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35 new brief tales from the UK's optimum crime writers.

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Your editor is a big Carl Sanderson fan,” he said. “She’s dying to meet him. ” That is, if my editor thinks that Carl Sanderson is a 1960s cowboy star made good, for whom books are being ghosted, and Carl Sanderson is a guy with clout, who can call up the aforesaid editor and demand that the whole direction of a storyline be scrapped because he has a better idea, and all the editor can do is meekly pass the instructions on to me—well, then, who precisely is in charge here? “All you have to do,” Henry explained, “is put on the mask and your editor will never know the difference.

Maybe I even dozed off for a while because as the sun went down I start I looked at my reflection in the windshield and for a long moment of helpless, utter horror, I saw not my own face, but that of Carl Sanderson, heroic space mercenary of large screen and small; then I was clawing away at my face and it came off and underneath was a robot and cowboy and a gladiator and Kermit the Frog and a bug-eyed, drooling Smile Face and then just a skull, which cracked into dust and bits, and there I was sitting in the car next to Henry with no head at all, and he reached over and screwed a giant light bulb into my neck; which he switched on somehow, and put a paper mask on top of it, which started to burn through from the heat of the bulb— And then the car came gently to a stop and Henry nudged me.

I think he did it to impress upon me that he was in control. “Yo! ” He swerved. The lunatic who had never heard of turn signals and probably thought solid matter could pass through solid matter if you only wish upon a star cleared our fender by inches. “Tinseltown, kiddo,” Henry said again, remembering to breathe. Henry Jessel was nine years my junior, but he’d always somehow been the leader in our friendship or partnership or whatever it was. ” Henry Jessel was my literary agent. He got me my first novelization job, Captain CutThroat, the book version of a pirate movie which had lasted in the theaters almost a whole day; a book which sold dozens of copies.

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