"a raise? a raise?" trig took his cigar out of the corner of his mouth. "we lost readers last year, brownie. and money. how can i give you a raise?"
"just another five dollars a week. i'm begging you. i told you connie is expecting again."
'to the best of my recollection, it was not i who got mrs brown with her seventh child." trig got up and looked out the one window of his office. the window on the other side of the airshaft was still closed.
you keep looking at that window. why?" brownie asked.
"what do you care?" trig sat back down at his desk.
"i thought it might be an idea for a book. a guy looks out a window. nobody knows why."
"sounds kind of arty."
"it would be a thriller. our thrillers haven't been that great lately."
"you're right, brownie. 'our' thrillers, as you refer to them, haven't been great at all. in fact, they've stunk. especially at the pay window."
"try to do better. all right, what have you got here?"
everlast books provided reading material to drugstores in the united states and canada. it was a four person operation. titus trigman was the owner, editor and proprietor. miss elizabeth brewster, busily typing in the tiny reception area, was the chief and only factotum. earl floyd, not present as the story opens, was the blurb writer and most valuable and highest paid employee. and cletis f brown, "brownie", wrote the books.
trig riffed the pages of the top manuscript of the pile brownie had given him.
"what's this one called again?"
"it's right there - the flame and the sword."
"you sure we haven't used it before?"
"i'm not sure, no. i could check it."
"i'll have betty check it. "
"you know, for the money you pay him, maybe earl could do the titles as well as the blurbs."
"stop running earl down. he's our meal ticket. i'm having a hard enough time as it is keeping him from jumping to total books."
brownie didn't reply. trig flipped the pages some more. "where is this one set?"
"the byzantine-bulgar war."
"you did your research?"
"when does he see her tits?"
"he sees the left tit on page 8, the right one on page 17, and both together on page 48."
"move both tits up to page 35."
"and she has incredibly white teeth for the age she lived in."
"you don't have to tell me my business."
"with sales figures the way they are, maybe i do. what else have we got here?"
"i got a private eye, all dames are deadly, an sf, escape from hell planet 6 - '
"we're going to drop science fiction. we just can't compete."
"after all the work and research i did on this? thanks for letting me know."
"a western, rustler's moon."
"now i know we've used that one before."
"all right, call it return to rustler's moon."
"return to rustler's moon? that doesn't make any sense."
trig sighed. "i've told you, and i'm telling you again, one of your problems is you underestimate the discriminating nature of our audience. they catch mistakes on page 195, they will be all over a title."
"i'll come up with a new title. but if earl - "
"forget earl! well actually don't forget earl." trig got back up and looked out into the airshaft again. "earl still has problems."
"what else? you and betty are going to have to watch out for him again tonight."
"what happened to the professional bodyguard you were going to hire?"
"what am i going to hire him with, wheaties box tops? this is all on you, brownie, if you wrote better books, we could make enough money to hire a real bodyguard for earl. as it is - "
"can i interrupt ?"
"please. go ahead."
"maybe the books aren't selling because earl's blurbs aren't that great. did you ever think of that?"
"i should pretend i didn't hear that. earl is a great artist, with a proven track record. he's respected by everybody in the business. i picked you up out of nowhere, brownie, and this is how you repay me, with these infantile jealous tantrums?"
trig shook his head and looked away from the window. he sat back down.
"tantrums?" brownie asked.
"the effect is the same. be that as it may, earl expects to be at the blue jaguar around eight tonight, and i want you and betty to be there when he arrives, ready for anything."
"i promised my daughter - "
"what, that you were going to read her a book or something?"
"with all the kids you've got, they can read books to each other, can't they? be outside the blue jaguar tonight. that's all, you can go. give these to betty." trig handed the stack of manuscripts to brownie. brownie took them but didn't get up.
"there was something else?" trig asked.
"i was just wondering about the price increase."
"oh yes, yes. i've just about made up my mind - we'll be going up to fifty cents on most titles, maybe all except the westerns."
"all the way up to fifty cents?" brownie frowned. " isn't that a lot of money for a two hundred page book?"
trig smiled. "oh, did i forget to tell you? no more two hundred page books. except the westerns - if we don't drop them too. from now on everything else will be at least five hundred pages, preferably six or seven."
"but, i've told you, my models are dashiell hammett and madame de lafayette and the abbe prevost."
"no. no. forget dashiell hammett and the abbe prevost. thomas b costain and samuel shellabarger, let them be your guides."
"for the same pay?"
"when we start making money again, then we can talk about a raise."