The Book I Will Write #57: The Grandmoirs

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 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.


Mary Ann “Annie” Lankowski
Interim Senior Editor
Knopf Publishing


Dear Annie,

I spent the day ducking and hiding. Hans and Vik are looking for me. So is the guy who wants to kill me, and I don’t know what he looks like.

Early evening, I slipped out to get some food. There’s an abandoned storefront a few blocks away that might once have been a bookstore. Someone’s offered to meet me there and sell me a copy of The Devil’s Good Graces. I’m debating. I kept to the other side of the street and saw no lights or activity through the store’s frosted windows.

At the convenience store, I bought a Slim Jim, a taquito, and a can of beans and franks. I’m down to my last dollar fifty. I ate these things on the way back. No one killed me, though for a while I wished they had.

Back at the library, I developed a plan. There’s a memoir group that meets on Thursday nights. I strolled into the conference room with my notebook in hand, still sweating from my fuel intake.

“I want to tell the story of my life.” It wasn’t a lie. Fiction is my life.

They turned to look at me. Some of them had to twist in their seats because they’re quite old and their necks don’t work.

A man laughed. “Come back when you’ve got a few years under your belt.”

A woman objected. “Quit it, Harry, we need some new blood.”

“We all know what Harry’s going to say before he even says it,” another woman added.

“Can you tell what I’m about to say now?” Harry asked.

“Have a seat, young man,” said a long-handed man at the head of the table. “Are those notes for your book?”

“They’re notes for the notes,” I said. “I’ve been planning out how I’ll organize my notes.”

“That’s a good start.”

“I know.”

And so it went.  I sat down. I was welcomed into the group. They call themselves The Grandmoirs, and there were six at the meeting—the core members, they assured me. There are four additional fringe members—two who show up sporadically because of disapproving spouses and two more who’ve been told the wrong meeting time, one because he only wants to talk politics and the other because he has a certain smell.

“Everyone has a certain smell,” the woman to my right pointed out.

“Yes, and we have a certain right not to smell it.”

“I’m dying to know what your overpowering perfume is masking,” Harry told her.

“Order, order please,” said the long-handed man.

They introduced themselves, but I’m bad with names and forgot almost all of them immediately.

“Let’s hear what you’ve got so far, dear,” said the perfume woman. “Maybe we can help.”

“I was a submariner after the war,” Harry pointed out.

“Harry, I know it’s your night. We’ll review your pages later.”

“No problem. I’m used to it.”

“I flew dirigibles,” I said.

They looked impressed.

“Goodyear or MetLife?”

“Government prototypes. Actually, they weren’t government, but I have to say they were. For now.”

My plan was to tell them about my novel and get their honest opinion. I couldn’t do it, so I started in with the lies. Zeppelin prototypes and secret societies. Gun fights. Motorcycles. A dead author and his psychopathic son. Aesthetic theory. Dancing foxes. A base on Easter Island. Michael Jackson got involved, though I tried to keep him out of it. He has a way.

Soon, an odd thing happened. The most amazing thing yet. The mix of lies and truth became the book I will write. The one that’s been taking so long to finally take shape.

I know the truth of it now. At last! At last! I see the whole picture, and all it lacks is a frame. I’ve never wanted to write anything as much as I do this book. And now I know I will write it.

I’m headed back to my closet early. I’ll write all night in the dark. My work is finally underway. I can feel it.

I wish you could share moment with me, in memory if nothing else.


John Henry Fleming