Chapter 1: The Book Launch

Frederick sat at his table. He looked out of the window then down at his laptop. It was still dark morning when I walked past. He was wearing green and blue pyjamas and a red and black woolly hat. I waved. He raised a hand in mournful benediction.

A year or so later, Frederick invited me to the launch of his new book. He knew I was a fan though I had never said so and we had never spoken about his work. I never heard a sound up through the floor from his flat except for what I called his Wagner nights and he never complained to me.

His publisher spoke first: Ladies and gentlemen, Frederick will start the evening by reading the very first few paragraphs of his new thriller. You will be the very first people to hear, or read, this new story. There will then be time for questions.

Frederick cleared his throat. “His next victim walked past his window and waved jauntily. He clearly suspected nothing. He thought the killer was his friend. Edinburgh people were like that. They took lack of open hostility as friendship.”

I stopped listening. His next victim?

How Pelmanism made a writer

Turn over, turn over, top left! That’s the one, the wizz with the conk, the nose and hat at nine o’clock. Let’s see, what next? OK, bottom right, there, right at the bottom. Turn it over. Oh, ok. They’re neither of them a wizard though. Or perhaps… perhaps they’re wizards of communication, masters of the modern world, with their cans and their partings and their billowing bellies? No? OK then, I’ll turn them back over, the wizard and the guys on the phone. It’s your turn.

Just point to the one you want me to turn. Fourth row and three across? Great. You’ve got a pear, a silver one. That reminds me of the story. Have I ever told it you? The grandmother, the bear and the silvery pear? No? That’s odd, that’s one of my favourites. I’ll tell you the story when we finish this game. Just one more connection to find and then that’s it done for another ten years until Christmas falls on the night of a falling star. That’s it! You’ve got it! The golden pear. Right next to the silver one. Whoever would have thought it?

Oh, don’t be sad. Let’s turn all the cards over and see what stories we can tell. You begin…

Inspired by illustrations by Ross Gillespie @bigblether