Rodgers hunched over his notebook. Globs of sweat, like rancid rain,
mingled with the metallic globs of ink. His hands shook like an
addict’s who has just gone into rehab and was experiencing the first
hard-core taste of withdrawal. The lantern on his desk illuminated his
work, like the penetrating light bulb that flashed in a suspect’s eyes
as he was being interrogated for a crime. Harry squinted as his hand
quivered, hovering over the page. “Oh, this is useless,” thought Harry,
“I’ll never make the deadline.”
a novel he has been working on for the past five years was recently
published by Sampson & Sons. It was a huge success. The novel sold
over a million copies and was on the New York Times Best Seller List for
five consecutive weeks. The novel, about an African American woman
growing up in the South during the heat of the American Civil War, who
had an affair with a white Confederate soldier was an instant
best-seller. Adelle’s lover, Henry Smyth, was currently being court
marshalled for falling in love and pursuing
. Adelle triggered
international and interracial phenomena. He signed a contract with
Sampson & Sons to write a sequel to his best-selling novel. Sampson
& Sons paid Harry a staggering quarter of a million dollars in
advance money in exchange for Harry’s upcoming book,
recalled every aspect of the writing process and the incredible delight
he felt when he first saw his name blazoned across the cover.
Whilst writing Adelle,
Harry’s fingers flew across the page as he dotted each ‘I’ and crossed
each ‘T’. Like a sanctimonious scholar he religiously poured his soul
into writing this novel. Night by night he’d sit on his favourite chair
as his muse dictated words into his ears which he, Harry Rodgers,
author extraordinaire, wrote down fervently, like some sanctimonious
zealot, from the deluge of words that poured throughout his soul like a
flood from his favourite muse. He finished Adelle in
eight months. When he finished the Novel he poured a bottle of
chardonnay into a goblet and drank in celebration, toasting to the
success of his first Novel. His heart beat within him like a ravishing
bird flapping its wings wildly within its cage. He glanced at the
finished novel with a gluttonous hunger for success and fame. His
first thought was the small fortune in royalties that this epic would
accrue. Yet, the Novel was yet sitting on his desk, gleaming and
Next morning he walked over to the A perfect Print
and had the printer print three copies of his beloved manuscript. Don
Simon, the printer looked up from the enormous machine that whirred and
applied ink that would produce three replicas of his work. “Is this
your work, Mr Rodgers?” Harry squinted at the guy and nodded greedily.
“Yes, this is my manuscript. I laboured feverishly over it. I wish to
have it published as soon as possible.” he said to the lanky fellow
behind the roaring machine. “Good luck, Signore!”
he thought to himself, “Who can be crazy enough to publish this
Novel?” There were dozens of publishers in town who published women
sagas. Two, in particular, were big publish houses whose criteria for
submission were quite harsh. He read about the astounding amount of
unsolicited material from aspiring authors like himself who submitted
their manuscripts in hopes of getting noticed, only to be heartbroken
when the rejections notice came knocking at their door. “It isn’t
fair,” thought Harry, “I’ve worked my fingers to the bone, burning the
midnight hour over this Novel to have some snobbish book seller turn its
nose to it.” He thumbed through the list of publishing houses. He
took a gulp of wine, and then picked three publishing houses on the list
to send the manuscript to. His heart continued beating as he placed
each copy of his beloved Adelle
into each manila envelope. Three long weeks flew by and Harry waited
impatiently for the response from the publishing houses...but none
came. He thought about phoning them to find out the outcome of his
manuscript, but had second thoughts. He didn’t want to sound desperate
either. Weeks turned into months and still he waited for a reply but
there was no joy. Then, as he was settling into his cosy chair near the
fire on a cold wet winter’s day, Harry received a knock on the door.
“Now who can at this late hour?” he asked himself. Rising from his
chair he answered the door and was surprised to find Mr O’Mara, the
postman standing there in the threshold baring three manila envelopes in
his hand. Harry accepted the envelopes and thanked the postman for
delivering them. This warmed his heart on a winter’s night. His blood
ran through his veins, pumping warmly into his heart which began to beat
again like a wild exotic bird. This was the moment of truth...this was
his chance for success. He was giddy as a scholar on the Eve of
graduation. He took a goblet and his Chardonnay and poured the drink
into his empty goblet. Before sitting down in his chair to open the
envelopes, he paused, meditated about his success as an author, swirled
his glass in mid air and drank to his success. His fingers rattled as
he tore open one of the envelopes. He glanced at the pink page printed
in black Sans Serif font. He read:
Dear Mr Rodgers,
We regret to inform you that your manuscript Adelle has not been considered for publication.
The editors at Grutton and Grutton, Inc thought the material to be too racy and controversial for publication.
We wish you success in your literary career.
Mrs Sally Eggleston
sunk in his chair, crestfallen. The b******s! How dare they trash his
Novel, his baby like that? “They thought the material is too racy and
controversial?” he said aloud. “I made Adelle into a heroine. Every
African American will identify with Adelle. How can these b******s
murder his heroine like that...stifling Adelle before she even breathed
life into her lungs?” Harry tore through the other two envelopes. To
his disdain, each publishing house refused to publish his manuscript.
“B******s!” he breathed as he gulped down the last dregs of
Chardonnay. Angrily he threw the manuscripts against a wall. The
pages all scattered about in a cacophony of leaves.
had a good mind to rip his Novel to shreds. How dare some snobbish
little Editor with half moon glasses refuse to publish his Novel? Was
his Novel no good? He considered himself a good writer. He used action
verbs, used perfect grammar, and created well-rounded characters. There
must be a decent publisher out there who would adore his Novel and
publish it. He leaved through the pile of publishing houses again.
Then he came across this little publishing house on Sacred Oaks. The
name sounded promising and their criteria for submission did not seem so
daunting. Harry thought he should give Sampson & Sons a try. With
great pride, he placed the manuscript inside a manila envelope and
penned an impressive cover letter with a short bio and the description
of his work. He carefully wrote the name and address of the publishing
house on the front of the manila envelope. It was time to mail the
turned to spring and Harry was busy preparing meals and running
errands. He didn’t give any thought to his manuscript. He laid it to
rest deep within his drawer somewhere out of his mind. He couldn’t bear
the thought of another rejection letter. It tore his heart to shreds
thinking about his poor unpublished Novel....murdered before it even got
a chance to live. He shook his head in disbelief. Then, one day, as he
was preparing a cool salad for his afternoon meal, the telephone rang.
“Hello,” Harry said. “With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”
Rodgers?” echoed a lady with a Scottish accent. “This is Ms
Anderson-Mackenzie Larrouse from Sampson & Sons Publishers. I am
phoning to tell you that your Novel, Adelle, has been considered for
publication.” Harry stood there with his teeth gritting against each
other. He suddenly didn’t feel hungry anymore. His stomach churned.
you, Ms Anderson. This is the fourth rejection notice I have received
within months of each other!” said Harry. He was about to hang up when
Ms Anderson spoke again. When she finished speaking Harry’s heart leapt
within his chest. Sampson & Sons had accepted his manuscript.
They wanted him to sign a contract. Harry was overwhelmed. “Thank you,
Ms Anderson....and may I say, that’s the sexiest accent I have ever
heard! Is it Scottish?” he asked.
Chloe Anderson-Mackenzie Larrouse blushed and said, “Yes it is, Mr
Rodgers. I’m half Scottish. My Mum was born in Aberdeen and my father
was born in France. Now, Mr Rodgers, when can you come in and sign your
contract?” Harry was dancing on air. He felt all light headed and
dizzy. He thought he was about to faint. The clock on his wall said
twelve O’clock. That’s when, according to him, the world stood
still...that was the moment Sampson & Sons breathed life into his
I come in tomorrow, Ms Anderson?” asked Harry. He was dancing in his
kitchen. Ms Anderson glanced at her boss’s diary and pencilled in a time
slot for Mr Rodgers to meet Mr Henderson, Editor-in-Chief of Sampson
& Sons. “Will ten O’clock be convenient for you, Mr Rodgers?” asked
Ms Anderson. Harry breathed into the receiver a little drunk. “That
sounds perfect, Ms Anderson. I cannot wait to meet and kiss
you.” Ms Anderson blushed and glanced at her boss. “It is Mr
Henderson you have to impress.” she said. Chloe congratulated Harry
again and put the receiver down. When the conversation ended, she
walked over to her boss and showed her his diary. “You have an
appointment with Mr Rodgers tomorrow at ten O’clock, Mr Henderson, to
discuss Mr Rodger’s contract.” she said as she walked over to fix her
boss a cup of coffee.
Mr Henderson accepted the cup of coffee and smiled at Chloe. “I’d love to meet the author of Adelle.
Chloe, My dear....I think this could be a best-seller!” Chloe smiled at
her boss and then quietly left the room. Harry was ecstatic when he
got off the phone with Ms Anderson-Mackenzie Larrouse. He quickly ate
his lunch and headed towards the wardrobe to put together a three piece
suit for his ten O’clock meeting with Mr Henderson. His hands shook
with excitement. What tie should he wear with his Pierre Cardin suit?
He chose the one with the books. This, he thought, would be
appropriate. After a nice bath he walked into the study. His writing
desk was neat and tidy. He had not written anything else since writing Adelle.
He was pissed off with all the amounts of rejection notices he had
received these past few months that it put him off his writing.
Diligently he removed his key from the upper drawer and bent over to
open his bottom drawer. He carefully unearthed the original manuscript
of Adelle from its burial ground in the bottom of his writing desk and kissed it.
came quickly after publication. He received a handsome cheque for
$300,000 from Sampson & Sons in royalty money from the sale of his
Novel. Adelle was at the top of the charts on the New York Times best
seller list for eighteen consecutive weeks. This was followed by talk
shows and interviews on many talk shows around the country. Many young
girls read Adelle and admired the courage of the heroine who met Harriet
Tubman in her struggle for freedom from slavery in one of the South’s
cotton plantations. The book encouraged young adults to read about
Harriet Tubman and about the slavery in America and Europe. He had
received several threats as well from prejudiced political activists who
threatened to boycott the book and burn the book for its pro-African
American themes. It was written, after all, during the Civil Right
Movement in the 1960’s when the country was torn in two. Harry thought
he had to publish it. The book, Adelle must
fight against all prejudice and win the fight against racism in America
and the world at large. Harry signed a contract with Sampson &
Sons to write a sequel to Adelle.
They paid him a handsome quarter of a million dollars in advance to
write the sequel. Harry had a tight deadline. He had until the summer
of 1966 to write the sequel. The title of the Sequel came easy to him.
He would call the sequel, ‘A Woman of Class’. The story would begin from the moment that Confederate Army soldier, Henry Smyth was out of jail and married Adelle.
Henry Smyth was sentenced to five years in jail for failing to adhere
to orders given to him by his superiors to abandon and turn over Adelle,
a ‘negro’ woman, the daughter of a slave. A Woman of Class told the
story about how Adelle Smyth, now married to a Confederate officer,
fought for freedom against slavery with the help of Harriet Tubman and
carved a name for herself.
The ideas for A Woman of Class
were easy enough...yet when it came to put pen to paper, Harry was
stumped. For weeks he sat on his desk attempting to write the first
sentence, but failed. He’d stared down upon the black page with sweat
pouring down from his forehead mingling with that of the metallic ink
from his pen. Harry wracked his brains and wiped his forehead with a
clean handkerchief then looked up at the portrait of the Muse Calliope
hanging from the wall above his writing desk. He prayed to her for
inspiration, but the Muse remained silent. He tapped his pen against the
wooden desk, hummed a few tunes to himself, poured himself goblets of
Chardonnay, but nothing came to him as he sat there attempting to draft
the first sentence to A Woman of Class.
nights dragged on and at the end of his wits, Harry sat there trying to
come up with an opening statement to mark the empty page. It was
ridiculous! He, a renowned author stymied by the silence of the Muse.
“Come on, Calliope, Darling...talk to me! Inspire me with your
musings!” Yet nothing came to him. Staring at his blank page he pulled
on his earlobes, massaging them for inspiration...nothing!
“Great...what am I going to say to Mr Henderson when I have nothing to
show him?” In a few weeks’ time he had a meeting at Sampson & Sons
with his Editor and he had no story for him. Mr Henderson would sue him
for breach of contract and his writing career would be over in a blink
of an eye. Exasperated he brushed his hair back and prayed to his
favourite muse to speak to him. “For the love of God, inspire me, Oh
Calliope!” Then he took out his poetry pad which he kept in a special
drawer and he let his pen glide through an empty page. It took him an
hour to produce a poem.
The Poet writes his poem,
With a steady hand round his yellow quill.
Dreaming sensual dreams, his soul yells
Speaking wisdom with bodacious words he fills
blank pages into books-- pen in ink well;
He burns the midnight oil as he writes--
A radical young rebel with new ideas,
Staring out the window his fancy takes flight
Like a dozen butterflies in velvet skies;
His heart skips with each rhyme and rhythm
From his quill as his words glide across the page
His words paint a multi-coloured scene like a prism
Reflecting his heart with the sagaciousness of a sage;
Projecting love, hate, compassion with each stroke
Like a craftsman he knits and weaves his words;
Playing with the ancient language he spoke
Not with tongue but with words to be heard
Not by the ear, but with the eyes;
The author, connives and schemes all day
Knitting his brows he opens up his mind
And listens carefully to the Muses' symphony;
And then inspiration comes like the minnow.
Spinning tales of love between a man and a woman,
Making love in a small yellow dingy out at sea;
The poet weaves each story with a crafty hand
Into these lacy tapestries he calls Poetry;
Like Shakespeare, taking pen to paper,
The poet sits by the window near his lamp;
And dreams of being a famous author;
His name engraved upon his book like a stamp.
Harry put down his pen. Why couldn’t he write a single sentence to A Woman of Class
and yet write this stunning poem? It didn’t make sense, did it? He
got up from his writing chair, stretched himself and walked into the
kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. Morning dawned and he didn’t
get a drop of sleep. He grew tired from exhaustion. How long had it
been since he slept, eight days....a week? Surely this wasn’t healthy.
He had to sleep and he had to produce a new manuscript. He lay on his
bed and let his mind wander till he drifted into a peaceful dream.
tossed and turned in his sleep. He dreamed of meeting Mr Henderson.
In his dream, or nightmare, rather, he met with Mr Henderson. Mr
Henderson asked how far he got with the sequel to Adelle.
Harry began to sweat profusely and played with his tie. “I’m sorry to
have to tell you this, Mr Henderson,” Harry began, “But I’m afraid that I
cannot write anything...I have nothing to write about.” Mr Henderson’s
smile turned into a grimace and his demeanour changed abruptly. “I
will give you until noon tomorrow to produce a spanking new manuscript,
Mr Rodgers....or we, at Sampson & Sons will sue your assets off for
breach of contract.” Mr Henderson said through gritted teeth. “Am I
making myself clear, Mr. Rodgers?” said Mr Henderson.
felt a tad sick. He sat in a puddle of sweat nervously untying his tie
and looked at Mr Henderson in the eye. “Yes, Sir, I understand quite
clearly.” Harry said. Mr Henderson smiled at him and buzzed Chloe in to
escort Harry out of the office. Harry returned to his flat that
afternoon and began to write, but nothing came out; the page defiantly
stared back at Harry...blank and empty. Harry grabbed his pen and forced
his hand to write. His hand shook and tried desperately to write, but
no words formed. He looked up at Calliope who sat on a throne with her
writing tablet laughing at Harry as he struggled to write. “Write, you
b*****d...write!” he told his hand. His right hand shook and then....it
stabbed his left hand with the tip of the pen. Harry yelled in pain
and exasperation. He was going mad!
noon the next day, Harry felt sick. There he was....a famous author on
the brink of a nervous breakdown with no manuscript to hand his Editor.
He knew he was a dead man. Mr Henderson looked at Harry and smiled.
“Well, do you have something for me, Mr Rodgers?” he asked. Harry
couldn’t look at Mr Henderson in the eye. “No, Sir...I’m so sorry. I
don’t know how to tell you this....I have no manuscript for you.” Mr
Anderson rose from his seat. He pulled a revolver on Harry. Harry
shook with fear. “I told you, Mr Rodgers....you have signed a contract
with Sampson & Sons....a legal and binding contract. I warned you
that if you didn’t produce a manuscript by Tuesday, the thirty-first of
August, you would be sued. But I am going to cut a deal with you, Mr
Rodgers...I will be nice and hold you captive here until you write that
manuscript. You will write that manuscript or I will kill you! Now,
write, you dog...write.” Mr Henderson pointed the revolver to Harry’s
head. Harry was forced to sit on Mr Henderson’s desk and write his
manuscript. Mr Henderson buzzed Chloe who came in with her pad and
pencil. “Yes, Mr Henderson?” asked Chloe. Mr Henderson stood with his
revolver still pointed towards Harry, never taking his eyes off him, and
instructed his secretary to bring him in two cups of coffee and
pastrami on rye sandwich for Harry. “Mr Henderson, why are you holding a
revolver? What’s this all about?” she asked. Mr Henderson explained to
his secretary how Harry was going to sit in his office writing all
night till he produced the sequel to Adelle.
“And Chloe, dear...don’t say a word of this to anyone in the office.
If you do, you’ll be out of a job...got that?” Chloe nodded and a few
minutes later she walked out the door.
office workers were finishing their reports and were about to put the
covers on their type writers when Chloe came back with a tray of coffee
and the pastrami sandwich. Bertha, one of the secretaries to Mr
Scheilheimer smiled at Chloe and asked rather curiously. “Is Mr
Henderson going to stay all night with that young man? We saw him going
into Mr Henderson’s office and he is still there. It’s six O’clock and
he’s not out yet.” Chloe smiled at Bertha and said that Mr Henderson
and Mr Rodgers were having a rather long meeting.
at the door, Chloe entered and placed the tray on top of the filing
cabinet. Mr Henderson was sitting on the brown leather sofa near his
desk, revolver pointed at Harry’s head. Harry was busy typing away while
buckets of sweat poured down his cheeks. The black leather chair was
damp with sweat. Harry typed any key...he wasn’t thinking about what to
write. It was difficult to write having someone pointing a gun at you.
“Thank you, Chloe, you may sit down next to me and shut your mouth. We
are going to sit and wait for this Bozo to finish his Manuscript.” Mr
Henderson pointed the gun at Chloe and beckoned her to sit down next to
him on the brown leather couch.
clock kept ticking into the night. The atmosphere was tense in that
little office. Chloe sat and looked at poor Harry sitting there typing
his life away while Mr Henderson pointed the Smith and Wesson at him.
This wasn’t what publishing was all about. It was about good writing
and a mutual understanding between author and publisher. Around nine
O’clock, Harry stopped typing. Mr Henderson stood up and walked towards
his desk. “You finish, Mr Rodgers?” he asked. Harry couldn’t move. He
looked down at all the incoherent cacophony of words that he
typed...and cried. He cried like a baby...pleading for a little comfort
and kindness. “Is this your idea of a joke?” growled Mr Henderson.
“What the devil is this garbage?” he asked.
stood up and tried to plead with Mr Henderson. “Thomas, please!” she
begged. “Can’t you see how frightened he is?” She stood between Mr
Henderson and Harry and cuddled Harry. Mr Henderson pointed the gun
towards the two of them. “No...He promised me a manuscript and he is
going to deliver! I told him he had until nine O’clock to finish the
manuscript.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s nine O’clock
and he still hasn’t produced a manuscript except this garbage. Now, I am
going to finish him and anyone who steps in the way of me.” A shot
went off and a flock of birds sitting on the ledge flew off.
sat in bed, his face all covered with sweat. His heart went on
over-drive. What happened? Was he dead? Was he in heaven? He looked
about and found himself in his room. It was three O’clock in the
afternoon. He must have dozed off at seven that morning and he had a
hell of a nightmare. The phone went and he was startled by the sound of
it. He rose himself out of bed to answer the phone. “Hello,” he
said. It was Chloe.
Rodgers, Mr Henderson would like to meet with you to discuss your
progress. Would eight O’clock next Thursday morning be convenient for
you?” Harry’s heart raced faster. “Yes, that’ll be good.” He lied.
Chloe pencilled the date into Mr Henderson’s diary. “Ok, Mr
Rodgers....we’ll see you next Thursday.” Before he hung up, he blew
Chloe a kiss. Harry hurried to his writing desk. In a panic he grabbed
his pen and praying to his favourite muse with all his might he asked
the muse to inspire him. To his surprise, his pen rolled and glided
upon page after page of prose. “Oh, thank you mighty Calliope...I knew
you wouldn’t be silent forever! Thanks for saving my hide!
By the end of summer a Woman of Class
was finished. Mr Henderson was pleased and delighted with the
manuscript. The book was a masterpiece rolling off the shelves at the
drop of a hat. Harry became a well-known writer. Sampson & Sons
Publishing Company became a big name in the publishing industry with
dozens of well-established authors. “Shall we open another bottle of
bubbly?” asked Harry as he opened his first proof of his latest Novel.
“Yes, Harry...this calls for a celebration!” said Chloe as she kissed
Harry. Harry opened the bottle of Chardonnay and poured two goblets of
the bubby and handed one to Chloe. Together they clinked glasses and
toasted to Harry’s success.