Presenting an excerpt from our upcoming short story anthology, Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure, set for release on Amazon Kindle on 3rd September, 2017. Here, Dashworth is trying his luck in a publisher’s office, attempting to shill his new book, Captain Thundergroin, while on his rounds for the Tea Conglomerate.
Dashworth watched him warily, and the moment Prisc disappeared down the stairwell the lad whirled to Plinkington, beaming. “Quick, I’ve only got two minutes, but I’m perhaps the most sensational person you’re ever likely to meet.”
Plinkington blinked at him. “This is the same poorly-written tripe that mysteriously appeared in my pigeon-hole last month.”
“Oh, you read it?”
“I’m a publisher, sonny. It took me all of five minutes while I was on the privy.”
“I hear geniuses do all their best work squatting on the lav,” Dashworth said. “What do you think? It’s got a sexy new cover.”
It always surprised Dashworth how few people seemed to understand reality when it was staring them in the mug. “The monstrous new cover is irrelevant. It’s sensationalist drivel. The plebs want intrigue, black magic, back-alley murder and pestilence.” Plinkington gave the slim volume a flick, sending it spinning across the table. “In short, they want to be told that somebody out there in the Fifteen Galaxies has it worse than them.”
Dashworth planted a hand on the cover, stopping it dead and only smearing a little of Captain Thundergroin’s blinding countenance. “Tosh,” he opined. “They want somebody amazing to turn up and remind them that life is fun and it’s good to be British. Even if you’re living in poverty without a ha’penny for a decent ermine cape.” He dreamed about that sometimes, laying in the dark of his room at the tea offices: A hero, striding forth from a doorway blazing with light, drawing a rapier with his cape and hair billowing. It was classic space-adventurer stuff, but none of the books Dashworth had seen in the Cheapside stalls and barrows could quite match the vision circling his head. The only trouble was that he could never seem to picture the hero’s face these days; only a fuzzy blur where his devil-may-care smile should go. It seemed so much clearer when he was a boy.
“There’s no such person,” Plinkington sniffed. “And such flagrant showboating won’t get anyone anywhere. Besides, the only reason we stock penny dreadfuls is because they come with the patronage of the Crown. The Royal Family can sell anything these days, especially with present sympathy for Her Majesty’s condition.”
Dashworth felt about as far from royalty as Quilton from a good scrub and a discreet walk-in clinic. He didn’t know why it all sounded so complicated. “If your so-called readers are still stuck in the Dark Ages, there’s only one hope for them. The new Penny Amazings my writer has conjured up will blow the malaise clean out of their morose little arseholes.”
If Plinkington had any opinion on the excellent name Dashworth had chosen for his stories, she didn’t divulge it. Instead, she asked: “Your writer?”
“Quilton, that’s right.”
“Do you mean to say you didn’t even write this tat? Then what on Earth are you good for?”
Dashworth had been surprised before; now he was stunned. His mouth didn’t seem capable of shutting, and his brain was off somewhere having a jolly time on a tire swing. “But,” he said, mustering every ounce of wit and repartee he could find, “it’s me.”
“Well. Whoever you are,” Plinkington said, picking up the Penny Amazing and weighing it in her hand, “your two minutes are up.”
Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure is written by Tom Hutchings and Tom Menary, and will be available for Amazon Kindle from 3rd September, 2017.