Chicken, Dickens and Death

June 3, 2013

I’ve got a book coming out. My publisher is very busy – often the only time we talk is when he’s walking home in rush hour. He’s a power walker so he is always out of breath.

He rang me yesterday. “Peter? puff… puff…It’s your… puff…publisher… puff puff.”

The next day I had an idea: “Peter, you’re a life insurance salesman! If you can sell that, you can sell your book. The reader won’t even have to die to get the benefit – and it’s a lot funnier than death.”

Which is why last Tuesday I was at a Covent Garden pizza restaurant about to go on at the trendy Hospital club before a packed house to compete in “Literary Death Match” – books and words instead of gloves and punches. There were going to be four authors competing.

OK – three authors and a life insurance salesman.

Earlier, I’d gone to pick up my Lily, my daughter, from the station. While I was waiting, I thought I’d practise by reading my piece to someone.

I looked around. Who looked like a Larry David fan?

“Excuse me.” I said to the fair-haired young man in his 20s. “Have you heard of Curb your Enthusiasm?”

“I love LD,” he said. “Hey… ‘Palestinian chicken’!?”

“Great. I’m about to do a reading of a story from my book… about how I once bumped into Larry David at breakfast in New York – can I read it to you?”

” You met LD!!? ” he said. “Hang on… are you entering Literary Death Match?”

“Yes! How did you know?

“I’m waiting for my brother – he’s one of the authors!”

“What are the odds! What’s his book about?”

“The Artful Dodger… but it starts six years after Oliver Twist ended,” he said.

“Terrific!” I thought. “I’m against the new Dickens.”

I was now eating pizza with Lily and Dani, my publicist. Dani’s a sweet young north London Jewish guy – really a Daniel.

“Can we talk about what you’re going to be reading in 10 minutes?” he said.

I read them a bit of the Larry David story, but kept getting the accents muddled. One minute LD had an English accent and I was the New Yorker.

“No Dad, you can’t read that one,” said Lily.

“I agree,” the young Sicilian waiter said. “Too much dialogue; I think you need more narrative.”

“OK Lily… why don’t you and Roberto choose?”

Lily said “How about ‘The night my ears melted’. It’s really funny!” “Roberto… what do you say?” I asked.

“Yes it’s funny.” “Ok… we’ll go with the ears.”

“You’re on in three,” Dani said. “Ciao,” Roberto said, adding: “Remember sir… please, no Larry… I love LD… but you’re no Larry.”

“Are you really a life insurance salesman?” one of the other authors asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I think they wanted to add a bit of glamour to the evening,” I said.