I first met Alistair Creaux at WritersCon '97, and from the first words he uttered to me in a drunken slur I knew he was destined for greatness: Sometimes I get an idea and it's so so sweet I'll just ride it like a buckin bronc and donkey-punch that fucker.
I'd nodded sagely, not quite understanding but impressed by his zeal. Once I'd actually read Creaux's work it all made sense. Wonderful, crazy sense. He wrote like a combination of Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs, and Stephen King. Epic storytelling, accessible to the common man, but shot through with Deeper Meaning for those willing to delve.
His fame skyrocketed since I'd discovered him. He was BorderHouse's number one draw; every book pre-sold by the millions as soon as it was announced, anticipated by rabid fans (Creauxians, they called themselves) and lovingly dissected on numerous internet fan sites around the world. Two of his books had become motion pictures, each drawing respectably against summer blockbusters. Creaux was a phenomenon, a force, a legend, a near-immortal being.
Even his media fuck-ups were a joy. I'd sent him a bottle of 30-year-old Balvenie upon learning he'd punched Dan Brown in the face. "Stop making shit up!" was the now-famous Creuxism uttered that day, and it'd only made him more popular to his adoring fans.
But alas, the Alistair Creaux sitting before me in my office was not the grizzled, hard-drinking Alistair I'd known for over a decade. This man was
Oh, he looked the same: traditional beat-to-shit cowboy hat and leather duster, boots crossed at the ankles, legs straight before him, as if daring waiters and random passers-by to trip upon them. He sat like that everywhere: in crowded restaurants, at airports. If somebody did trip over his too-long legs, that was their problem, not his.
I'd asked him: how's the next Dylan Boss novel coming along? The series of supernatural detective mysteries was a vein of pure gold, the first book already optioned by James Cameron, an avid Creauxian.
His response stopped me cold.
"I met someone," he admitted, almost shyly.
Uh-oh. I looked up at him from my desk, really looked at him for the first time. Holy Christ, he'd bathed. Not good. Carefully, I rose from my chair and circled the desk, leaned on it with my arms crossed. Mulled over a dozen responses.
met somebody. As in, you're seeing somebody?"
His face lit up for a moment, remembering, characteristic scowl gone for the first time since I could remember. This was serious.
"Ayup. And I wrote something
" He rummaged for a moment in deep pockets, produced a leather notebook. Tied with a red ribbon. He held it out for me with calloused hands and I took it, turning it over and over. There was a red heart inked onto the cover.
"Alistair, you never
write. With a pen. In a book I mean. With you it's always been Word documents. What's going on?"
He rubbed an eye thoughtfully before answering. "I'm writin with mah heart now, Les. It's all in there
how I feel. I think it's time for the world to know the real me."
Alarm bells were ringing in my skull as I snapped the red ribbon, opened the small book. Flipped to a random page. Oh god, oh god, oh god
"Alistair, this is poetry."
"Ayup," he nodded. "From mah heart. Gowan, read some. I wanna know what you think."
Oh, beloved one, so fine is your ass
And never do you offer me none of that sass
For when you speak, even if it's dumb
Your words blast me like a shotgun!
"Fascinating. You rhymed 'dumb' with 'gun'." I felt a migraine starting.
"Hey, poetry doesn't have to rhyme! It's
whattayacallit? A bonus."
There's something about your feet
I find especially sweet
All your toes a wigglin
Sets me off to gigglin.
This was bad. Not just the poetry, which was execrable
no no, if I didn't get a new Boss novel out of him by the end of this quarter it would spell disaster for BorderHouse. For me. My brain shifted into emergency damage control mode.
"How's the Dylan Boss work coming? Got a title yet?"
He scowled that famous scowl. "I'm done with that little shit for now. He's not relevant anymore
I want you to publish that." He nodded at the book in my hands. I wanted to throw it at him.
"Um, this is a real departure for you. Your fans won't understand. What if we published this under a pseudonym?"
"Fuck that. I want my name on it. So everyone will know."
Right. And no Dylan Boss anytime soon. My brain hunted for a way out of this trap, seized on a thought.
"You met someone. Tell me about her."
"Him," Alistair grinned. "His name is Eduardo. Met him at a bar on 57th street."
I set the book of poems gently on my desk, went back to my chair and summoned an IM window. Alistair didn't mind; I multitasked all the time, and he knew it. Part of being a successful agent.
Need you to rumble a name, I typed to Alan, my assistant. Extremely urgent.
"Eduardo. He has cute feet?"
"Ohyes," Alistair smiled. "The cutest little thangs ever."
Alan typed back: Ready and willing oh boss. Name?
"And you met him
"Bartends at Places. You know, we've been there a few times. On 57th."
Eduardo, bartender at Places, a lounge on 57th street. Everything you can find on him, I typed.
I smiled weakly at Alistair, unsure what to say next. "And you're done writing your Dylan Boss books? No more of those? You can do both poetry and
uh, your regular writing too, you know. We have commitments."
He waved a hand dismissively. "Hell, if you want the advance back, fine. I don't need the money."
Crap. I'd been counting on my percentage of that book.
Six Edwards in that zip code, plus one Ed and one Eddy, Alan typed. But just one with a Hispanic last name. Think that's our guy?
Employment history? I suggested.
Already checking, he responded.
"I was thinking. We should publish it exactly like that," Alistair nodded at the book on my desk. "Leather bound, hand-drawn heart just like I did it there. Same blood dripping outta it to form li'l kisses, just like that. Red ribbon. I want people to hold that book so they can feel me."
"Anything's possible," I allowed. We'd done vanity projects like that before, small runs, but very expensive. I refused to think about it any more than I had to though. Other options still existed
Found him. Edward Garcia Lopez, lived in Tampa, now NYC. Bartender at two clubs, one of them 57th Places. Alan was a wizard at research.
Work up orders for a 10-227, I replied. Chet Bapkins, the name's in my old paper Rolodex. He'll want cash. I'll authorize an initial $20K from the entertainment budget. If he wants more get back to me. File it as a private plane charter, tag it to
I thought for a second. Finster. Use Finster's authorization.
Finster? In Children's Books? Christ, that's evil.
"Lotsa typing going on over there," Creaux observed.
"Just finalizing some details. Gimme a sec." Not evil. Practical. Ed Garcia Lopez needs to disappear. An accident. Make it happen.
Roger, wilco, aye aye sir. Alan was a good kid. I made a mental note to give him a bonus.
"Okay, tellya what we'll do," I cleared my screen and leaned back. "Let's get this book of poetry over to Mabel in Design
see what she thinks is possible in the way of a small boutique pressing. I'm thinking we market it as a coffee-table book; something for your fans. Meanwhile, why don't you take some time off? Think about your writing, how we can finish out your Dylan Boss commitment."
"I told you, I'm done with that."
"Nevertheless, I'm your agent. You pay me to think about all aspects of your career. Just humor me. Maybe you'll see things differently in a week."
Alistair pondered for a moment, finally nodded. "Alright. I'll give it a week. But I'm tellin ya, I'm a changed man. Dunno if I have enough darkness in me to write more of that Boss shit."
We'll see, I thought.