First installment, "COnspiracy!"
Thought you might want to read my next to be published (March 2009, Zumaya) mystery. It's called "Conspiracy!" and was previously an ebook at ElectricUmbrella.com until the site was pirated and shut down. Let me know if you want to read more of this:
Harley L. Sachs
Jake Friedman didn’t believe in ghosts or clairvoyance, but he did have foreboding. When he opened the office door and switched on the light he felt a presence in the room that made him pause. There was no one there. Everything appeared to be the way he had left it: recycled metal desk and office chair, garage sale fax machine. Only the filing cabinet and the computer monitor were new. What could be the cause of his uneasiness?
Smoke, Jake decided. Someone had been smoking. He told himself it might have been the janitor, except there was no janitor, and Jake was the only one who had keys to the new lock.
If someone had picked the lock and let themselves in, they’d be disappointed. The computer monitor was just a screen he plugged into the laptop he carried with him. There was nothing in the filing cabinet but some correspondence, stock contracts, and authors’ manuscripts. Maybe some disgruntled author with second thoughts had somehow gotten in to search for her manuscript. Who could do that?
There was no telling. The slush box behind the desk was full of unsolicited and unread manuscripts, a pile that grew faster than he could chip away at it. The world was full of authors and they were all determined to impose their attempts on him.
Authors could be weird. They could mail in a bundle of yellow pages typed single spaced in a godawful italic face, swear in the cover letter that the story was all true, and demand an immediate contract for a million bucks. Jake had seen more than enough of those kooks when he worked at the Meridian Agency in New York. Now, thank God, he had made the leap, put the whole continent between him and Sol Meredith at Meridian to set up his own agency in the Pacific Northwest.
Sol had been a con artist who had found it easier to extract fees from authors than to actually place their work with a publisher. Sol’s ads in the writers’ magazines had lured wannabe authors so he could collect reading fees, consultation fees, editing fees, and charges for spurious expenses. Occasionally Sol had actually placed a book, but none had ever earned back the advance on royalties.
Meridian was a racket and working for Sol was degrading. Jake had needed his own space, and not have anyone tell him that he had to read that single spaced italic junk because the alleged author could pay the reading fee. That was why he got out.
His agency was legit. His own name in gold letters was on the door. He decided himself what books had hope of publication, even though it was a struggle. Mergers and conglomerates in the mega entertainment industry had turned what had been a stable business into quicksand. Relationships developed with editors over years of lunches in Manhattan evaporated overnight when the accountants’ computers ferreted out the editors whose choices had not reaped the high return demanded by greed. There was no tenure for editors.
Considering market volatility, Jake’s hit with the Godot book, Conspiracy! had been a coup. The agent’s cut of the hefty advance from Nile publishing had put him in the black. It had also made it possible to move the business out of his home. His house was a worn out duplex off Everett Avenue, what the real estate agents coyly called a fixer-upper, a euphemism for gut the place and rebuild from the inside out. You couldn’t meet an author in all that plaster dust. The plan was that once the other half was fixed and rented it would pay the mortgage.
Moving into a real office on the third floor of a run- down building in the Pearl District with its galleries and studios was an improvement over having to rendezvous with authors at a table at Starbucks. Thank you co-authors Harold Stevenson, Tom Godot, Nile publishing, and the luck of seeing Conspiracy! make the best seller list.
Jake went to the one window in the office that wasn’t painted shut and threw it open. Some fresh air would get rid of that mysterious smell of tobacco smoke, wherever it had come from.