12 February 2012

The Wonderful World of Mortimer Tombs

Basil Hayden, Publisher

Following Thursday's post on I Hate You to Death...

I envy Mortimer Tombs. His is a world in which writers make very good money. Just look at his betrothed, blonde and beautiful Audrey Allen – she lives off Central Park in a spacious apartment that is made small by her crazy collection of Victorian antiques. Audrey is able to afford such luxury, along with housekeeper and cook, by dashing off the occasional love story for Basil Hayden's Passionate Love magazine. Fellow Hayden wordsmiths Monica and Gordon MacGregor – she writes romances, he adventure tales – live in a grand house close to the park. Then there's Augustus Hamilton, who is lured from his position as a tenured university professor by the lucre of literature.

Keith's Edgar's writers write, but don't think that they devote their days to the craft. Audrey, dressed in diaphanous negligee, moves about her apartment between pump organ and boudoir, playing the girly girl. Gordon spends his days reclining, awaiting inspiration dressed in silk dressing gown. Monica takes her cues from Audrey, breezing into rooms in "flame-colored negligee." Meanwhile, humorist Isaac Grimm lies reading wrapped in a blanket (he has the sniffles).

Their complaints against publisher Basil Hayden have only to do with rejection. The doomed man refused one – and only one – work by each of the seven writers suspected of his murder. All evidence indicates that when it came to his writers Hayden was very generous indeed. Mort received a $5000 advance for one of his crummy potboilers* – $67,000 today.

Such is the luxury contained in Mort's Manhattan flat that even dim bulb Detective Haggerty can't help but notice:
   "Do yourself pretty well, I see. Didn't know they paid out heavy dough for drivel."
   "Oh, come, now," I protested. "Genius must be recognized. We artists don't live in garrets in this day and age."
Another day, another age... an alternate universe.

* Edgar gives a glimpse of Mort's prose with the beginning of Blood on the Ceiling: "The wind was howling down the brick canyons, howling past the deserted corners, driving swirling snow against lamp posts into sinister doorways..."

Related post:

No comments:

Post a Comment