I’ve been writing this column for six years now, and it still mystifies me that someone actually would read it. Before this, the only thing I had ever written was “home for money.”
Well, as of this week, I’ve got something else for you to read. It’s a novel that I penned over the last few years. After I finished writing it, I had to get it published, and that’s where the trouble began. I sent it to a couple of well-known publishers who were recommended by the late Virginia Hobson Hicks.
Mrs. Hicks was the coolest lady I’ve ever met. She was a little thing and feisty as a firecracker. She swam the English Channel and played tennis for Vanderbilt. If that was not enough, she was friends with Pat Conroy and a host of other VIPs — and had the pictures on her mantle to prove it.
She read my novel, “Hogan’s Boat,” before anyone else, and she liked it. I told her before she looked at the first page, “Now, Mrs. Hicks, this book has some language in it that you might find offensive.”
She looked at me and said, “Do you have any idea how many books I’ve read in my life? Of course you don’t, because you are a moron. But I’ll try not to blush.”
So I explained to her that this was the way people spoke around a fish camp.
She read my book in a day and called me on the phone to tell me that she really enjoyed it and wondered if it would be all right if she sent it to a publisher.
“Is that a trick question?” I asked.
She informed me that the good people at Blair Publishing in North Carolina were her peeps and she could get them to read it. A few days later, I got the nicest rejection letter from them, informing me that they were not accepting any fiction from first-time novelists, but they were intrigued by my writing style.
I called them on the phone and asked the lady who turned me down, “What’s my style?”
She told me I was a good, Southern storyteller, but sounded a bit “iggnant.”
“Write me some nonfiction, like ‘My time in prison with Martha Stewart’ or ‘Crabbers I’ve met while yachting,’ and I’d be glad to publish you,” she said.
“Well,” I said, “if I wrote a story about things that are real, it would result in a bounty being put on my head and all my friends going to the penitentiary. I think I’ll just stick with the fairy tale side of Flounder Creek. And besides, the events in ‘Hogan’s Boat’ are real enough. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. The setting for this book is Big Mud Fish Camp and the cast of characters that come and go through it. Don’t try to read between the lines; it’ll only give you a headache.”
So if you happen to read this book and you see someone mentioned you, recognize it’s purely coincidental. And I never mention anybody by their real name — especially Pom Toppell.
Before I go into the witness protection program, I’ll have a book signing in and around Darien for those of you who would like to see if you’re mentioned.
I don’t want this to sound like an infomercial, but you’ll be able to purchase one on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. It also can be downloaded on Kindle, Nook or Etch-a-sketch. And the Darien News has copies.
As Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”