“They say you’re the best mystery writer alive,” said the husky man. With callused fingers, he shoved two copies of Death Technician at me for signing. I’d noticed him shifting his weight from foot to foot, glaring at me when I spent time talking with anyone in line who brought my novel to the table for my signature.
“Hype,” I said. “The publisher wants to sell books. I could name a dozen better writers.”
“So comparing you with Christie and Doyle is…”
“Bunk. They were originals. I’m just a good writer. They produced a substantial body of excellent work, that’s still in print. I’ve written one novel. I’m trying to squeeze another one in between travel and signings.”
“But the reviewers went wild about your book.” He looked like he might cry.
“I’m the flavor of the month,” I said. “I can’t promise the next book will be as successful. I can’t promise there will be a second book.”
The authors of, “Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivjago, and Black Beauty, never wrote another novel. If I do write again, the critics who loved the first novel might hate the second. People put you up high so they can watch you fall.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” the man frowned. “I sat through your talk. Wasn’t half bad. Next I had to listen to questions from your fans. Then people hustled over to get in line. I ended up way in back, standing on my aching feet. I was gonna’ buy two books and sell ‘em later for more money.”
“You could. Those are from the first print run of the first edition. They’ll be worth more when I sign them. Put them in Brodart book cover jackets, keep them out of the sun in a cool dry place. Wait a few years. Never, ever read them. ”
“Like baseball cards? They’re worth more if you never touch them.”
“You might be a one hit wonder.”
“Could be. Writing is a crazy business. The good news is, if I write a bunch more, the first will be the most valuable.”
I autographed the books. He limped off. I smiled at the next person in line. The signing was scheduled to end at six. It ran over. I signed books and chatted with everyone in line. The storeowner was happy with the size of the crowd. We commiserated about the chaotic world of publishing. A little after seven she locked the door behind. I headed for my car in the dark.
“One more question,” said the sore-footed man. “How much would a first edition of the only novel by a mystery writer murdered without explanation be worth?” Moonlight glinted off his knife.
I disarmed him, broke his arm and left him face down, bleeding onto his books.
“You didn’t understand the title, so I guess you don’t know military slang.”
I shook my head. “But all that time waiting and you didn’t read the author bio.”
Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine ,January/February 2012. He has more than forty short stories published, novels, ABRAHAM LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE, HEARTLAND, MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT available at http://www.warrenbull.com/kindle_editions.html and a short story collection, MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE available at http://www.warrenbull.com/ and http://store.untreedreads.com/ He blogs at http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/ He is lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. His website is http://www.warrenbull.com/