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the reviewer

Bruce writes for a national magazine, has written two books published by Harper Collins and is in the middle of a third. He reads James Ellroy crime novels, likes the telegrammatic prose style. We have that and surfing in common. He’s been waiting for me to finish the Bookmaker from its beginning.

But Bruce has never read a spy novel, hasn’t been immersed in the world of le Carre so a demonstration of the protocols employed by spies was necessary, but in a context both of us understood.

We met today over coffee at Choux Choux in Bangalow, they have a pastry cook trained in Vietnam. Tres bon!

‘Just say,’ sez I, leaning over the table, ‘you and I are here to do a little shady business today.’

Bruce nods.

‘I’ve got a boot full of compressed weed and you’re here to buy it and take it away.’

Bruce looks over his shoulder.

‘But I have to know you’re the right bloke because we never use the same courier twice.’

‘Who’s we?’

I look down at the black bag on his lap.

‘Me and the bloke whose money you’ve brought with you.’

I turn and look out the window.

‘Where is he parked?’

I look back at Bruce. He’s frowning.

‘Just kidding.’

Bruce nods.

A young woman walks past us, she’s tattooed here and there, legs and arms, feet and neck. Calves. She carries a small child and I wonder how old that infant will be before her mother allows it to be marked.

I continue.

‘When I walk in here I’m looking for a bloke with a small black bag. You’ve been told to look for a bloke who pulls a cheroot out of a Peter Stuyvesant pack.’

‘What’s a cheroot?’

‘Thin cigar.’

Bruce nods.

‘I’ll ask you for a light.’

‘That’s the first check – this stuff is worth twenty thousand to me which means that if the second routine works out I give you the car keys and walk away with your little black bag and all it contains.’

I’m wearing a faded pink long-sleeved cotton shirt, Bruce is just wearing a T.

He’s sweating.

I lower my voice.

‘The bloke who owns the money gave you a book to show me, right?’

This confuses Bruce again. I’m still pretending.

‘Just pretend. You show me the book. I reach into my pocket, take out a small square of paper and see if it fits into the hole on page 66.’

The tattooed lady and her infant leave. A female toddler at a corner table is experimenting with the cafe’s acoustics. Why don’t her parents hush her?

‘That’s it.’

Bruce is going to review the Bookmaker soon, I asked him to let me know if he laughed anywhere on his way through.

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