About the Author

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


When a book shop owner gets a call from a famous author cancelling, he is gutted. How can he let everyone down? Or is there another solution?

Submitted: August 09, 2018

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Submitted: August 09, 2018

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Ray picked up the phone on the second ring.

‘Good morning, Hunter’s Books.’

‘Hi, is that Ray Hunter?’

‘Speaking.’

‘This is Stephen Armitage.’

‘Oh, hi, can I just say that I’m a huge fan of your work. I’ve read everything, all the way back to the short stories. And we’re all so excited for the book signing tomorrow evening.’

‘That’s actually why I’m calling. I’m dreadfully sorry but I’m not going to be able to make it.’

‘But I’ve sold tickets and bought wine and everything.’

‘Frightfully sorry. There was a mix up with the dates. I’m a guest speaker at Irlam Literary festival that evening.’

‘I don’t know what to say. A lot of your fans have bought tickets.’

‘If there was anything I could do, I’d do it.’

‘What about sending over some signed copies?’ asked Ray.

He paused for a second waiting for the author to reply. Silence. Then came the dialling tone. Stephen had hung up.

Ray placed the receiver back in the cradle. He leaned on the counter and rubbed his eyes. What was he going to do? He’d have to start ringing round and apologising. He shook his head. This book signing was the biggest thing to happen to the small shop in the eight years they’d been open. He’d even taken out an advert in the local newspaper. And just like that it was over.

Not sure quite what to do with himself he grabbed Armitage’s latest hardback book from a shelf. He flicked to the back cover. The inside cover had the standard paragraph about the author. The details were vague. Armitage lived in the North West of UK with his wife and two dogs, Lennon and McCartney. There was no photograph. That was not unusual. Half the books published had little more than a few lines about the writer. The more popular writers sometimes had a glossy studio photo of themselves on the book cover. Ray thought there were two reasons for the lack of author picture. Firstly, a lot writers were pretty reclusive and were happiest alone at their writing desk so didn’t take to the limelight with as much gusto as those in other artistic professions. And secondly, there wasn’t the level of public interest levelled at authors as say, musicians or actors. And so Ray had no idea what Simon Armitage looked like. A thought occurred to him. He shook his head. He swatted the idea away like a fly. No, that was a bad idea. He couldn’t possibly do that.

Later that afternoon he went behind the counter and dug out the folder containing all the information concerning the book signing. He found the list of attendees. The list held the name, address and contact telephone numbers. He picked up the phone and dialled the first number on the list.

‘Hi, this is Ray from Hunter’s books. I’m called about the book signing tomorrow.’

‘I can’t wait.’ she gushed. ‘We’re coming up from Chester especially. We’re staying over and making a night of it.’

Ray sighed at the excitement in her voice. Telling her there wasn’t going to be a book signing would be like telling his young nephew that there wasn’t a Santa Claus.

‘I just wanted to say, can you make sure you’re here for six thirty prompt?’

‘Of course. See you then.’

Ray hung up. He stared at the list of names. He knew that each person would have a similar story. They may not be staying in Manchester but they would no doubt explain how they’ve been a fan for years, or that their late parent had got them into his work and were delighted to finally meet the writer. He couldn’t let everyone down like that. The author may have cancelled but Ray still might be able to give them an evening to remember.

 

The next morning he had a word with Tilly, a sixth form student who helped out at the shop now and again to help pay for her tuition and pints of cider.

‘I need you to help me at the book signing tonight.’

‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world. This is a big deal.’

‘There is just one thing.’

‘Oh yeah? Don’t tell me, he’s cancelled?’ Tilly laughed.

Ray said nothing.

Tilly swore then continued.

‘What a shame. How’s everyone taken it?’

‘I’ve not told anyone.’

‘Well, you’re cutting it fine.’

‘I can’t do it, Tills.’

‘You’ve got to. There’s no other option.’

‘What does he look like?’

‘I don’t know. Hang on, you’re not thinking of-’

‘I can’t let everyone down.’

‘You’re not letting anyone down. That pompous author has done that. Just call them up and tell them, for goodness sake.’

‘What harm would it do? We’d be doing something good.’

‘I know you mean well, Ray, but you can’t.’

‘People are looking forward to this. They want a bit of conversation, and a signed book. We can give it to them.’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘Come on, you might even enjoy it.’

‘But what if we get caught?’

‘How are we gonna get caught? And if we do, I’ll take the wrap. I’m the one pretending to be him.’

‘You owe me for this.’

 

At seven o’clock that evening Tilly welcomed the seventy seven people into the bookshop. She handed out glasses of wine and showed them through to the events room. The room had been the ‘back room’ until tonight when Ray had renamed it. The room was full of excited chatter. The fans of the author talked amongst themselves about their favourite books and the rumours of a film being made of one of Armitage’s novels. Tilly found Ray pacing the corridor. He looked nervous.

‘Are you sure about this, Ray?’

‘Yeah,’ he nodded. ‘I can either go out there and tell everyone he’s not coming, or I can blag it and let everyone think I’m him.’

He took a deep breath.

‘Let’s do this.’

 

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Tilly said, ‘please give a warm welcome to Stephen Armitage.’

The applause echoed around the store as Ray entered. As a voice in his head asked just what on Earth he thought he was doing, Ray smiled and waved and headed to the front of the room. Despite knowing the adulation was not aimed at him, he had to admit that it felt good to be the target of such awe and admiration. A few people shook his hand as he passed by.

The expectant crowd stared in silence as they waited for the great writer to speak. Except he wasn’t the great writer. He was an average book seller, who had read all the classics and sold cheap paperback books. The reality of what he was doing struck him at that moment. What was he going to say to these people? His mind went blank.

He stammered and stuttered, thanking everyone for coming along.

‘I hope you enjoy his, erm, that is, my new book.’

He saw Tilly roll her eyes at the back of the room. Then an idea came to him.

‘I’m sure you don’t want to hear me ramble on, and I’m sure you all have questions you would like to ask, so I’d like to get a little Q&A going. How does that sound?’

Murmurs of agreement went around the room.

‘Right then,’ he clapped his hands together, ‘let’s get started. Hands up who’s got a question.’

And so it started. Ray answered the questions as if he was a famous author. He gave answers similar to those of authors in interviews he’d seen on TV or heard on the radio. When asked where he got his ideas from he quoted the famous answer by Stephen King.

‘I have the brain of a small boy,’ he said. ‘it’s in a jar on my writing desk.’

The crowd laughed and clapped.

 

Around forty five minutes later a man in a dark suit entered. He leaned against a wall and looked on as Ray continued.

‘Basically,’ Ray said. ‘this new book is about life. It’s about living each day and worrying about the consequences later.’

‘That’s not correct.’ called the late comer.

The man approached where Ray was standing with a copy of the novel.

‘How would you know?’ he asked.

‘Because I wrote it.’ replied Stephen Armitage.

The crowd watched in bewilderment as the person they thought was the author spoke to the real thing.

‘You’re Stephen Armitage?’ gasped Ray. ‘But you double booked. You cancelled.’

‘I managed to get a later slot at the literary festival. Now it appears I have an impersonator. What do you have to say for yourself?’

Ray held out his copy of the book.

‘Will you sign this for me?’


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