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A Novel Romance

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Anthea congratulated herself for taking a headache tablet before meeting with her client because, no matter how greatly she had hoped otherwise, she had firm expectations about the tone and direction of this meeting, all of which were coming true.  And, all of which could give a headache to a headless baby doll.  As the agent-slash-manager for the illustrious mystery writer Mycroft Holmes, she had labored long and hard to get the stubborn tit to consent to one of his novels being turned into a film and that long and hard labor had been necessary because said stubborn tit thought the idea was as good a one as swallowing raw sewerage.  Something that was still leaps and bounds above what he thought of the actor the studio wanted for their leading man…

      “What possible reason could you have against him for the role?”

      “I would think the reason would be blindingly apparent.”

      “Not to a sane person!”

      “As you have oft proclaimed, I am insane.”

      “Funny.  Or not, because I do think there’s something wrong in that head of yours but, since it keeps turning out brilliant novels to set the mystery world on fire, I really don’t care about that bit of looniness.  This looniness, however, I do care about, because I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what you have against him.  He’s the right age, can manage the look you envision for your protagonist, has talent…”

      “On the latter point, especially, we disagree.  Profoundly”

      “You genuinely think he’s not a talented actor?”

      “I have browsed through the various samples of his work and they are the basest sort of drivel.”

      “Drivel that’s made hundreds of millions at the box office.”

      “The ignorant masses do enjoy their drivel and will gladly pay for large bowls of it spooned into their drooling mouths.”

True, but since that didn’t help Anthea’s argument, she declined to make her agreement audible.

      “A lot of those ignorant masses also buy your novels, might I point out, so maybe they’re not precisely as ignorant as you want to believe.  For fun, though, let’s play a ‘do you remember’ game, what say?  Do you, Mycroft Pettifogger Holmes, remember how much money your books on political history added to your coffers?  I seem to remember a very pointed conversation between you and my father about your imminent eviction from your flat, your brother being pulled from college for non-payment of fees and what strategy you should follow to prevent those pesky sorts of things from happening.”

It was the lowest of low blows, and Anthea knew it, but she also knew it was the truth and, when her most eccentric client needed the truth, she wasn’t afraid to give it.  Mycroft had a phenomenal mind and a true talent for writing, but until the segue into mystery writing, he’d amassed to his name the sum of several highly-regarded academic tomes and a below-average bodyweight since he could scarcely keep himself fed on the profits from them, given the number of people who appreciated detailed and incisive treatments of the government of ancient Assyria or some other faraway land could happily sit around a table at her favorite pub.  A small table, at that.  Her father had been nothing short of blunt about the situation and it, ultimately, was exactly what Mycroft needed to move forward, so that was the model she continued when she took over the firm.  That didn’t mean it was easy though, especially when she could see the hurt in Mycroft’s eyes.

      “Is this the point where I am I supposed to say ‘touche?’ “

      “No, it’s the point where you remember that not every talented person can simply follow their muse wherever it may take them.  They still have to eat, pay rent and all the other things that keep body and soul together.”

      “However, as you have indicated, these dreadful affronts to cinema have made outlandish amounts of money.  I would expect that this Lestrade person would be richly rewarded for this contribution to the studios’ accounts and could follow his muse if it chose to go to Antarctica.”

      “Yeah, he’s rich.  So are you.  Remind me how many non-fiction titles you’ve written lately?”

      “That is an utterly different thing.”

      “No, it’s not.  I do suspect you’ll write those sorts of books, now and again, someday but you’d probably see about the same level of sales as your original foray into that area and the taxes on this house, as well as your brother’s lunacy… we’d have to look long and hard at your investments to see if they’d keep you afloat if you decided to go in that direction permanently.

      “Pfft.”

      “Very articulate.  Truly, I’m overwhelmed by the complexity of your verbiage.  Besides, you like writing mysteries and, I suspect, Greg Lestrade enjoys the sorts of films he makes now, too.  But, it’s not all he’s done.  Did you even look beyond his more recent projects?  Lestrade has stage work to his credit and some well-regarded independent films in his early days.”

      “Which fell to the wayside when fame and fortune beckoned.”

      “Kettle – you’re black.”

      “Pish tosh.”

When Mycroft began to fall into a recursive rhetorical pattern, it usually meant he was simply spinning words to hide what he truly wanted to say, something Anthea knew from long and painful experience.

      “What’s… what is the real problem, Mycroft?  I know you’re not entirely happy with the idea of this film…”

      “I abhor the idea.”

      “… fine, you abhor the idea, but you seem to have a special level of abhorrence for Greg Lestrade.”

      “That is untrue.  I simply… yes, I may have turned away from my original inspirations for writing, however, that does not mean I look upon my more profitable work with any less a doting eye.  It is important to me… it matters more than I can express.  From naught but my own thoughts I create people, realities where, before, there was nothing but the empty page.  I am not ashamed to confess that I treasure my work, I take no small amount pride in it and it is it wrong that I wish to protect it from… the besmirching effects of the so-called entertainment industry?  My work inspires the minds of those who read it, I have countless letters and messages as testament to that fact and that is, to me, the apex of possible praise I could receive. My work inspires thinking, actual thinking.  Why would I, for any reason, want to turn that into insipid pablum for the intellectually lazy?  To denigrate my work, debase it… the insult both to me and my readers would be crippling.”

Anthea sighed, both from the vehemence of Mycroft words and that he had not deviated from his mindset one whit since she went full-out to get him to accept this film pitch.  He had fiercely resisted every previous effort for a television or film treatment of any of his novels and had only relented this single time since the film studio making the offer had, under their umbrella, a division that made smaller, more intellectual or artistic films that her client genuinely enjoyed.   Part of the contract was that the film would be produced under their watchful eye, though marketed and distributed by the parent company to maximize its audience.

However, the current sticking point was the clearly stipulated clause in the film-rights contract that Mycroft had final say on the actor to portray the lead, which was one of Mycroft’s most popular protagonists.  The studio had very firm ideas about who should have the role and Mycroft had firm ideas that their firm idea was utter shite.  She would keep trying to convince her client that he was being daft, as well as encourage the studio to move on to another candidate her client found more suitable, but this was an immovable object meets unstoppable force situation and she was the one being crushed in the middle.

      “Nobody wants you to debase or denigrate your work, Mycroft.  If anyone knows how important your work is to you, it’s me and I would never allow that.  The contract we got for you is the best I’ve ever seen to ensure the film stays true to both the letter and spirit of your book and… I don’t think Lestrade is going to ruin that.  Not in any manner.”

      “The man can do little but race about firing guns or bedding buxom blondes!  Oh, and let us not forget, battle space aliens or act the fool for some nauseating bit of romantic fluff that should be outlawed like anthrax.”

      “He’s been in a fairly diverse body of films and, yes, I will admit they tend to be blockbusters and not the little esoteric productions you like that most people can scarcely follow since it’s all archaic references, triple-meaning imagery and communication being mostly accomplished through microexpressions and interpretive dance.  That being said, your work would not be well-served by ghostly legions of Grim Reapers performing a ballet, so maybe we should try something a bit different.”

      “This Lestrade person has not portrayed a single character of intellect in his entire career!”

      “Not your level of intellect, no, but since the number of people in your category can be counted on one hand with fingers left over, that’s not something to damn him over.”

      “Oh, there shall be damning, and it shall be mighty.”

Anthea rolled her eyes and decided it was best to let this drop for now and attack it fresh tomorrow.  The mole was entrenched in his hole and not even dynamite would be able to extract him.  And, she’d completely forgotten to bring his favorite chocolates to this meeting.  They could usually be counted on to nudge him a few inches out of his hole to feel some sunshine on his face.  Which was something she actually wasn’t certain he’d voluntarily done in years.  Sleep all day and work all night had been his pattern as long as she’d known him, and moles didn’t change their spots any more than leopards.  If he didn’t have to occasionally make himself present to receive an award, which took weeks of convincing, she doubted his skin would ever feel the touch of the sunshine.

So, chocolates tomorrow and maybe a new pen.  He did prize his writing-utensil collection, though he wrote on a computer, and her connections should be able to ferret out something especially tantalizing by tomorrow night.  At this point, she was not above using outright manipulation and bribery to see this deal sealed.  It was too important, even though His Majesty couldn’t see that.  His fans were dying for a film treatment of his books and the additional exposure would being him a new legion of fans to his books.  And, more books sold meant more money, not only for him but for the various causes he supported, which he took almost as seriously as his writing.  Shit on a sharp stick!… she was definitely off her game tonight, because she hadn’t raised that particular point once!  And a powerful point it could be, when leveraged properly.  Absolutely time to regroup and attack on a new front tomorrow.  Of course, she had to phone the studio tonight and report on her progress, but… she was nothing if not talented at saying a lot while saying little at the same time…