Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Nom de Plume”…
The Lady By The Lake, by Anne Murphy.
It was a splendid day at the Lake Rosebud Village Annual Fete. The sun shone brightly, the day was warm and a soft gentle breeze played playfully at the ladies’ summer dresses. Linda Sweetsoul, waving a magazine in front of her perfectly formed face to keep cool, was crossing the Green when she saw him. He was at the High Striker, and she watched how his muscles flexed beneath his shirt as he brought down the mallet. The lever shot to the top and rang a bell, both on the machine and in her heart. Her hand clasped at her perfectly formed bosom.
His hair was the colour of corn, his eyes the colour of cornflower, his tan the colour of corn-plasters –
“Seriously, Mister Chandler?” said Myrna Dancer, my literary agent. “Tan the colour of corn-plasters?”
I was startled. I’d been enjoying listening. I thought it was a good read, like the will of a wealthy uncle. I thought that because I’d written it.
Times were hard, harder than the heart of an ex-wife. Book sales were falling faster than a cat on a hot greased roof, bourbon prices were rising faster than the blood pressure of a banker, and money was tighter than Santa Claus’s belt.
It was Myrna who’d suggested that I write for Mills and Boon.
“They wouldn‘t let me,” I’d said. “I’ve seen the books, filling shelf after shelf like German cheeses in a Lidl store. They’re all written by dames.”
“Shows what you know,” Myrna had said. “They’re all men writing under noms de plume.”
I’d stared blankly at her, since I don’t speak Italian.
“It means pen-name,” she’d sighed, crossing her perfectly formed legs. “Petunia Chasteheart is really George Orwell, Emily Boyscomb is Arthur Miller, Evelyn Goodlove is Evelyn Waugh. They’re all at it.”
“All?” I’d said. “Surely not Hemingway.”
“Wow,” I’d said. No wonder he’s always getting into bar-brawls.”
“Men have been writing for Mills and Boon ever since Dickens wrote A Christmas With Carol, under the name of Festera Snozzlebutt.” There was a second of silence. “He was never great with names,” she’d admitted.
And now we were in her office and she was holding out my manuscript as if it was a four-day old fish. “It’s not bad for a first draft. Change Linda to Lydia, cornflowers to sapphires, corn-plasters to gold, and if you use the phrase “perfectly-formed” once more I’ll beat you to death with your own fedora.” She stood and walked to the door, hips swaying like the Lake Rosebud Rope Bridge on a windy day. I walked behind her, admiring a rear that I’d have described as perfectly formed, if I’d been allowed to.
As I left she said “and Anne Murphy is too dull. You’re now Stella Starlight.”
I was back three days later. She asked what took me so long, apparently some of the writers could do two of these books a day. She took the manuscript and continued reading from where we’d left off.
Lydia ran into him at the lemonade bar. He introduced himself as
Chad Brad Cuthbert Byceptz. He wore his sweater draped over his shoulders, a sure sign that he was a pillock gentleman. There was a pale sweat on his brow from his exertions with the mallet, and she could smell the musky scent of his manhood manliness.
They talked until the sun sank, and on into the evening. He asked could he walk her home, and she invited him in. She offered him a drink, he said yes, so she
took a bottle of bourbon from her desk drawer made some iced tea. Eventually he leaned forward and kissed her, and they went at it like bunnies went into her bedroom and closed the door ….
On and on it went, through break-ups then reconciliations, through heartbreak then joy, through bedrooms then lines of dots.
If it were a movie it would have had Jennifer Aniston in it.
I thought it sucked harder than a vampire with a toffee apple. Myrna thought it was great, and paid me a sum with more zeroes than a Norwegian Eurovision Song Contest entry. I took it and went home, feeling dirtier than the loser in a dung-throwing fight.
After a while I sat at my typewriter, and began to write:
Hammer Blow, by Raymond Chandler.
I could tell she was trouble as soon as she walked into the office. She had lips as red as rubies, legs as long as a Tolkein film and a rack you could stand trophies on.
“Are you Philip Marlowe?” she asked.
“That’s what it says on the door, doll,” I said.
“And you’re a dick?”
I shrugged. I’ve been called worse. “If you mean Private Detective, then yes.”
“I need your help,” she said. “My name’s Lydia Byceptz, my husband Cuthbert is dead, beaten with a fairground mallet, the cops think I did it and the people who really did it are after me.”
made some iced tea took a bottle of bourbon from my desk drawer, and set myself comfortably on the chair.
This was going to be fun.