she said.
“Could you do it for me?”
“I’m very busy.”
“But I’ve already checked.”
“How could you if you don’t know the title?”
“I didn’t say I didn’t know the title.”
She said nothing.
“I only said that I didn’t know the last name.”
“Then why are you asking me to look it up?”
“Because I thought you might have some inside knowledge.”
“As far as you’re concerned my knowledge is limited to the catalog description.”
“I see,” I said. “So that’s how it is.”
She held up Murderous Intent. “Would you like to read this in the library, or shall I reshelf it for you?”
“I’m done with it, thank you.”
I noticed she didn’t have a name tag. “May I have your name?” I asked.
She smiled. “If only our circumstances were different,” she said.
I slid away and returned to my table with a view of the front desk and the automatic doors. The table was taken by a couple of high school students making out loudly. I moved on. I took the first opportunity to grab an open computer and write to you.
I’m going to discover what the Story Lady knows. Somehow I will. Meanwhile, would you do me a favor? Would you talk to Ms. Hollymore and get more details on The Devil’s Good Graces? I’ve heard a passage read and I’ve read the vague description in the library catalog, but I’m still not sure what it’s about, or what it has to say about zeppelins. This seems important.
I’ll be thinking of you every minute of my long nights in the dot-matrix closet!
John Henry Fleming