It’s no secret I have written a few adrenaline-fuelled stories for Pro Se Productions, which will be unleashed on the un-suspecting world in the coming months, stretching into next year. Some of the stories I can’t talk about yet – loose lips sink ships – but among them, for an exciting new project called Pulse Fiction, (brainchild of Paul Bishop and Tommy Hancock) is a rattling adventure story, “Honor of the Legion”. Believe me, if you read and enjoyed Fight Card: Rumble in the Jungle (and why wouldn’t you), this story is gonna blow your socks off!
Anyway, as an introduction and a welcome to Pro Se, the following piece crossed my desk from writer I.A. Watson. As I read it, I was grinning from ear to ear and had to share it. Here it is, a day in the life of a writer at Pro Se Productions. Thanks Ian.
So I walk into the offices of Pro Se Productions, toss my hat across the room onto the hatstand, and smile raffishly at the bespectacled-but-beautiful brunette behind the secretary’s desk.
“Ian,” she gasps, flushing slightly. “I didn’t know you were back from Marrakech.”
“Just this morning, doll,” I tell her. I nod my head towards the inner door. “How’s the Old Man? Any idea what he called me in for this time?”
“Sorry, Ian. You know how it works. I can’t give you anything.” Then she blushes properly.
I perch on the edge of her desk, pushing aside proof copies of Hugh Monn P.I.: Catch a Rising Star, leaning forward to give her my best slantways grin. “C’mon, toots. I’ve been away. What’d I miss?”
“The usual,” she relents. “Black Pulp came out. Did pretty well. The Old Man stopped drinking for a whole afternoon. Nancy Hansen’s recovering nicely after the damage she sustained researching The Hunters of Greenwood. She’ll be back on solid foods any day now, and the book was worth it. A new issue of Pro Se Presents, a volume of Pulptress stories… Barry Reece turned in Lazarus Gray: Eidolon, which turned out pretty good even though it was all written on the back of blood-stained wanted posters. Nothing unusual though.”
There’s a rumbling from the inner office. “Is that Watson?” comes the rough deep tones of Pro Se Production’s EIC. “Send him in. If he tries to run, staple him to a desk.”
“H will see you now,” the brunette tells me. “Good luck, Ian.”
I shoot her a wink and saunter past the big framed cover-shots of Jim Anthony, Super-Detective, Brother Bones, and Torahg the Warrior, through the frosted-glazed door with the “Abandon All Hope” sign thumbtacked to the threshold, into the dark cavern beyond.
It all comes back to me: the sour whiskey smell, the stacks of manuscripts daggered to the table, the wall-trophies that I strongly suspected were body parts of writers who’d missed deadlines. I’d been here before. I’d survived.
And there, positioned so the light slatted across his face and shadowed his eyes, the man himself: Tommy Hancock, watching me, assessing, plotting.
“Welcome back, English,” he tells me. “How’d it go?”
“It’s taken care of.”
“The whole thing?”
I toss a thick manuscript down in front of him. “65,128 words, 35 essays on weird stuff and writing. I call it Where Stories Dwell. Satisfied?”
He leans forward to thumb through the document. The shadows move with him, still keeping his face covered. “Maybe. I’ll let you know.”
I know there’ll be an assignment – something tough and obscure, probably dangerous and painful. The Old Man had handed me Richard Knight, the flyboy detective, to put together “The Hostage Academy” for The New Adventures of Richard Knight volume 1, “The Last Flight of Captain Tennyson” for volume 2, and “The Plague God Laughs” for some other top-secret project I wasn’t even cleared to know about. He’d called me for the title story of The New Adventures of Armless O’Neil: Blood-Price of the Missionary’s Gold, which had taken me to the heart of darkness in the Belgian Congo. I’d had to delve into dark supernatural doings about “The Curse of Urania” for the weird mystic investigator Semi-Dual. Last time it had been a flirtation with superhero girlfriends in “He Died”, a short story for another of Pro Se’s mysterious projects.
Whatever H wanted, it wouldn’t be run of the mill. And it would hurt.
Hancock pushes a grainy black and white photo across to me. “Know him?”
I look at the image. Shock-haired guy, devil-beard, spectacles, stab-you-if-you-say-the-wrong-thing glint in his eye. “That’s David Foster,” I reply. “Except he calls himself James Hopwood when he’s taking care of business. There’s a list of the stuff he’s done on his blog site Permission to Kill. I link to it off my author website.”
“Right. Well he wants some Pro Se stuff on that blog. Not just adverts. Proper articles. Features.”
“He wants something from me?”
“I want something from you, Watson. Something interesting. Something novel. And I want product placement. Make sure you work in Pro Se titles – like Jason Kahn’s Badge of Lies, or Senorita Scorpion, or The Family Grace, all available from http://prose-press.com/pro-se-store/, or through online retailers, and from those bookstores where I’ve got compromising pictures of the operators. Got it?”
I fold the photo into my pocket. “Any rules?” I check. “Any limits?”
“Are there ever?” H snarls at me. “Get it done.”
A slow smile creeps across my face. “Whatever it takes, boss.”
I.A. Watson is a freelance writer operating out of Yorkshire, England. He’s authored four award-shortlisted novels and a whole load of short stories, all described at his website http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm. He’s not claiming that Tommy Hancock is really like he’s depicted in the piece here; after all, he knows where the bodies are buried.