October 15, 2011. EVELYN! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love was supposed to come out at the end of September. Alas, that did not happen. I had learned in mid-September that Bountiful Books was in financial trouble and would not be publishing any more titles. The company has gone into administration which was confirmed by an announcement on the homepage of its website, and so that was that, a sad day for the publishing industry in general and some hard-working individuals in particular. I didn’t suppose Simon wanted to talk to me about my poor book, because the weight of the world must have felt like it was on his shoulders. Let him sleep over the copy he’d been reading of The Epistles of St Paul, I decided. But I had come down to London to retrieve my intellectual property and that’s what I was determined to do.
Well, no it wasn’t my own intellectual property I’d come down to fetch. The proof copies of EVELYN! piled up in the corner of the office were the property of the administrators of Bountiful Books and I would not be touching them. The important thing was that at home I had the manuscript of EVELYN!, free from any legal hindrance, and my agent had told me she would begin the search for another publisher after Christmas. No, what I was there to collect was David Cliffe’s DVD of The Scarlet Woman.
No sign of the DVD itself, but Simon had told me he had converted the DVD into a memory stick in the form of a ring, which I assumed was the one that he was wearing on the pinkie of his right hand. I really didn’t feel the need to wake Simon from his slumber, in case the situation was embarrassing for either of us, so I decided to surreptitiously slip the ring from his finger...
Gotcha! Of course I knew the ring itself would be no good to David, so I would have to convert it back to a DVD. But that meant I could keep the ring, and by making use of its compatibility with computers as well as fingers I reckoned I’d soon have The Scarlet Woman at my fingertips!
But hang on a minute, I told myself. How did Evelyn Waugh make use of the jewel in his story? Let’s not lose sight of that. The Dean of Balliol (Evelyn) has a seductive rapport with the Prince of Wales. However, Lord Borrowington (Evelyn again) has introduced the Prince to the lovely Beatrice. In order for the Dean to get back the Prince’s attention, he needs to scupper this new infatuation. In order to achieve that, the Dean has instructed his henchman (played by Terence Greenidge) to steal the King’s ring so that he can do just that. And having thought that through, I realised I was up to speed with Evelyn’s tightly plotted farce.
“Goodnight, sweet king,” I whispered as I left the office of Bountiful Books. I believe it was then, as I crawled from the premises on my hands and knees, that the nucleus of an idea to promote my languishing book came into being. And so I feel I have Simon to thank for taking my engagement with the life and work of Evelyn Waugh onto a new level. It’s the flesh of oyster and grain of sand all over again. Anyway, let’s get back to 1924 and to what I feel I’m good at. Putting my all into biography.