“Kafka’s Hairbrush”

Boscutti Kafkas Hairbrush story

Someone’s having a bad hair day.

Anxious writer Franz K. waits for the pharmacy in Prague’s old square to open so he can purchase a bottle of his favorite hair tonic. Why are they late? What is wrong with the clerk? Why can’t he understand a word he says? Continue reading

Advertisements

“The Problem With Private Jets”

Boscutti The Problem With Private Jets story

Is capitalism cramping your style?

Thought you had it made when you started flying private? Think again. The joys of being the lead passenger can be short lived and a little on the cramped side.

“The Problem With Private Jets” is a high flying corporate story. It’s what you won’t find in the glossy brochures.

Do you have any idea what jet fuel costs these days?

★★★

‘Wouldn’t you commit a crime to avoid waiting in another Southwest check-in line?’ Slate

‘Clipped social satire set amongst the Gulfstream set.’ Amy Borge

‘Sly, comic take on the perils of capitalism.’ James Buchner

1,200 words / 5 minutes of cruising pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

If you like, you can read the free copy below at your leisure.

Buckle up and share this story with your friends.

 
 


 

“THE PROBLEM WITH PRIVATE JETS” (FREE STORY)

 
It’s not always plain sailing.

Take private jets. Cool, right? Until you get the bill. Forty-six thousand dollars for a cross country flight with a couple of pals doesn’t seem so bad until you get hit with the fuel levy.

A private jet flies on Jet-A kerosene-based fuel. You probably don’t know this but the price per gallon has quadrupled in the past eight years. It’s always more expensive on the coasts and always cheaper in the Midwest. But who flies to the Midwest?

How much fuel do you need? Depends on the model you’re flying. The bigger the private jet, the bigger the load. The forty-eight thousand pound Gulfstream G550 burns through four hundred gallons of fuel every hour. More if you’re flying hot and high to get wherever you want to go faster. It can take you from Chicago to Rome in record time except you need to top it up with six thousand gallons when you get there.

Then there’s the insurance levy, hangar fee, two pilots, one attendant and catering. Gluten free sandwiches? You’ll pay double for those.

You’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of private jets on the market. After everything that happened they became the symbol of excess. For a struggling company an obvious way to save money is to sell the odd jet. It looks good for the shareholders.

It’s mainly window dressing. Usually the jet is put up for sale at a price so high nobody will buy. The company appears frugal. The boss flies as usual. Everyone’s happy.

A private jet is great for getting work done. You can use your laptop throughout the entire flight. You can keep your phone switched on during take off and landing. There’s broadband multilink on board and satellite communications. There’s even a fax machine. Which can be handy if you like signing and sending contracts the old fashioned way.

Having your own private jet has some solid tax advantages. You can register your private jet as your principal domicile like _______ _______ did so you never have to pay income tax to any particular government. You’ll be flying all the way to the bank.

Buying a new private jet will set you back between ten and fifty-million dollars. Your broker will tell you to budget two thousand dollars per hour to fly. Your accountant will tell you to double it. Your financier will triple it.

Sure you can save money by buying pre-owned. A Falcon 2000 will give you wide-body cabin comfort with unmatched fuel efficiency. Dassault built two hundred and thirty Falcon 2000 aircraft between 1995 and 2006. So there’s a few to choose from. Resale values have fallen forty-five per cent in the past two years to around ten million dollars. A record low.

But before you reach for your checkbook you need to factor in maintenance costs. Maintenance on the Honeywell CFW738 engines cost almost six hundred dollars per hour. Six-hundred and fifty dollars per hour for those with more than five thousand hours. A, B and C series inspections can cost up to one hundred and sixty-thousand dollars to complete. You don’t want an engine exploding mid-flight.

Then there’s the interior to factor in. You need to set aside at least half a million dollars to refurbish. Even without the 24-karat gold plated cup holders, ashtrays, seatbelts and faucets. I’m not sure what it is about private jets and gold plated taps. It’s like an unwritten law.

The timber tends to Brazilian mahogany. The more highly polished the better. (All the better to catch your reflection.)

They don’t really understand understated. Even the bird’s-eye maple and walnut burl ends up glitzy. You can have your decorator come in but they usually get swamped with the all the technical details and you end up with an interior that looks like a flying brothel. Without the bar.

Everything that goes into a jet has to carry the Federal Aviation Administration seal of approval. Like the bronze eagle _____ _____ fastened onto the cabin wall. Cost thirty-eight thousand dollars to fabricate a special mount that met with FAA regulations.

An eagle? Who wants an eagle in their private jet? Just look out the window.

I know what you’re thinking. When you’re flying a lightsize or midsize private jet you always have to crane down to look out the window. It’s a pain in the neck.

The problem with private jets is there’s never enough headroom. You can’t stand up without smacking your head. It’s hard to feel on top of the world when you’re all hunched over. It’s embarrassing.

Ever been in a Learjet? It’s like flying in a coffin. (Quick joke. What’s the difference between an A320 and a beaver? Four thousand trees per hour.)

Sure you can get to smaller airports with a private jet. That’s probably the main reason you fly them. You drive right onto the tarmac, step out of the car and step in. You don’t see anyone. Except maybe some head of state.

Teterboro Airport is just twelve miles from midtown Manhattan. There’s no line ups, no security hassles, no delays. You drive up, you hop on, you fly off.

It’s kind of beautiful when you think about it. I fly private therefore I am.

If you don’t want to splurge on a whole private jet you can always chip in for fractional ownership. You basically buy a share of a private jet. Which sounds swell until you want to fly on a holiday. Christmas? You’re kidding, right? You’ve got to book Christmas five years out and they’ll change the schedule at the last minute.

You’re sharing a private jet which is not really that private. It’s like timeshare in the air.

Charter flights offer more options than part ownership because you can book a jet anytime to anywhere. Hire a whole aircraft and it’s yours to do with what you want. Just don’t be surprised if the seats are covered in avion blonde leather and the attendant is called Nicole.

Private jet services are essentially glorified taxis. They fly business men in bad suits between small airports with excess runway capacity.

They use entry level private jets. Very light and very, very small. (The Russian spare parts? Don’t ask about the Russian spare parts.)

Cabins on entry level private jets are very crammed. So take pain killers and book a masseur at the other end. Also don’t be surprised if you find chicken bones wedged in the seat cushion.

So much for plain sailing. You may as well spread your wings and fly first class.

At least the extra headroom is free.

 

“Bring Me the Head of John Grisham”

Boscutti Bring Me the Head of John Grisham story

What would you do for a million dollars?

Risk averse expatriate life insurance agent Bob Proctor has to steal back the head of famed American legal thriller author to claim a million dollar bounty from a retired Mexican drug lord.

He soon finds himself way out of his depth on the back roads of Mexico. Army snipers, wild dogs, gold Cadillacs, one-handed Narcos. The whole enchilada.

“Bring Me the Head of John Grisham” is a loco literary story. With enough twists to give you whiplash.

Can the timid Proctor become fearless?

★★★★

‘The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them.’ Time Magazine

“Ruthless, contemporary take on Sam Peckinpah’s weird, horrifying film that somehow transcends its unlikely material.” Gary Hughes

‘Riveting, snarling thriller with some brutal twists and turns.’ Garth Hableton

‘Absorbing, bizarrely spellbinding and strangely humorous.’ Alex Guerrero

‘Feels like Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson and Elmore Leonard got drunk and decided to write a short story.’ Matt Kelland

‘I have no idea where this dirty little thriller came from. It just kept assaulting me until I wrote it down, wrote it out. I guess it’s all about courage. If you like stories that spin out of control down south of the border, you’ll love this one.’ Stefano Boscutti

ISBN 9780980712575 / 9,000 words / 36 minutes of gritty reading pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

Get your copy now because you love twisted thrillers.

“Bring Me the Head of John Grisham” (Story) is now available in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Read the free excerpt below. Buy your copy from your favorite online retailer now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords

 
 


 

“BRING ME THE HEAD OF JOHN GRISHAM” (FREE EXCERPT)

 
MEXICAN BACK ROAD

Please don’t look at me like that.

JOHN GRISHAM’S head gives me one of those looks. It sits tilted upright in a metal bucket of salted ice, strapped in the passenger seat of a stolen police car. The one I’m driving down some crumpled dirt road. I’m heading into the desert country around Coahuila, away from La Pesca and a thousand bad decisions.

I’m almost certain I didn’t cut off your head. Mind you, not a hundred percent certain, because my memory’s a little fuddled. Statistically? Say, somewhere between sixty-three and sixty-seven percent. Maybe a little higher.

I try to make sense of the creased road map. Everything is written in Spanish, and my Spanish is not good.

I straighten my filthy glasses and try to lean forward to switch on the air conditioning, but the seatbelt holds me back. I undo it, lean forward, and press the button twice. Nothing.

I wipe sweat off my brow with the back of my hand. My limp tie is pulled loose. My shirt and suit can’t remember the last time they saw a dry cleaner. My shoes are scuffed like my soul.

I’ve got a cigarette in my shirt pocket. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.

I’ve been drinking a lot of tequila. That’s where I heard the story about the million dollar reward for your head. I was drinking in a bar. Not sure about you, but to me that’s a lot of money. Yes sir, a lot of money.

John Grisham’s mouth is level with the lip of the bucket. As the stolen police car rattles down the broken road, so does his head, from side-to-side, so it looks like he’s disagreeing with everything I say.

Locals say the best way to keep cool is to warm your body with a little tequila. I think it’s a myth. How can that possibly be true? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think you should believe everything you hear in a bar.

I roll my eyes at John Grisham’s head.

All I know is it’s hot. It’s always hot.

An old paperback of Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” lies on the dashboard, baking beneath the windscreen.

How about some music, John? Take your mind off the heat. Country? Classic Rock? What about the Eagles? I’m sure I can find “Hotel California” somewhere.

There’s a mess of wires under the dash, as if someone had ripped them out and roughly twisted them together again.

I press the tuning button, and the radio scans through local stations, catching snatches of songs and voices and static and bad commercials, before fading out to nothing.

You died of a brain aneurysm, don’t you remember? You were staying in one of those private vacation apartments at La Quinta Huachinango, on the outskirts of town. You clutched the sides of your head. Thought you were having a migraine attack. Next second, you’re flat on the floor, deader than dead.

What do you mean you didn’t know about the reward on your head? It was the talk of the town. Everyone knew about it.

Juan told me about the reward when he bought me a drink in that bar. It was posted by Jose Cardenas Fuente. The one they call El Biblio, The Librarian. They say he has the largest private collection of crime books in Mexico. Used to be a drug kingpin, before he retired.

I have no idea why he wants your head, John. You’ll have to ask him.

But if you hadn’t died, I’m pretty sure somebody would have killed you for it.

Juan figured two heads would be better than one. Rosaria told me you’d been interred in the side of the cemetery. A shallow grave, nothing fancy. Not one of those domed mausoleums reserved for drug dealers and local politicians. We dug up your coffin and were just about to open the lid when, klang! Somebody smashed me in the back of the head with a shovel. I saw stars. I really did.

I touch the back of my head, middle-aged hair matted with dried blood. It still hurts.

When I woke up, I saw the coffin lid was open and your head sat in that bucket. Juan was next to me, dead. A handwritten note knifed into his chest. ‘This is going to happen to everybody who doesn’t understand, the message is for everybody.’

That’s not very good English, is it, John? It’s a transitive verb, right? Well, you’d know. You’re the writer.

There were two other dead bodies there. Narcos riddled with bullets. Blood everywhere.

And a dead policeman. Did I mention the dead policeman?

I grabbed your head, jumped into the police car, and took off. I wasn’t going to wait around. Everybody steals everything here. It’s a way of life. They have more car thefts than burglaries here.

Anyway, John, I’m not really stealing it. I’m borrowing it.

I take the cigarette out of my shirt pocket. It’s my last one.

John Grisham’s head keeps giving me that look.

Things are finally turning my way. We’re leaving the beautiful, unspoiled coast of Mexico, and the promise of both a vacation or retirement lifestyle that redefines paradise. We’re off to see El Biblio and claim what’s due.

No, we’re not driving to Ciudad Juarez. Do you think I’m crazy? The Juarez Cartel control that land.

We’re heading to El Biblio’s hacienda outside the village of La Linda, up near the border. High up in Los Zetas country. Taking these back roads, so we don’t draw attention to ourselves.

It may take a little longer, but it’s less risky. I’m not sticking my neck out for anyone.

Lost? I’m not lost. I know exactly where we’re going.

Something moves in the thin scrub. Might be wild dogs, fighting over whatever’s left of whatever they took down last night.

There’s not much scenery. Mesquite scrub everywhere. The occasional prickly pear. Some low-lying lechgila, mensuite, creosote.

I don’t know my way around here? Who does? And how can you even tell I’m lost? You can’t see over the dash.

Oh, it’s a feeling. Really? You’ve got a feeling I’m lost?

I rub my temple.

I’m not lost. I’m not confused. I’ve got a headache, that’s all. You could stop talking, that would be a good start.

Weak? I’m not weak, just a little tired. How can you say that? Do you know anything about my daughter? Do you know anything about my life?

GUST OF WIND

Lonely weeds and dry branches shiver.

I’m lost, and I never finish anything? Really, you think so? You know me?

John Grisham’s head doesn’t say anything.

Really, you can tell by looking at me?

I wind down the window, and dust and warm air rush in.

Then who am I getting the money for? Who’s the reward for?

I cock my ear.

What? Sorry, I can’t hear you. Oh, you don’t know, John? You’re at a loss?

I look out at the parched hills.

It’s for Kristen, my daughter. She’s an English major at Amherst. The million dollars is for her. She needs the right start in life.

After everything I’ve done wrong, it’s time I did something right.

She deserves it. Everything she puts her mind to she achieves. She won the Armstrong Prize in her first year. She’s got her mind set on becoming a writer, an author.

A million dollars means she won’t have to worry about money.

After the divorce, I wasn’t the world’s greatest dad. This way I can repay her for my mistakes.

I smile at John Grisham’s head.

This way I can put your head to good use.

I put the cigarette to my lips and pull out a Zippo lighter, flip open the lid, and strike once, twice, without sparking a flame.

Her mother left me, and then I kind of left myself.

I strike the lighter for a third time, and the rear window implodes. Showers the cabin with blasted glass.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” pours in from the car racing behind me. It’s not the original by The Clash. It’s a raucous Hispanic version by Los Fabulosos Cadillac, grumbling louder and louder as the car draws closer. Dust storms rise in its wake.

It’s a gold Cadillac, like Elvis Presley used to give away in the seventies. There’s a BORED NARCO behind the wheel and an ANNOYED NARCO leaning out the passenger window, handgun outstretched and about to fire again.

The gold Cadillac zooms up beside me, and the Narco’s gun levels with my head. I slam the brakes, slip and swerve, and stop on the embankment. The gold Cadillac slides to a stop on a wave of dust, the thumping Clash classic kicking on.

Wind carries away the wave.

I see the passenger door open, and the Annoyed Narco steps out. He cracks his neck and strides towards me, a palm-sized gold ornament of Judas Tadeo, Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes, dangling from a chain around his neck.

I furiously roll up the window, lock the door, snatch the key from the ignition. Narco shakes his head, disappointed, then lifts his gun and blasts two shots straight through the window. Glass explodes everywhere.

He slams his gun into the back of his pants, reaches in, and drags me out by my hair. Tosses me to the ground, and then reaches back into the car. He pulls out the bucket with John Grisham’s head, holds it up, smiles, and puts it on the bonnet.

He turns to look at me.

I scramble backward in the dirt and dust. He sees my wallet fall out. I reach for it, but he steps on my hand. He picks it up and thumbs it open.

He looks back at the driver in the gold Cadillac and shouts over the song.

El idiota no tiene dinero.

He pulls a picture of my daughter out of the wallet. It was taken on her first day at college, all smiles and sunshine. He flicks the picture at me.

He pulls out my business card. Bob Proctor, Sales Consultant, Liberty Life Insurance, 301 Avenue E, San Antonio, Texas 78205. Telephone 210-250-3171. Fax 210-250-3105. For all your life insurance needs.

He flicks the card at me, lifts the bucket from the bonnet, pulls out his gun, and aims it at my head. A gust of dust tumbles behind him.

Quizás, deberías haber hecho un seguro de vida a tu nombre.

FINGER ON TRIGGER

My life flashes before my eyes. Not all of it. Just the disappointing parts.

The marriage break-up. The lawyers. The divorce.

Liberty Life Insurance convinced me to come down here. To sell life insurance to a new real estate development, an upscale, gated community. On full commission, because then I could really make some money.

La Pesca is a town in Tamaulipas on the Gulf coast, about halfway between Matamoros and Tampico. Long, sandy beaches with a handful of palm trees. Single-story dwellings, small market that opens in the morning, open-air restaurant. There’re no tourists, no ATMs.

RISING DUST

It was supposed to be paradise on Earth, full of rich Americans scared of dying. Why else would they buy life insurance. It was a shambles. Nothing was built. Six bags of cement was all I ever saw. Figured I’d be the first one there, no competition, no risk. But after a year there was still nothing.

I spent all my money on fees and bribes. For what? For nothing?

My ex-wife told me I never took a chance on anything, never took a chance on life. Well, I’d show her. I’d make something of myself. Not for her, mind you. For Kristen, for my daughter. Her mother kept telling her what a loser I was.

That’s when I moved into sales.

I wanted to help my daughter, that’s all. And it led to Mexico and a year of broken dreams. And that led to too much tequila, which led to the bar and led to Juan, and led to the cemetery and that shallow grave, and then John Grisham’s head.

SLICING SUNLIGHT

The sound of rotor blades thumping as dust swirls over the stolen police car. An army-green Medevac helicopter rises over the hill, spewing gravel and dust in its path. I can’t see a thing. The helicopter chops through the air, low and loud. A loudspeaker replays a recorded warning.

Usted está violando las leyes nacionales de inmigración. Puede ser arrestado y sometido a juicio. Usted está violando las leyes nacionales de inmigración. Puede ser arrestado y sometido a juicio.

Dust clears, and the gold Cadillac is gone. So is John Grisham’s head. So is the stolen police car.

MEXICAN MEN, WOMEN and CHILDREN leap up from behind mesquite scrub, scattering for their lives.

The helicopter banks and sweeps back low. Its bay door thrusts open and MILITARY SNIPER in a harness leans out, leveling his assault rifle. He’s wearing an Army-green ski mask.

The military is getting out of hand in Mexico. This is how they try to stop the immigration problem. It’s their answer to everything.

Sniper opens fire on the people fleeing, squeezing off shot after shot.

This is a ruthless country. The weak do not survive.

Even retired drug lords are ruthless. Look at El Biblio. He hated the last John Grisham novel so much, he put a bounty on the author’s head. God knows what he’s going to do it. I don’t want to know.

El Biblio cut off his lieutenant’s fingers when he caught him reading “The Da Vinci Code”. Cut off each of the fingers on his right hand so he couldn’t turn the pages. Each one snipped off with a pair of pruning shears.

Did he cut off the thumb? Not sure. But this is a bad man. He used to control sixty-three percent of the methamphetamine trade in Northern Mexico, but now he’s semiretired on his hacienda. Tending to his roses and his books.

Imagine putting a million dollar bounty on John Grisham’s head so he’d never write again. I was lucky he was already dead. I wouldn’t want to be the man to kill John Grisham.

Although in this country, finding someone to kill somebody costs a lot less than a million dollars. You can have someone killed for thirty dollars and a bottle of tequila.

Or you can always call the military.

The helicopter heads to the horizon, its recorded warning waning with the distance.

I don’t want to think whether any of those poor Mexicans were hit. I can’t hear any moaning, so I guess no one is bleeding to death. Maybe they’re too scared to cry out. I would be.

I slip the photo of my daughter into my shirt pocket. Stand up and dust myself off.

I never finished college. I was one of those geeky young men studying mathematics. The beauty of numbers, the love of logic. I dropped out in my final year.

There’s not a lot of career scope for a mathematician. We were asked to work for the US Defense Advance Research Project Agency. They were funding research to optimize the efficiency of a military bulldozer, called the Grizzly Combat Mobility Vehicle. It was used in the Iraqi desert during Operation Desert Storm, the first Iraqi war.

It had a problem because it got damaged by sand rolling up the front. It was supposed to move at forty miles per hour, sweeping away barbed wire, pushing sand into trenches filled with Iraqi troops, burying them alive, then rolling back over the top to make sure they were dead.

But Iraqi sand is finer than American sand. It clogs the treads and gears. We were supposed to calculate optimal track bearings to improve efficiency.

I didn’t want to learn how to kill people more efficiently. I dropped out and got a job as an actuary at Liberty Life Insurance. I applied mathematical and statistical models to assess tables and premiums. To assess the risk profiles of insurance products.

A study by U.S. News included actuaries among the twenty-five best professions that will be in great demand in the future. Great demand, but terrible salary. Statistically, actuaries are among the lowest paid in the insurance industry.

It was my manager who suggested I move into sales. I thought I could finally make some money instead of just making ends meet. I wanted to help give Kristen a start in life. Taking out another student loan seemed reckless.

My manager told me coming down to Mexico was risk free, all upside.

I shield my eyes and look over the sun-blazed hills.

Mexico is the world’s biggest producer of methamphetamine. Mexican cartels and gangs control meth distribution in America. They also control the wholesale distribution of cocaine, as well as its transit from South America. All roads lead through Mexico.

The average price of methamphetamine jumped seventy-three percent in the last year. The price of cocaine rose by forty-four percent despite a decline in purity.

I take off my glasses and try and clean them with the hem of my jacket.

More narcos fighting for more money leaves the army and police vulnerable. The Sinaloa’s main rivals are the Zetas. They don’t mess around. They don’t take any prisoners.

The Zetas themselves were originally formed by army deserters from the Mexican Army Special Forces. They’re former elite soldiers, highly trained, highly ruthless. The other week, they hung up recruitment banners in border towns inviting current and former soldiers to join them.

I put my glasses back on, dirtier than before. I run my hand through my hair, brushing out slithers of broken glass.

I take a deep breath and start walking. There’s not a car anywhere, there’s not a bird in the sky.

Of course, I took out a life insurance policy on myself. I’m not stupid. Whatever happens to me, my daughter will be getting a million dollars. Even if it kills me.

RUSTED OUT FORD PICKUP

A battered Ford pickup rolls down the road and creaks to a stop beside me. A YOUNG MAN behind the wheel, his BROTHER beside him, and an OLD MAN pressed up against the passenger door. They look like field workers or ranch hands. Hard working people, honest people.

The old man points a crooked finger to the back of the pickup.

I nod, step on top of the rear tire, and clamber over the side. As I land, I almost put my foot through the rusted floor. A YOUNG BOY with a nasty hair lip is hunched under the rear window, looking at me.

He doesn’t say a word. Maybe he’s mute, maybe leprosy. He’s holding a machete in his tiny hand.

The pickup rolls along again. There’s a worn rope on the floor, bloodstained.

Probably from roping cattle.

The pickup picks up speed. I don’t want to grab the sides. I don’t want to cut myself. My last tetanus shot was nineteen months ago.

We swerve off the dirt road, over an embankment, and switchback down a desolate trail.

Must be a shortcut. These locals don’t need a map to know where they’re going.

I smile at the boy, who doesn’t smile back.

ABANDONED FARMHOUSE

The low roof has collapsed in places. It’s a derelict place, most of the fencing gone.

The pickup slides to a stop. Doors creak open, and the men step out, smiling.

I clamber over the side, and as my feet touch the ground, the driver punches me hard in the stomach. I double over into the dirt, and he kicks me hard in the head. In a blur, he ties my hands behind my back with the bloodstained rope. Drags me to my feet and into the decrepit farmhouse.

DIRT FLOOR

Smashed window panes in crumbling frames. Strange Day-Glo gnomes painted on the walls. In one corner, there’s a shrine to Santa Muerte, the grim reaper, worshiped as a saint by Mexican criminals. Bizarre elf figurines are heaped in another corner.

I’m tossed onto the pile of concrete elves. The brother reaches down and rifles through my pockets. Retrieves my business card and the photo of my daughter. Turns to look at the driver.

Está demasiado flaca como para chingársela.

He flicks the photo at me and inspects my business card. Shows it to the driver, who nods. Stands and turns to the boy.

Si no estamos de vuelta al anochecer, córtale la cabeza.

Both men leave.

The old man shuffles towards me. He stares at my shoes, and then stoops down. Takes off one and then the other. He slips them onto his own feet and then walks out happy.

The metallic sound of a pickup’s door creaking open, slamming shut. The pickup starts, revs, and drives off.

MACHETE BLADE

The boy spits on the blade, takes a black stone from his pocket, and starts sharpening the steel.

What do they think? Liberty Life Insurance has a kidnapping department they can just call to collect a ransom? Liberty Life Insurance is not going to pay kidnappers. It’s not in their interest.

They take out wholesale life insurance policies against all employees and agents. So when you die, the company collects.

I’m worth more to the company dead than alive.

These kidnappers will kill me. They will kill me and bury me where no one will ever find my body. No body, no life insurance pay out for Kristen. No million dollars.

I’m going to die on top of a mound of concrete elves.

I try to move my back into a comfortable position. The elves shift, and slither.

The sharpening sound stops halfway along the blade.

 


End of this sample. How did you like it so far? Like to see how it ends?


 

 
Boscutti Bring Me the Head of John Grisham story ebook

Get your complete copy now.

“Bring Me the Head of John Grisham” (Story) in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Buy now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords

“Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games”

Boscutti Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games story

When you look at American politics these days, what do you see?

Land of the extreme, home of the crazy? The Democrats are keeping their loonies under wraps. But the Republicans? Man, they’re out of control.

“Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games” is a political ‘what if’ story? What if you take the current principles of the Republican Party to their natural conclusion? What if those values reign supreme?

What if it really is every man for himself? What if you destroy all those meddlesome laws and regulations? What if it is kill or be killed?

Imagine the Republican Primaries as the Hunger Games. In a derelict shopping mall. With lots of security cameras. So there’s no place to hide.

No more dull speeches, no more boring debates, Republican contenders now face each other in a thrilling three-day fight to the death where the winner will lead the party to the next election. You can even bet on it if you like.

Rick Perry is the odds-on favorite. He has the love of his God and his sponsors. So why does he doubt himself?

★★★★

‘Our dystopia just got a little more dystopian.’ Edward Warner

‘Brilliant, cruelly funny satire of American politics and television programming.’ Mark LaPorte

‘Damning reflection on the reality of American democracy.’ David Tarallo

‘Sharp and acerbic.’ Matt Kelland

‘Where did the idea come from? Probably from watching one of the early Republican debates when the audience cheered at Rick Perry’s record number of executions. I guess if you live by the death penalty you better be ready to die by it.’ Stefano Boscutti

ISBN 9780980712582 / 3,000 words / 12 minutes of keen reading pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

Get your copy now because it’s no longer politics as usual.

“Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games” (Story) is now available in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Read the free excerpt below. Buy your copy from your favorite online retailer now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords

 
 


 

“RICK PERRY PRAYS FOR THE ASSASSINATION GAMES” (FREE EXCERPT)

RICK PERRY is on his knees, praying before his God.

Ten minutes, Governor Perry. Ten minutes before you’re on.

It’s not God talking. It’s the intercom in his dressing room. Crystal clear. The country may be broken but Fox News studio is all class. The television corporation has set up a giant production facility outside the derelict Mall of America for the latest Assassination Games.

In the spirit of free markets and no longer hamstrung by Government regulations, the Republican Party Presidential Primaries have evolved into the most watched television phenomena in the world. Everyone watches the games.

For three days everyone is glued to their phones and pads and screens. Local Governments dip into their meager budgets to project the games onto highrise buildings so everyone in poverty zones can take part. Ridiculous given the underclass no longer has the right to vote.

But everyone gets into the spirit of the games. For the Federal Government it’s a major revenue stream. The Assassination Lottery generates more money than the Internal Revenue Service. For voters, there are so many ways to win. You can choose race, height, weight, gender or age. You can choose outfits, weapons, official time of death. You can even choose hair color. Policies? People don’t really bother with policies. They’re too hard to print on the little scratch tickets.

Perry has been fasting all day. He spots the silver platter overflowing with ripe apples, sweet oranges. But he won’t yield to temptation. He won’t let down his God.

He rolls out his smile. He’s been practicing that smile his whole life.

Perry is a good looking man. Six foot and more, broad shouldered, could have played professional football if he was a little more intelligent.

Hair and makeup will be coming in next. Probably that damn stylist too. The one who wants him to wear the silver Stetson. Perry always feels comfortable in his chinos and blue shirt. The boots he likes. And the belt with the big brass buckle. But the hat makes his head look too big. He’ll carry it in his hand, wave it high to the crowd as he enters the mall. The cheers will make him feel good.

Perry hasn’t felt good for some time. Entering the race he felt great. He felt his God was with him every step of the way. That’s what Reverend Wildmond had told him.

Wildmond and the other pastors had sat with Perry in the Governor’s mansion and told him he was a prophet. Yes, a prophet anointed by his Lord to lead the United States into revival and Godly government.

They had joined hands and prayed over him that day. They had prayed mightily that Texas was to be the prophet state. Perry was to lead an army of God over the seven mountains of the world. Perry was to lead the way.

In the two short weeks since he had entered the Republican race, Perry had shot to the top of the lottery polls and is already odds on favorite. Everyone has been eating up his speeches and declarations.

Accountability and fiscal responsibility will not come from places like Washington, it will come from places like Texas. Throughout history, in good times and in bad, Texans have endured. This is our time. This is our place in history. We must seize the moment. We must show the world the endless opportunities of freedom and free enterprise.

Luckily none of the networks ever talked about the numbers. The unemployment rate in Texas is the highest in the United States. One in four Texans have no health insurance, one in ten earn the minimum wage or less.

Numbers, just numbers. Sure Perry had taken billions from President Obama to fix his state’s deficit mess. But that didn’t stop Perry from making savage budget cuts. Tens of thousand of teachers lost their jobs in the last round while his slush fund rewards cronies with millions of tax dollars. People say the line between public duty and private investment are blurred. People say the darnedest things.

Perry can’t understand why people still love President Obama. The way he sees it, President Obama has been talking everything down. Talking the economy down, talking jobs down. Hell, the only job he worries about is his own.

Obama had called Perry an incompetent narcissist. What the hell does that even mean?

Revered Wildmon had told Perry that President Obama nurtures a hatred for the United States of America, a hatred for the white man. It’s in his blood, in his nature. There ain’t nothing he can do about it.

Perry loves America with all his heart. In his dreams he wraps himself in the American flag and carries a bright, shining cross.

At one of the television debates a moderator had tried to question his record of state executions. Texas has hundreds more people on death row than any other state. The audience cheered. Not just the party faithful, not just the plants, everyone.

That’s how we do business in Texas.

Waste and fraud in government? Don’t believe a word of it. Newt Ginrich, damn him. He’d been a friend and a mentor to Perry. He’d even written the introduction to Perry’s first book. Perry was going to enjoy taking him out.

Perry had never lost an election, including an elementary school contest to be king of the Paint Creek School Carnival. He secured that win by handing out pennies for votes. Nothing’s changed but the price.

He had become Governor when George W. Bush resigned in late 2000 to head to the White House. Since then, Perry has won three four-year terms. He’s the longest serving governor Texas has ever had.

He’s also doubled the debt since he became governor. But who’s counting.

Perry looks up at the monitor glistening in the corner of his dressing room. Jon Huntsman is being interviewed. Sound is off but Perry knows what he’s saying. He’ll be a throw over. People think he’s mysterious and holding something back. He’s got good hair, ain’t no denying that. But he’s liable to do something stupid.

You need more than good hair to win the Assassination Games. Perry had been in training for six months before he announced he’d enter the race, enter the game. It’s odd they still call it a Presidential race.

Nothing but protein and steroids for six months. The twinge in his knee had mainly gone. But his spirit was lacking. He felt weak in his heart.

Perry knew the strategy. He’d been over it a thousand times. Preserve energy, maintain the kill.

Five minutes, Governor Perry. Five minutes to go.

There’s going to be dangers aplenty in the mall. Power outages, electrical surges, gas leaks, poisoned water. The mall spans almost a hundred acres over four levels. The four major department stores had long been gutted. You couldn’t tell your Nordstrom from your Macy’s. The theme park is rotting, rusting.

Used to be the largest indoor theme park in the United States. Now the two roller coasters lay silent, the rides and attraction broken beyond repair.

The rainforest at one end of the mall had grown wild. A shallow, putrid lake had formed in a corner where the skylight had collapsed. Nothing lived there except snakes and rats.

Perry had always liked hunting. Even as a boy roaming the fields with his black lab. His father wouldn’t buy him a gun, so he had to save his own money. His father had been a lifelong Democrat. Share cropper his whole life. Never owned his own land. Always helping people, never helping himself.

One summer, Perry sold bibles door to door. Who the hell doesn’t want to buy salvation? Who the hell would turn their back on the Lord?

So why wasn’t his Lord listening now? Why wasn’t his Lord giving him a sign?

He’d been over the strategy a thousand times. Stay in the shadows, play it close, lay low. Choose the bowie knife for a closer kill, because a closer kill means a better close-up. There are more than three thousand cameras in the abandoned mall. You had to play to all of them.

Sure he would prefer to choose a gun. Who wouldn’t? What he wouldn’t give to strap on his favorite .380 Ruger loaded with hollow-point bullets?

But the producers limit the weapons to close range fighting, to hand-to-hand combat because it makes better television. Each candidate chooses their own weapon. Swords are popular. So are axes and hatchets. You keep the weapon of each candidate you kill.

 


End of this sample. How did you like it so far? Like to see how it ends?


 

 
Boscutti Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games story ebook

Get your complete copy now.

“Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games” (Story) in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Buy now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords

“My Dinner with the Jackal”

Boscutti My Dinner with the Jackal story

Sit down with the world’s hungriest agent.

Freethinking writer of metaphysical thrillers muses whether to sign with the world’s most powerful literary agent over an intimate dinner at Caravaggio.

Admired and loathed in equal measure, Andrew Wylie is slight, courteous and stunningly ruthless. A man who still wants to change the publishing industry for ever.

“My Dinner with the Jackal” is a delectable literary story. A serving ripe for the times.

Will the innocent writer succumb to the agent’s devilish charms?

★★★

‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ Mahatma Gandhi

‘Smart slice of writing where the characters, modeled on their real selves, are fictitious in nature.’ Rosemary Bronzini

‘Cryptic caricature of modern American manners.’ Nick Lundy

4,000 words / 16 minutes of delectable reading pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

If you like, you can read the free copy below at your leisure.

Enjoy and share this story with your friends.

 
 


 

“MY DINNER WITH THE JACKAL” (FREE STORY)

 
Naturally, signoro, but do you have a reservation for tonight?

The ASSISTANT MAITRE D’ glances down at the reservation book. I glance over the half–empty, modern Italian restaurant. A deep, narrow room flanked by a long bar. Coved ceiling, textured silk wallpaper, black leather sheafed chairs, serious white linen. Plumes of homemade grissini and small bread baskets of woven silver sit on each table.

I’m dining with Andrew Wylie.

You are with Mister Wylie? Of course, signoro, this way.

The assistant maitre d’ escorts me to a round table in the back corner where ANDREW WYLIE sits alone. He lifts his empty scotch glass and nods it towards me.

Buona sera.

I was five minutes early, but the world’s most-feared literary agent was already there, waiting.

I hope this meets with your approval. Only a year old, and already one of my favorites. I could eat here every day.

Love the name.

Caravaggio is the Bruno brothers’ intimate, Upper East Side restaurant. Just off Madison Avenue, among the lonely art galleries and vacant boutiques. A restaurant named after a sixteenth-century Baroque master, whose life was filled with turbulence and murderous excess.

In the center of the room, a portly GOURMAND with a handkerchief in his breast pocket grips his gold-tipped cane. To his side, an elderly STROKE VICTIM has homemade ravioli spooned into his mouth by a UKRAINIAN NURSE.

I used to love San Domenico. So did the President of Italy whenever he was in town. But once it moved, and changed its name to SD26, it lost something.

Seven letters, I think.

The food? It became a little too fussy for my tastes. Trying too hard to be modern.

A BEVERAGE WAITER places a fresh scotch on the table.

Cosa volete bere?

Grey Goose, fresh lime, tonic. Thank you.

Andrew Wylie seems smaller in the flesh. His shoulders hunched tight, his voice calm and soft spoken. The English-tailored, pinstriped suits have given way to a darker, deeper cut. The shirt is a crisp white. The tie smooth.

His face is pallid, his eyes watery blue. The glasses changed through the years as his literary agency grew. From hefty Swifty Lazar cast-offs in the early years, to his current, thin, tortoiseshell frames.

He is bald, save for a receding hairline scraped back against the top of his head.

I assume he’s going for the expensive-defense-attorney look, but in the restaurant’s low light, he comes across as an expensive undertaker.

I raise my glass.

Saluti.

We clink our drinks.

Parli italiano?

Lo parlo male, ma lo parlo.

Non troppo male.

I go to Italy a lot. Six, seven times a year. I like to keep our Italian operation up-to-date. We’re in all of Europe, and Asia too.

The Wylie Agency had long prided itself on complete representation in all territories for its writers. No parsing subagents, no passing rights. It’s all or nothing.

Even in the early days of his ascent, when he habitually wrote letters to authors explaining why it was in their best interest to take up with him instead of their original agents, Wylie took no prisoners. The London press famously dubbed him the Jackal after he poached Martin Amis from his longtime agent, who also happened to be the wife of his best friend.

I’ve no idea where the name or reputation come from. I mean, I don’t shy away from aggression on behalf of our authors. How can I? The representation of good writers had been less professional than the representation of bad writers.

Everyone seemed to think you were more than aggressive?

Ambitious? Determined? Aspiring? And you’re not? All I did was bring discipline and coherence and a global strategy to a business that had been in the hands of dotty old ladies in shapeless cardigans.

Andrew Wylie built his empire in less than thirty years. He was always the formidably bright and assertive son of Boston aristocracy. The Wylies go back to the American Revolution. On his mother’s side was money and banking. On his father’s, books and publishing. He married the two.

In those early days, the money went from publisher to agent to author. Agents felt they were in business with the publishers. The authors were treated as talented but dysfunctional. I thought about it, and I decided this was corrupt. An agent is hired by the author. An agent is the gardener on the author’s estate.

I sip my vodka. Wylie licks his drink.

The publisher is not your friend. There are people in New York with whom I’ve done business for twenty years, who have no idea what my office is like. It amazes me. I know their offices inside out, I know where they buy their socks, I know who they sleep with.

Wylie leans forward.

And they have no idea who I am or where I come from.

I laugh softly.

You can always tell the clever ones. They say — Noooo, Andrew. I’ll come to your place. But there aren’t very many of them.

Wylie smiles.

And so, the relationship is one in which I have more information than they do.

It’s admirable to see how one man can change a business by sheer will. His list is spectacular. Martin Amis, William Burroughs, Salman Rushdie, David Mamet, Elmore Leonard, Larry McMurtry, Oliver Sacks, Andre Malraux, Allen Ginsberg, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, John Cheever, Robert Lowell, Norman Mailer.

Still, a remarkable number of agents prefer to do the publisher’s bidding.

A SLIM WAITER sets down two menus side-by-side.

I’ll admit, in building the agency, I was forced to be more aggressive than I think is pleasant, or even interesting. It’s sort of dull, childish, obnoxious, tedious, and annoying, but here I am.
Here you are.

Nowadays, I think of myself as aggressively charming. Sweet, gentle, diplomatic. I’m generous to a fault.
Really?

I’m more of a pussycat. Ask Salman.

Someone once said Andrew Wylie had a smile like the handle on a coffin. I can see why.

Do you know Salman?

I only met him a few times.

I wonder if I should tell Wylie that, on each occasion, Salman was wearing the same, putrid-green velvet jacket with matching bow tie. That his pants were far too tight around his waist, the top button was frayed, and the zipper was not quite zipped all the way.

I wonder if I should tell him that I’ve yet to read any of Salman Rushdie’s work. I’ve tried, of course. Who hasn’t? He’s one of the most well-known and important novelists of our time. But the work is so dense and oddly pointless. It makes you wonder why you should even bother. Marvelous titles though.

I learned a lot about security during the fatwa. I hired some members of former Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino’s security detail. Watch the hands, they said. Whatever distractions an attacker might conjure, he can kill you only with his hands.

Wasn’t Aquino killed by an assassin’s bullet?

Shot in the head after being escorted from a plane by military personnel.

Wylie examines his clean, perfectly manicured hands.

It’s funny. When I started out, I had a picture of how I wanted things to be. I thought, well, it would be nice to operate an agency based entirely on representing just the writers you wanted to read.

He smiles.

If I like the text, then I’ll represent the writer. If I don’t like the text, it’s completely irrelevant whether it would sell for a lot of money. My decisions are based entirely on whether I want to wake up the next day and read more of the writer’s work.

He leans in.

I’m a book person. Of course, I have a Kindle. I used it for an hour and a half and then put it in the closet. I’m not interested in mass culture. When I started out, I saw nine out of ten people head for the door marked money, commerce, trash. I chose the door marked quality, interest, significance.

Is your Kindle still in the closet?

Yes, where it belongs. I suspect the trashier the book, the more likely it will sell as an ebook. You don’t have a desire to save James Patterson in your library. Those who want to keep a book for a long time will buy a physical book.

Those who want to hold on to a memory?

Exactly. Online booksellers, like Amazon, and independent bookstores will be the future of bookselling. The chains will go out of business because their model doesn’t work. They actually cut their own throats with net-to-order and razor-thin margins. It was suicide.

I marvel at the fact that Wylie has yet to even broach his reason for inviting me to dinner.

Discount stores underwrite low prices of new books as loss leaders. It’s not really so much a business model as an advertising ploy. All very good if your Danielle Steele, but the future will be with Amazon and the independents. Amazon has one copy of every book available on a revolving belt. They have a larger investment per copy in their backlist than the chains do. Independent bookstores will come back because they know their neighborhood, they know their readers.

And yet, you still went ahead with Odyssey Editions?

Backlist digital rights were not conveyed to publishers, so it was an opportunity to do something with those rights.

Wylie established Odyssey Editions to market and release ebooks from his clients. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer, “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson. “Junky” by William Burroughs.

Random House was appalled.

But what could Random House do? Sue its authors? Sue the widows and children of its authors? Sue me?
Four years earlier, Random House had tried suing an ebook start up that had acquired digital rights to books directly from such lions as Kurt Vonnegut, Robert B. Parker, and William Styron. The courts rejected its position. Random House filed an appeal, and the court turned it down. A second appeal was rejected too.

I want to ask Wylie whether he thinks his spat with Random House was key to forcing publishers to raise their royalty rates on ebooks, or whether he thinks it was a reaction to the agency pricing model. Or whether it was purely about ego.

I want to ask him whether his authors will start freaking out, now that their agent is becoming their publisher. Whether the conflict of interest is too great. Whether the authors will be the ones paying the price.

I want to know whether he thinks Amazon has such a head start with its digital catalog, sales platform, and brand loyalty, that it will be impossible for anyone else to overtake them.

And was it Amazon who approached him, or did he approach Amazon?

You really should try the vitello tonnato. It’s far better than it’s given credit for.

I might skip the antipasti.

Wylie nods.

You’re flying out tomorrow, aren’t you?

I nod as I look over the seafood choices on the menu.

Pan-roasted monk fish on the bone, served over roasted zucchini spaghetti with a basil and livornese chutney. Roasted wild striped bass, with yellow corn, sauteed pea shoots, and fresh English peas, finished with a yellow corn sauce. Slow-cooked, whole branzino, flavored with rosemary, thyme, garlic and parsley, and served with broccoli purée, grapefruit sauce, and upland cress. Roasted Maine sea scallops and Maya shrimps, served with fresh heirloom tomato sauce.

I smile up at the waiter.

E ‘possibile che lo chef per preparare un piatto molto semplice. Niente di complicato.

Naturalmente.

Filetto fresco del basso, alla griglia su letto di spinaci saltati. Pepe, sale. No aglio.

Certamente.

The waiter turns to Wylie.

And the same for me.

Naturalmente. Alcuni Contorni, forse. Un po ‘di vino?

Vodka’s fine, thank you.

Scotch for me, Alessandro.

The waiter takes the menus away.

Do you know the story of the Brahmin, the tiger, and the jackal?

Wylie shakes his head.

One day a Brahmin was walking along a country road when he came upon a tiger locked in an iron cage beneath a banyan tree.

The tiger looked up at the Brahmin and said, Oh, Brother Brahmin, Brother Brahmin, please let me out. I am so thirsty, and there is no water here. Not a drop.

The Brahmin replied, But brother tiger, if I should let you out, you would pounce on me and eat me up.

Never, brother Brahmin, the tiger promised. Never in the world would I do such an ungrateful thing. Please let me out for just a little minute to get a little, little drink of water.

So the Brahmin unlocked the door, and the tiger sprang on the Brahmin, teeth bared, ready to eat him.

The Brahmin pleaded, But brother tiger, you promised you would not. It is not fair or just that you should eat me after I set you free.

The tiger insisted, It is perfectly right and just, and I shall eat you up. All up.

The tiger leaned forward and licked his teeth. The Brahmin continued to argue until the tiger raised his paw and agreed to ask the first passerby whether it was fair for a tiger to eat a Brahmin.

An old bullock approached but turned to cross the fields before they could ask his opinion. An eagle soared high overhead. They called to it, but the eagle flew on towards the mountains. An alligator slipped down a stream without going anywhere near the Banyan tree.

After while, a little jackal trotted towards them. The Brahmin and tiger ran out to meet him. Oh, brother jackal, dear brother jackal, could you spare us your opinion? Do you think it right or fair that this tiger should eat me, when I set him free from a terrible cage?

The jackal replied, Beg your pardon?

The Brahim raised his voice. I said, do you think it fair that the tiger should eat me, when I am the one who set him free from his cage?

Cage? the jackal asked.

Yes, yes, his cage. We want your opinion. Do you think —

Oh, you want my opinion? The jackal seemed to finally understand. Then I beg you to speak a little more loudly and make the matter quite clear.

Once again the Brahmin asked, Do you think it right for this tiger to eat me after I set him free from his cage?

The little jackal blinked.

What cage? he asked yet again.

Why, the cage he was in. You see —

But I don’t understand, the jackal repeated. You set him free, you say?

Yes, yes, yes! the Brahmin insisted, with some frustration. I was walking along, and I saw the tiger —
There was a cage?

Why, a big, iron cage.

Well, that gives me no idea at all. The jackal made a suggestion. See here, my friends, if you want my opinion, you’d best show me the cage.

So the Brahmin, the tiger, and the little jackal returned to the cage under the Banyan tree.

Brahmin, where were you? the jackal asked.

I stood here by the roadside.

Tiger, where were you?

Why, in the cage, of course, the tiger answered.

The little jackal blinked.

But how were you in the cage? the jackal wanted to know. What position were you in?

The tiger leapt into the cage, annoyed.

I stood here, with my head over my shoulder, like so.

Oh, thank you, thank you, the jackal said gratefully. That is much clearer. But I still don’t understand why you didn’t come out by yourself?

With great impatience, the tiger replied, Can’t you see the door shut me in?

The jackal turned to the Brahmin. Could you show me how the door works? How it shuts?

The Brahmin pushed it closed.

Yes, but I don’t see any lock, the jackal continued. Does it lock on the inside?

As soon as the Brahmin snapped the lock tight, the tiger frowned, and the little jackal smiled. He waved goodbye as he trotted calmly away.

Wylie taps the tips of his fingers together.

Did you know jackals mate for life?

I shake my head. What I don’t tell him is that I do know they pick over the kills made by larger carnivores. I don’t tell him I know they’re considered opportunistic omnivores.

Wylie smiles.

In France, I’m known as Le Chacal. Which sounds better, don’t you think?

Definitely more charming.

They don’t have a tradition of literary agents in France. I can pick up the phone and tell Antoine Gallimard I think a writer is important. Because we’ve known each other for years, he’ll pay attention.

Wylie pulls lightly at his shirt cuff.

We also look at getting a writer’s rights renewed, often redesigned. We’re quite a bit more diligent than our competitors at that side of the business. Their focus is more national. Our bet is, if you’re going to represent quality, you must do it internationally, and it must be a long-term bet.

When did you sign Sarkozy?

Before he was president.

French presidents need global representation?

Especially French presidents. You never really know where a writer’s work will succeed first. Look at the Philip Roth we all love and admire today. With his last book, he succeeded first in France, second in Germany, third in England, fourth in the States, fifth in Italy, and sixth in Spain. Now, most agencies would only be able to tell you it’s been working nicely in the States.

Wylie shakes his head.

But when you see the French go crazy for a book, critically and popularly, and next the Germans do it, then the Brits, then the Italians — well, this makes a very big difference. It changes the way you relate to all markets. It changes your passion.

Passion?

It’s all a question of passion. When you represent someone’s work, if you’re sincerely passionate about it, that comes across. No one can resist passion.

Like Jay Mandel at William Morris?

Jay might be good for you. Or Binky at ICM.

Can’t I call her Amanda?

Not unless you’re going to marry her.

What about Nicole Aragi?

I think you deserve better. Perhaps Philippa Brophy at Sterling Lord Literistic.

You’re kidding me?

Well, she must be good. She landed a book deal at Simon & Schuster for former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

From Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey to Gordon Brown.

It’s sad, isn’t it?

Justin Bieber has his memoir coming out with HarperCollins.

Illustrated memoir.

Lindsay Lohan works on her memoir in jail.

And Kevin Morrissey kills himself. Leaves his apartment shortly after eleven in the morning, walks down Water Street, calls the police to report a shooting at the coal tower, and then shoots himself in the head.

At the next table, the beverage waiter softly pours wine from a glass decanter.

The high-risk game is the commercial end of publishing. It’s high-risk for everybody because, when it doesn’t work, there’s a tremendous loss. There’s a loss of face, a loss of money.

The beverage waiter silently sets the decanter on a table.

We’re the soft and gentle side of the business. What we sell is going to earn out sooner or later. Quality always pays.

Wylie’s enthusiasm is breathtaking.

I still know seventeen pages of “Finnegan’s Wake” by heart.

Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in nineteen-thirty-nine, two years before the author’s death, “Finnegan’s Wake” was James Joyce’s final work.

Wylie’s ability to recite great swathes of Joyce’s masterwork was why Norman Mailer signed with him.

William Burroughs signed with him after he secured a seven-book deal with Viking Press. The money allowed Burroughs to purchase a small home in Lawrence, Kansas. More importantly, it allowed him to buy some peace of mind.

Burroughs the outsider became the insider when he finally agreed to induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Burroughs died from a heart attack and was buried in St. Louis, Missouri — a thousand miles from the ashes of his only son.

Mailer considered Burroughs the only American novelist possessed by genius.

Has Macmillan released anything of yours?

Never.

Then you wouldn’t have seen the letter they sent to their authors. It asked them to sign over all electronic rights to backlist titles.

Wylie wags his finger in the air.

The letter went out to authors, and not the agents or agencies.

The publisher is not your friend.

Would you like to see some numbers?

Wylie pulls out a small, black, leather folio from the pocket inside his jacket, clicks a thin sterling-silver pen, and jots down a number on a personalized card. He slips out the card and slides it over to me.

Is that a one?

That’s a seven.

That’s impressive.

That’s what I can get without pushing too hard.

He writes a second number on the card.

That’s what I’d like to go for.

It’s a number far higher than any other agent has discussed.

People who write well deserve to be well paid. So, our first goal is to get as close to the second number as possible. As for representing your new and future work, I’m sure we’ll be able to perform as aggressively as any other agency, both here and internationally.

The master of understatement. Everyone knows that Wylie, unlike any other agency, can increase foreign revenue by three-hundred to five-hundred percent.

The waiter places our meals in front of us. Fresh fillet of bass, grilled on a bed of sautéed spinach. Pepper, salt, no garlic.

Grazie.

I wonder if Wylie expects an answer tonight. I wonder how to tell him I’d like to sleep on it.

I take a sip of my vodka.

Wylie’s glass of scotch is half-full.

I can have the papers ready tomorrow, if you like.

I smile.

I’ll call your office on the way to the airport.

Wylie smiles that smile.

His office sits high above Central Park.

You can see the future from there.

 


 

 
Enjoy and share this story with your friends.

“Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft)”

Boscutti Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft) story

Let them eat credit default swaps.

Warren Buffett’s partner is in a crotchety mood.

He’s fed up with ordinary people thinking they can get rich off the sweat of others. Who do they think they are? Hedge fund managers?

“Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft)” is a businesslike corporate story. Think of it as a moral bailout.

Can Warren Buffett make the truth more palatable?

★★★

‘If you have a 150 IQ, sell 30 points to someone else. You need to be smart, but not a genius.’ Warren Buffett

‘Volatile, brilliantly creepy satire of just about everything that’s wrong with the world.’ Tom Sherin

‘Provocative, wonderfully entertaining. Funny and profound at the same time. Amazingly precise snapshot of our time and place.’ Pietro Venti

‘This man writes like bullets. And the story is too true to tell slowly.’ Maree Coote

‘Contemporary satire of the highest order.’ Francine Silberstein

2,000 words / 8 minutes of adroit reading pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

Get your copy now because you love truth to power.

“Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft)” (Story) is now available in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Read the free excerpt below. Buy your copy from your favorite online retailer now.

Buy from Barnes & Noble | Buy from Goodreads | Buy from Smashwords

 
 


 

“LETTER TO BERKSHIRE SHAREHOLDERS (FIRST DRAFT)” (FREE EXCERPT)

 
To the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Our gain in net worth during the last fiscal year was, say, $21 billion. (Give or take a few billion. Let me know what you want the final figure to be. Same goes for the increased per-share book value of both our Class A and Class B stock. I suggest pushing it a touch under 20%. Float the annual compound rate at a tad over 20%. Don’t forget to add an asterisk to clarify those ridiculous new reporting rules.)

Welcome the new shareholders. Really? 65,000 new hangers-on? God almighty, they’ll be the death of us. Probably haven’t done a decent day’s work in their lives.

Put in a few words about our performance advantage having shrunk dramatically as our size has grown. It’s no joke. Dress it up some by all means. Add a sentence or two about the managers, about maximizing their talents without outlaying bonuses or other such malarkey. 
(Our comp. committee meets Wednesday. They’ve already agreed to what you and I promised each other. As you well know, I would rather throw a viper down my shirtfront than hire a comp. consultant.)

I think it’s important we let these freeloaders know what we don’t do.

• Avoid businesses whose futures we can’t evaluate. I don’t care how exciting Chinese desalination plants are, they’re not for us. Surely they don’t all need clean drinking water. I always sprinkle a little salt with my meals. No harm has come my way.

• Never become dependent on the kindness of strangers. This is no laughing matter. We’ve got $8.5 billion tied up in Wells Fargo, the country’s largest home lender, and a $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs. They shouldn’t be bitching about a little bailout of the banks. (Where did the idiots think the money was coming from? It doesn’t grow on trees, you know.)

• Never allow Berkshire to become some monolith that is overrun with committees, budget presentations and multiple layers of management. We now have 257,000 employees. Why don’t all of them have home loans with us? Don’t start whining about helping them out with their overvalued mortgages. You can’t start bailing out everyone. People in economic distress should suck it up and cope. They’re probably drinking too many Mocha Supremes anyway. Have they never heard 
of corn coffee?

• We make no attempt to woo Wall Street. I don’t care how much they discount their stock to get us in the door. I’ve never liked those pepperdicks and their locker room antics at all. Dick Fuld at Lehman? The man is a horse’s ass. I have a little list of those who will not be missed.

Investors (if that’s what you want to call them) who buy and sell based upon media or analyst commentary are not for us. They only have themselves to blame.

What do they expect? A handout? All those homeowners feeling sorry for themselves because they thought they could make a living off the sweat of others. Thought they could sit back and count their money.

 


End of this sample. How did you like it so far? Like to see how it ends?


 

 
Boscutti Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft) story ebook

Get your complete copy now.

“Letter to Berkshire Shareholders (First Draft)” (Story) in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Buy now.

Buy from Barnes & Noble | Buy from Goodreads | Buy from Smashwords

“Selling Anne Frank”

Boscutti Selling Anne Frank story

Welcome to a brave new world of advertising.

Welcome to the future where brooding advertising agency head Simon Ross is having one of those days.

He’s of two minds about whether he should pitch for the Anne Frank account. His senior account planner is putting the pressure on. His senior team is all over the place. And his creative director is missing.

“Selling Anne Frank” is a revealing advertising story. It’s a look at where we’re all heading.

Can the philosophical Ross win the account from his former partner?

★★★★

‘The past went that-a-way. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.’ Marshall McLuhan

‘Appallingly amusing serving of speculative fiction. So funny it hurts.’ Linda Cantero

‘Fly through a media-saturated future that looks and feels a lot like now. Only more so.’ Bo Rossall

‘Manic, brilliant satire of Americapitalism in the not too distant future.’ Kerry Phillips

ISBN 9780980712513 / 7,000 words / 21 minutes of sharp reading pleasure

 
Boscutti reading

Get your copy now because everyone loves great advertising.

“Selling Anne Frank” (Story) is now available in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Read the free excerpt below. Buy your copy from your favorite online retailer now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords

 
 


 

“SELLING ANNE FRANK” (FREE EXCERPT)

 
SIMON GOLD gleams on the cover of AdVogue magazine.

GOLD STANDARD SNAGS POST NEW YORK TIMES sings the headline.

I don’t even look at the pointers to other stories inside. Why bother.

The man of the moment in the agency of the moment wins the account of the moment. You never thought the New York Post and the New York Times would merge? Post New York Times. Stranger things have happened.

Simon and I had been partners for, what? Almost twenty years before it all imploded.

The day Nielsen filed for bankruptcy was the day everything changed. When seven of the world’s largest private equity firms can’t save you, you’re history. Agency networks collapsed like houses of cards. One tumbling down on top of the other. It was fun to watch if you were on the outside.

We should have seen it coming. It’s a question of mass, critical mass. What happens when you fulfill a market? When you reach maximum penetration? When you can’t find another customer with a penny of credit to their name?

Sure the signs were there. The big brands white labeling products, line extending to the point of no return, grass roots consumer movements.

The Nielsen crash was inevitable. You live by the numbers, you die by the numbers.

The agency I started with Simon was swept up along with everyone else. Just as well the government stepped in when they did. The Federal Emergency Advertising Act stemmed the flow. When Congress passed the Advertising Reform Bill money started to flow back into the business.

New advertising agencies started to sprout everywhere. Suddenly creative directors were running the show. Creative directors like me became chief executive officers. Senior management became peppered with senior copywriters.

Established agencies regrouped along ethnic lines like when all the old Jews from Ogilvy & Mather started Ogilvey.

Old creative agencies with any name value morphed into their next iteration. Droga27. Adlandia. Chiat Night. Johnson + Kennedy.

The English rolled into town like they owned the place. The Bill Evans Agency. All very dapper and oh so terribly English. They built a Tudor village inside their offices with a little pub with a little menu and terrible food. The Man Who Sold The World won a terrific number of awards. Brand Butler (We Serve Our Clients) offered valets to clients.

You wouldn’t think clients would fall for a ploy like that. But they did.

Even the Russians got in on the act. Peskof & Co kicked off a scandal when they were retained by the White House while they still had the Kremlin on their books.

New creative shops started to shake things up. Bring Me The Head Of Rupert Murdoch. Saatchi & Saatchi Are Dead. The Clients Wrong.

Simon called his new agency The Gold Standard. I know, it’s trying a little too hard. But that’s Simon for you. He had a complete working bar with uniformed staff in the foyer. No one had to go anywhere for drinks.

Simon had his look down. The blue blazer, the tortoise-shell glasses, the askance. He’d been perfecting it all his life. Now it’s paying dividends. Most of his people are cast from the College Green at Dartmouth, along Nassau Street in Princeton. He has become what he wished he had been in his younger days. He has become his own advertisement.

The Gold Standard was like his own private club. All dark timber and warm light and hushed secrets.

My new agency was more black-and-white. More me.

Me? I’m Simon Ross. The first half of what was Simon & Simon.

And this? This is my new corner office. We’re on the forty-first floor. Some days you see clouds slip past the windows.

No, it’s not the largest corner office you’ve ever seen. There’s not even an executive bathroom. I don’t really go for that sort of thing. I don’t think it’s good for morale.

It’s been three months now. I toyed with calling it Simon except people wouldn’t know which Simon the name referred to. Simon Says was a possibility but it doesn’t say much for the team. Simon Ross and The Supremes was too sparkly.

I’m not a sparkly man. Look at my office. The only thing that shines is the wall of One Show awards. Row after row of polished awards. All shaped like the tip of a newly sharpened pencil.

Count them. There’s one hundred and thirty seven of them. Every one of them platinum. Every one engraved with my name.

Probably the most famous is the America United campaign from when Simon and I were still together. It was to launch the merger of American Airlines and United Airlines. It was the first airline commercial not to show a plane. Guggenheim shot it, laid in the closing bars of the national anthem. You didn’t even need a slogan.

People cried. When was the last time you cried when watching an airline commercial?

Dignity in advertising. I always like that.

I like understated. Black Prada suit, white Prada shirt, striped Prada tie. Perfect fit straight off the rack. White hair swept back. Black Prada glasses. You can see I like Prada. It’s not for show, though. I have the labels and logos professionally removed.

Can you believe that in this day and age they still insist on labels and logos.

I see you’re looking at the letter on my desk. It’s a resignation letter from one of the creative teams. Yes, it’s on the new letterhead.

And yes the new agency name is Heroine.

Can I come in?

You already have, Jon.

JON WENDELL is the senior account planner. We no longer have account executives, they’re all planners now. Jon spent a year in Milan. Caramel suits, diamond blue shirts with French cuffs. Soft hand-made loafers without socks, whatever the weather.

Jon can charm the clients out of the trees.

Time you started winning some new awards, don’t you think?

Where would I put them, Jon?

There’s a space just over there.

Jon is all smiles.

Friedrich van Marxveldt from the Anne Frank Fonds in Switzerland is in town for a day and wants to meet with us, meet with you.

I smile back.

Now why would he want to meet with me?

Because he’s looking for a new agency.

But he’s Simon Gold’s client.

He’s not happy. Why else would he want you to call him?

Jon, I’m not going to call him. I don’t call clients. That’s your job.

I’ve already written the report. This is perfect for us. Well established base market ready to leverage. It’s already sold more than thirty million copies. In more than sixty languages.

I don’t get a word in.

It’s a relaunch. Take it out of it’s historical demographic, make it accessible to more people.

But the whole Jewish thing?

Simon Wiesenthal said Anne Frank’s Diary raised more awareness for the Jewish cause than anything. You going to argue with Simon Wiesenthal?

I’m not going to argue with anyone, Jon.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it’s the wisest and most moving commentaries on war she ever read. John F. Kennedy said of all who have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling. Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg said Anne Frank’s voice speaks for six million. It’s all in my report.

Did you ever see the play?

Jon shakes his head.

It won a Pulitzer Prize. I think the film version won an Academy Award.

Why not a One Show?

It’s a good story. A young Jew hiding from the Nazis in Holland becomes a universal symbol of hope. A red, white and beige plaid covered autograph book given to her as a birthday present becomes the diary she will chronicle her life from 1942 to 1944. Through the darkest hours.

Simon, it’s a great product. Friedrich lands in about an hour. He’ll spend the afternoon with Gold. Then he wants to meet you. Then he’s flying out.

I’m not doing a campaign in half a day.

Why not?

I don’t have my creative director.

You’re kidding me, right?

Have you seen Philip?

You can do this with your eyes closed. It’s Nazis. Everyone despises Nazis. It practically writes itself.

I pull out a fresh pencil from the clutch on my desk. Plantation grown FSC certified cedar, clean lead, never used. I hand it to Jon.

Be my guest.

You know how they say anyone can be creative. It’s not true. It’s not even remotely true. The account supervisors, the account managers, the account executives, the account directors can’t do what we do. That’s why they hate us.

Jon is scratching something on the back of his business card.

That’s got to be the world’s smallest ad, Jon.

He hands me the card.

It’s Friedrich’s number. Call him.

I check my watch as Jon leaves. I could ask Jacqueline Renwick what she thinks. She’s the other senior planner. But I know what she’ll say. She’ll warn me that it’s ridiculous to try and take the account off Gold. If we lose, we lose. If we win, he’ll steal the creative team and we lose. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Simon, got you something you’re going to want to see.

Doesn’t anybody knock anymore.

You had the door to your office removed, remember. Open door policy, you said. You want me to get maintenance to put it back.

JOHNNY WAYLAND is our fixer. Every agency has one.

Johnny favors faded blue jeans topped with shirt and blazer. Casually formal. He’s older than all of us. He’s been around. He’s been up and down and everywhere in between. When he was a coke head no one would hire him.

We call him Johnny Armani so as not to confuse him with the other Jon.

He’s holding a thumb drive.

It’s a copy of their new campaign.

How did you get that?

Had to kill a man. Had to drown him in his own blood.

He’s joking. He’s always joking. He’s the only man I know who wears Old Spice After Shave. He decants it into original bottles. Says the scent keeps him real. Keeps him down to earth.

Johnny Armani plugs the thumb drive into the wall and the copyright notice flashes up and fades away to the new spot Simon Gold will present to the client later today. It’s one of Gold’s three second specials. Nazi soldiers tearing through the hidden annex, one finds a worn notebook, starts reading, begins crying. Move to the cover to shows it’s Anne Frank diary. Rise over the top as tear rolls down face.

It’s not too bad.

If you’re selling regret.

It’ll win some awards.

You can do better, Simon.

Johnny takes out the thumb drive. The wall fades back to white.

Did you get me a ticket?

Johnny reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a ticket to the Tutankhamun Chariot Exhibition at the Met. Hands it to me.

You’ve seen it every time. You don’t ever get bored?

I shake my head.

My step mother first took me to the Met. My real mother, I never really saw her. My father divorced and married before I was three years old. My real mother left the country, went back to Israel.

You know the town car is getting prousted.

It was the latest fashion. Everyone was getting their town cars cork lined to insulate them from the blare of the city. (At sixty miles an hour the loudest noise comes from your Blackberry. I know, who have thought Blackberrys would still be around? Must be a hipster thing. Some people have their new phones retrofitted into older Blackberry shells.)

I’ll grab a cab. It won’t kill me.

I walk past a giant black-and-white portrait of Amelia Earhart on the hallway wall. Floor to ceiling. With her aviator cap on, laughing at the camera, cigarette in hand. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to find a original picture of her smoking a cigarette. Even those in the public record had been retouched.

Amazing to think I can still remember all the old Hollywood films with all the old stars smoking through pretty much every scene. When I view them now it’s like something is missing. They’ve been digitally remastered with algorithms to remove the cigarette and smoke, and close the gaping fingers.

Giant black-and-white portraits of other heroines line all the agency walls. There’s Golda Mier. Over there is Rosa Parks. Can you see Helen Gurley Brown. Emily Wilding Davison. Sherry Lansing.

Princess Diana is in the foyer. Everyone still loves Princess Diana.

I enter the Met through the 81st Street side entrance to avoid the tourists piling up on the front steps. I also miss seeing the three-story sponsorship banner that now engulfs the whole front of the building.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY ACN. Even after all this time television still shouts at you. ACN was the inevitable merger of ABC, CBS and NBC. Who said three networks couldn’t go into one. Personally I hate the peacock with the giant eye logo chirping the initials. But children seem to go for it.

They have the same wrap over MoMA, Guggenheim, Smithsonian, all the cultural institutes. The award-winning “The Evolution Will Be Televised’ campaign. It looks nice but only really works at the Exxon Museum of Natural History.

They may as well rename the Met ACN.

Two hallways later I’m walking through the Great Hall. Tourists and visitors and school children flock around the ancient statues carved from white stone. Hellenistic, Etruscan and Roman ghosts floating above the crowd.

The polished grey marble floor flows all the way to the Egyptian wing on the first and second floor.

Tutankhamun. The boy king entombed in the solid gold sarcophagus is a perennial favorite. The old gold is more to my former partner’s taste. I always come to see the chariot when it’s in town.

The security guard outside the Temple of Dendur scans my ticket.

I’m sorry sir this ticket is invalid. It has been registered under the Federal Cultural Foreclosure Act and we suggest you seek legal counsel for a court date to be determined.

Sometimes you wonder whether they’re just robots.

I suggest you scan it again.

We suggest you seek legal counsel for a court date to be determined.

A second guard approaches. All heavy riot gear and helmet.

We suggest you seek legal counsel for a court date to be determined. The Met thanks you for your visit.

Both guards take out their truncheons.

The Met thanks you for your visit.

I take out my phone and start dialing.

The second security guard rescans the ticket and the light blinks green.

I always smile when I walk past the temple. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s how the glass on the ceiling and north wall is stippled to diffuse and mimic the soft light of Nubia. Maybe it’s how the reflecting pool in front represents the Nile.

Maybe it’s the thought of moving an entire temple half way round the world to be housed in a museum.

I walk into the Al Jazeera Gallery where Tutankhamun’s royal chariot sits on a black platform encased in glass. It was buried with him so he could travel through the afterlife. Simple, unadorned.

I spot the fresh bandage around my wrist. No one at the agency had commented on it. I had my second antigen blood test for prostate cancer this morning.

I check the time on my watch. Have you noticed how many men wear bracelets now? When did men stop wearing watches and start wearing bracelets?

My father died of prostate cancer. He was a living legend at Leo Burnett. Died three months into his reign as CEO.

As a child I would sit on his knee at the breakfast table, rewriting the ads in the newspaper with a red pencil. He taught me never to lie.

It’s been hours since I had the test. Why do I have to wait all day for the results? Surely it’s a simple positive or negative? A yes or no? Why do I have to wait for the senior urologist to call me.

A penny for your thoughts.

I turn to see Philip Morris, our senior creative director gazing at the chariot. Tousled hair, three day growth and summer jacket over his grey marle tee shirt. Black tear drop glasses and a smirk.

Are you high?

Probably.

Philip loves his acid. Eats it like candy. Says it helps him see the bigger picture.

You know he had his penis severed before he was embalmed.

Philip scratches the side of his head. The silver bracelets around his wrist clatter.

Probably my ex-girlfriend.

Philip wears no underwear. Says things like that give him the creeps. He feels the same way about socks. Stays in shape with Daily Qigong practice, increasing his breathing capacity. Says it keeps him calm.

Got a few ideas I want to show you for the Diary of Anne Frank pitch.

Who says we’re pitching, Philip?

Are you kidding me? This is a natural for us. Plus you get to stab Simon Gold in the back.

Why would I want to stab Simon in the back?

After everything he did to you, why wouldn’t you? Shit, everyone else in town wants to kill Simon Gold.

I’m not sure revenge is the best motive to go after an account.

Philip looks up at the ceiling.

Can you think of a better one?

There’s always the awards. That’s the funny thing about ambition. It’s never leaves you.

I know what you’re thinking?

You can read minds, Philip?

Win the account, win some awards, win a pile of new business.

Actually it was what I was thinking.

Simon, I’m getting a cab back to the office and start the team working on it. You coming?

I’ll walk.

And so we go our separate ways.

Outside in the street the first thing that catches my eye is the giant video billboard exhorting you to read to your child. Can you believe they’re still running the Curious George campaign? You know the one with the pencil and watercolor illustration of The Man with The Yellow Hat crouching on the floor, peering over George’s shoulder while George pores over a pile of books.

What makes a curious reader? You do.

The headline is not even a bad pun. The International Advertising Council and the Library of Congress have been running the campaign for years. Recently they added a subhead in case a monkey reading children’s books wasn’t completely clear to you.

Read to your child today and inspire a lifelong love of reading.

A monkey. Of course RandomPearsonCollins is happy for the free advertising. But a monkey? Do they even have opposable thumbs? Can they even turn a page?

Maybe if I’d had children I’d look at this another way. Then again maybe I’d think it was even more stupid than it is.
I’ve been married three times. I love getting married. It’s the divorce that kills me. Funny to think my partnership with Simon Gold outlived all my marriages.

My father had been married three times. Maybe it’s genetics.

The man standing outside the Hermes menswear store seems fixated by the window display until he licks his forefinger and presses a hair into place over his ear. I guess we’re all caught in our own reflections.

That’s what advertising does. It puts a price on a better reflection of ourselves. Right there for everyone to see. For everyone to admire.

Look around and you’ll see everything is advertising.

It used to be that clients just wanted to you add some pizazz to a dull, lifeless product. That was easy to do. We anthropomorphized the product, we came up with catchy slogans.

The history of advertising is the enlivening of imagery. The first picture in a newspaper was for an advertisement for daguerreotype photographer. Since then every evolution in advertising and media has been to make the sound and image more and more lifelike. From mono to stereo to 5:1 sound. From coarse black-and-white to refined color to three dimension. From drop shadows to mirrored foregrounds.

Our job was to give products life.

First we moved them then they started to move us. We went from giving them a personality to given them a soul, a reason for being. Don’t think for a moment this doesn’t take it out of you.

It went from giving a pint of blood to a pound of flesh. Now you have to give a piece of your soul.

The medium was always the message. Now the message has become the medium. Everyone believes in advertising.

Every surface turns into an advertisement in the blink of an eye. We are so caught in the reflection we don’t even question it anymore.

Advertising has become our salvation.

Look at St. Patrick’s cathedral. It’s been refurbished as a retail outlet for the latest jean brand. They changed the confessionals into change rooms. People used to pray there. Now they worship with their Credit Lynch cards.

Where can we turn when everything turns to advertising?

I take out Jon Wendell’s business card, turn it over and tap Friedrich’s number into my phone. Then add as short message, hoping he has time to meet me later this afternoon.

His confirmation is instantaneous.

It took me less time to walk back to the office than it took to drive. Jon Wendell is the first person I see when I step out of the elevator into the foyer. He’s holding his report in his hand and smiling that smile.

Johann and Eddie already have a copy.

What about Giovanna?

Jon hands me the report and I scan it as I walk to the conference room.

JOHANN BRANDT and EDDIE WHITE are already seated at the table.

Johann is underlining and snarling at words in the report. He’s one of our senior creatives. Technically he’s a writer but I’ve always moved away from labeling people. I find it doesn’t help. It’s better if our writers art direct and vice versa. It forces them to be more creative.

Johann’s thin beard compensates for his receding hairline. He dyes his hair but doesn’t want anyone to know. He smokes. A lot. When he’s not scratching out words he’s holding his pen like cigarette between his fingers, between his lips.

He likes to wear the brown scuffed airs of an English college professor struggling for tenure. His short stories have won the requisite awards. His collages have been shown at the obligatory galleries.

Johann is checking every word of the report.

Eddie is sitting on his. He always sits on any report. From the best market research in the world to consumer insights worth millions, as long as it’s got a plastic cove he sits on it. He doesn’t like to dirty the seat of his white linen pants. He always wears white linen, top to toe. Two dollar cane trilby hat pushed back on his head and a six-thousand dollar rose gold Raymond Weil watch on his wrist, lost amongst bands of leather bracelets.

Eddie is probably the better writer. You want creatives who know their way around words, who can twist words into new meaning. Who can create emotions with a sentence or two.

The walls in the conference room are kept permanently white. I don’t like to project anything. I like to keep them open to new ideas.

Some agencies like to work up ideas on their conference rooms walls.

It makes the ideas seem bigger than they are. Plus everybody feels they have to add to them. Which is good in theory but ridiculous in practice. All that ever happens is that the most outgoing, the most egotistical, the most outlandish wins.

Despite Simon Gold’s success I don’t think the better presenter always wins.

I like my teams to work with black markers and large sketch pads. 50lb weight, acid free, tape bound. I like to draw out the ideas.

I take off my jacket, hang it over the back of a chair.

You should bring in that Alberto Burri painting you paid so much for. Add some color to the walls.

Eddie always wants me to bring in art. I think it’s too distracting.

Did anyone see the photos of Anne Frank’s diary?

The check cloth cover, the childish handwriting. You know it was an autograph book.

Is there an idea there?

In an autograph book becoming a diary?

Maybe collect everyone’s signatures. All the people who’s lives she affected.

It was a present for her thirteenth birthday.

Anniversary issue?

Been done.

Have you read it?

What do you mean?

It’s not an accusation, Johann.

I start playing off some ideas in my mind. Truths about humanity vs intimate account of adolescence vs window into the soul of a young, eager, difficult, lovable girl vs growth of an artist in a collapsing world vs vivid, witty, candid, astute, dramatic, pathetic, terrible insights vs tragedy of lost potential vs everlasting flame of humanity vs worn cliche vs fresh juxtaposition vs association vs nuance.

I pick up my copy of the report as GIOVANNA RUSSO steps in.

 


End of this sample. So far so good? Like to see how it ends?


 

 
Boscutti Selling Anne Frank story ebook

Get your complete copy now.

“Selling Anne Frank” (Story) in your preferred ebook format $1.99 $0.99. Buy now.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Apple | Buy from Smashwords