Every once in a while you come across a little gem. This novella is one & ironically, that is also its plot.
In the introduction David Morrell writes about J.D. Salinger & his influence. Not just his prose but the mystique that grew around him after he withdrew from the world at large.
What follows is a short story about a reclusive author named R.J. Wentworth who wrote a seminal novel in the early 1960's. It was universally lauded, turning a shy former schoolteacher into an international celebrity. Even Hollywood came calling & bought the rights to one of his lesser works. The movie was a dismal failure.
(And when you read the passage describing how the movie men "improved" the story, you'll know why. It's hilarious...and sadly, probably apt.)
Tragedy followed & Wentworth withdrew to a small town in Vermont. He never published a thing after 1966.
In present day, Tom Neal is an editor for a huge publishing conglomerate in NYC & has been tasked with cleaning out the office of Sam Carver. Sam was an editor for one of the last independents. It eventually succumbed to progress & was swallowed by Tom's company. Sam became redundant. He promptly gathered a few personal items & stepped outside into the path of a bus.
He nurtured many great authors in his time, including Wentworth. Tom finds an unread typewritten manuscript among Sam's papers & takes it home to read. It's wonderful.
The author is unknown but Tom champions its publication to the marketing committee (another humorous conversation). Too small, they say. No global scope, no potential for movie rights.
But Tom has an ace. He's convinced the author is really Wentworth & sets out to find the great man.
It's the beginning of a life changing journey. What follow is his account of tracking down Wentworth & learning the truth behind his seclusion. And how in the process, he becomes a free man.
This is a beautiful little story & one that may resonate with some authors out there as they struggle to get their work published. It's about people who read to savour how words are put together & those that live to exploit them. And how, sadly, editing is being supplanted by marketing.
It's a touching tale that illustrates how meeting the right person, even very briefly, can change your life. All written by the same guy who wrote "First Blood" & "Rambo".