Sprawled on the carpet, Jamie was nibbling his lower lip in a thoughtful rapture.
“Wot’cha doing ?” enquired Paul. Whilst glad he was actually doing something, and not staring inwardly; the ever-active Paul mistrusted the contemplative impulse: noting that Jamie, unusually for him had been reading the Sunday literary supplements and scribbling away for the last hour. His pretty little brother had given up on others’ critical theory when he was ten, not just on literature.
“Making a game..” Jamie murmured in soft distraction; then shaking his platinum head explained: “One creates ten titles with synopsis-blurbs for well typical modern books — fiction’s gonna be the easiest ‘The crap we read now’ to be Trollopian…” not that Jamie had hardly read Trollope in his young life… “then lists ten adjectives commonly used in such heated minds as write blurbs to describe the protagonist; and ten adjectives used to encapsulate such rot. The others than have to match up the correct two adjectives to each book to win. Remember: All fiction is wish-fulfilment. The skill of the author lies mostly in how they can disguise this truth. Modern authors can barely even try; which is why their heroes and heroines are all brilliant, multi-skilled, sexy geniuses.”
After a while he handed Paul his first list, “Knock yourself out.” he said cheerfully.
I. Miss Jazzy Queening it Down The Gap. — The adventures of a mixed race Black/Puerto Rican drag-artiste hustling in Times Square to fund his sex-change operation.
II. The Potting-Shed in Autumn. — In the garden of a country-house in 1935 an ageing gardener, once an Oxford graduate, recalls how he came to the ruin of his dreams and his present status, and considers the tapestry of life represented by the denizens of Maddingleigh Hall from the servants’ quarter to the Osterley-Browns, the wealthy but corrupt family who now own the land.
III. The Gash of Time. — A Scotswoman’s vigorous fight for self-improvement against the opposition of family, friends, children and all the menfolk she ever meets. Until at last she gains a doctorate in Council Studies, makes the largest fortune in Scottish history as a successful businesswoman, and finally becomes the first woman first minister of Scotland’s Parliament.
IV. The Seabirds of Yalta. — Charlie Werner, troubled maverick of the SIS, has five days to stop Walter Schellenburg’s most daring plot of all: to assassinate the Big Three at their meeting in 1945. Facing the sinister ex-lawyer Ulrich von Kartoffeltopf, now SS Brigadeführer and confidante of Himmler, he has only the beautiful Larissa, once secretary to Yagoda, only allowed to buy her life by fulfilling the most dangerous of all missions, and Una, ‘The Lovely Valkyrie’, a Prussian aristocrat playing a double game, and ‘Dutch’ O’Murphy, a tough wise-cracking US Master-Sergeant, eager and willing to pay off old scores. These four are pitted against Otto Skorzeny and an élite band of assassins formed from a company of the surviving parachutists of Crete sworn to dark and mystical oaths which have to do with revenge on traitors responsible for the near débâcle and the random recovery of ancient objects of great occult power. Can they protect the leaders of the Free World, or is there a traitor in their own ranks ? How will they pair off into bed ? And in what order ?
V. The Bread-and-Butter Pudding Club. — Polly, Gail, Rosie and Miriam all want their men to settle down and take things seriously: they form a pact with the rest of the girls in the firm and it’s a side-splitting race to see who becomes pregnant first.
VI. The End of the Pier. — July 1914: The Twelve Joeys, a struggling party of Pierrots and Pierrets work the South Coast during the splendid Summer. What will Autumn bring ?
VII. Riding A Rainbow. — Dainty vowed never to be dependent on anyone after her parents split up; now a brilliant success as the best marketing executive in the tough world of publishing ever, she wants a child. But at 26 she has to act fast. Who shall she choose as the father ? Josh, her live-in lover of three years, genius research scientist, but irresponsible and feckless; Rudy, the sweet gentle impoverished motorcycle courier, only 19 but living in a communal squat in Brixton; or Simon, suave multi-millionaire business entrepreneur who will give her a life of perfection, but demand marriage as the price ? Dainty has to make the most difficult decision of her life.
VIII. Dead of Day. — A serial killer is murdering women, all of whom are young, clever and excessively attractive: can the J9 team, a crack police squad formed to foil these crimes — oldish gaffer, young female second-in-command, black male, computer genius, black female, several gays of either sex, ordinary plods with combat skills — work out why he uses these criteria in time before he slays another six victims ?
IX. The Holy Ball. — Latvia in the early fourteenth century is a grim and dangerous place, ruled by the cruel Sword-Brethren. Some men fight in rebellion, others knuckle under: but all, ultimately are depressed. A group of their wives however refuse to yield, and defy the imperialistic oppressors and their hypocritical Church by inventing football. The infuriated rulers must strike back and destroy the game and all memory of it, or it will spell the end of all their anti-democratic power. Inspiringly, after the massacre one girl escapes and, abjuring all else, spends every moment of an immensely long and minutely detailed mediæval life travelling to every country in Europe, Africa, and Asia to secretly spread the knowledge of this inspiring game, with it’s promise of ultimate liberation, amongst all disaffected peasants.
X. Fresh Meat — Horror: an especial group of Sûreté investigators put together an alarming collection of facts. All over the globe, butchers return home to find their families gone: there are no clues, except the abductors left several hundred kilos of sausages sitting in each living room. Marvel as the authorities take several weeks before something clicks and they call in what sausages remain for forensic examination.
Paul read this in silence. “Some of your sodding preoccupations are present;”
“I wouldn’t talk about ‘Lovely Valkyries’ much if I were you.” he continued sourly.
Jamie bit him. At least he tried to. Certain subjects were taboo.