Monday, March 21, 2016

The Pillow Talk Novellas by Robert Charest

THE PILLOW TALK NOVELLAS are three novellas comprising 100,000+ words.  The plots of the three novellas are completely unrelated.  However, the novellas are thematically linked by several commonalities:  all three focus on the psycho sexual dynamics of intensely entangled lovers; all three contain lengthy dialogues that take place in bed (thus the title); all three are set in New York and/or Connecticut, and contain numerous scenes set in Manhattan; all three end in murder; and all three are loaded with dialogue and would translate nicely to film.  Follow the links to read the opening of each novella.

 The Biographer is the story of a sixty year old retired jewel thief named Sid who hires a beautiful forty year old woman named Callie to write his biography.   In bragging about his life of crime she reveals her own criminal past, and they become romantically involved and rob a jewelry store together.  He falls in love while she uses sex to coerce the location of his hidden cache of treasure.

The Guns is the story of young newlyweds Lenny and Marilyn who move to New Haven, Connecticut, where Marilyn has been hired as an English professor at Yale University.  Lenny is a journalist who aspires to write fiction, and when he is offered a contract to produce a mystery novel and encounters writer’s block, he buys a gun for inspiration.


Dear Madam Gilda is set in Brooklyn and Manhattan and tells the story of a professional poker player named Bruno who falls in love with Gilda, the madam of an exclusive New York City ‘escort’ service.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Biographer Opening

Here follows the opening of The Biographer, one of my Pillow Talk Novellas.  The Biographer tells the story of Sidney Zeller, a jack of all trades and retired jewel thief and Callie Atherton, the much younger and beautiful writer Sidney hires to write his biography, and with whom he falls in love.

1

As he was convinced it had always shaped the course of his affairs, Sidney Zeller was certain fate would bring him the right biographer to write it all down.  He had at last reached a place in life where he had the time and space to sit with an author and tell his story, so he took out a simple ad in the newspaper, and contacted a local publisher who furnished him with the names of several established Westport area authors who might consider collaboration or ghost writing.  From these responses and phone calls he arranged three interviews for the same weekend.
The first was a woman named Callie Atherton who visited his home on Friday evening.  She was a striking brunette about forty.  She comported herself with assured self confidence; yet also with the casual nonchalance of a free spirit.  She was neatly and attractively dressed, and carried an expensive designer leather handbag.  Sidney had difficulty forming a first impression other than that he found her strikingly beautiful.
He was hale and rugged with a full head of coarse brown hair and a face that looked a decade younger than his sixty years.  He had taken care of himself throughout his life, with diet and maintained activity, and was muscular and thin and still projected masculinity. 
After introductions and a handshake, Callie held his fingers for a moment in the tips of hers, and said: “I’m surprised to find such a good looking man.”
“I’m never surprised and always pleased to meet a beautiful woman,” he answered. 
They sized each other up with their eyes and then took a seat on the verandah, where he had already prepared a tea set.  He offered her a cup, and she bluntly stated:  “I know this is forward, but I’d rather a glass of wine if you have any.  I’m not a big drinker, but I do find that one glass sets a warm mood and softens inhibitions when making acquaintance with someone new.  If you would join me it would be ever better.”
“Let’s have a glass of wine then,” he said, rising back to his feet.  He fetched a nice bottle of Malbec and two crystal goblets, opened and poured out the wine.  “Just one for me too,” he emphasized; “I enjoy partaking, but strive for moderation.”
They looked each other in the eye, smiled, toasted and sipped.  “Now,” he continued, controlling the conversation, “tell me about your writing.”
She wet her tongue with a small sip of wine then spoke.  “I have written a variety of books at varying stages of completion.  This weekend I will complete the last edits of the final draft of my first novel, which I will deliver to my publisher on Monday.”
“Impressive,” Sidney observed.  “What is it called and what is it about?”
“It’s called The Wandering Widow Maker, and was inspired by the year I spent with Romanian gypsies.  It’s about an American woman in Eastern Europe who possesses certain qualities that drive gypsy men wild.  She has no control that they hurl themselves at her, and several die mysteriously in their efforts to win her attention.”
Sidney was already engrossed, and said: “Very interesting.  And were you such a woman that this inspired you?”
“Something like that,” Callie answered.  “It is fiction.”  She reached into her bag and withdrew a book, which she handed to him.  “The Wandering Widow Maker is my second book; this is my first.  It is an account of the year I spent working in a whorehouse in Thailand.  I wasn’t actually one of the girls—I manned the desk and managed the rooms.  I was hired for my English; a lot of the clients were American and British men, and the clients from other countries spoke enough English to describe their needs.  I self-published this edition, but it was upon reading this that my publisher offered me a small advance for my upcoming novel.  You may keep that copy; peruse it as a writing sample.”
Sidney took the book and looked down at the title:  Bangkok Brothel.  “Thank you, I’m intrigued.  I’ll start reading it tomorrow.  How did you find your way to such a place?”
“When I was twenty I had a boyfriend.  We were a couple for a couple years; we got along really well, had great fun together and were genuinely happy.  One night he took me out for a romantic dinner and then a walk around a moonlit lake, where he got on one knee, asked for my hand and offered me a ring.  If I were going to marry, he was the perfect guy.  But as I stood there with the huge moon beaming behind him, I experienced a profound movement in my heart.  It was a moment of epiphany.  I dreaded my life as I knew it ending, and growing to rely on someone else, and soon thereafter having children rely on me.  So with tears in my eyes, and uttering words that I shocked myself to speak, I told him ‘no’ and ‘goodbye,’ and went off to experience the world.  I’ve worked in a number of different professions, and experienced daily life in quite a few different cultures, Bangkok being one.  But enough about my life—what about yours?  What has been so interesting about your life that I should devote a few weeks or months of mine writing about it?”
“Well, to dispense with my family history, I’ve been married four times--twice to the same woman, who was my second and is my current wife.  We have a son and a daughter in college,” Sid explained.  “My wife’s name is Lily, and right now she’s in Vermont caring for her ailing mother.  That gives me a little time to myself, and we agreed it’s a good time for me to start work on my biography.  As to whether my life is worthy of retelling, others will judge that when I am done, although I’ve always fantasized that the opening line simply be:  His name was Sidney Zeller and he was a most extraordinary man.  Ha, ha!  Actually I was similar to you.  I’ve worked in a number of professions throughout my years, from soldier to police officer, from alarm installer to banker.  I’ve gained and lost fortunes, and I’ve done it from the west coast to the east, at home and abroad.  It is such a string of stories I intend to recount, and you, having lived similarly, might make a most empathetic scribe.”
“I just might,” she suggested.  “My level of empathy rises and falls in remarkable conjunction with my pay.  Just how much would you want me to empathize?”  She looked straight into his eyes, then softened her gaze with a slight, seductive smile.
He returned the piercing eyes and answered: “I haven’t settled upon a specific pay rate yet.  I’m interviewing two more potential authors this weekend, and I was planning to take everything from there.”
She swallowed the last gulp of her wine and rose up.  “And I am interviewing two more life stories this weekend, and following that will be weighing all offers, options and other considerations.  Read my book and give me a call if you’re interested in my talents and can make a more financially specific proposal, and I’ll let you know if I’m still interested and available at that time.  It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Zeller.”
She left suddenly, and from the window he watched her every movement until she was gone from view.  Then he sat down and opened her book.  After about an hour he took a break, phoned the two other prospective authors and canceled their appointments, then returned to Bangkok Brothel and stayed up late into the night until he finished.
Meanwhile Callie had lied—there were no other prospective writing gigs.  She very much wanted a paying writing job, and was hoping her self confidence and her sensuality would hold sway in his decision, and returned home to work on her novel while waiting in the hope that he’d call.


2

And he did call, Monday morning early.  He tried to sound formal.  “Good morning, Callie.  It’s Sidney Zeller.  I would like you to write my book, and have come up with a specific pay scale.  I will pay you two thousand dollars simply to have dinner with me tonight and listen to my offer.  If you like it, we’ll move forward; and if not, we’ll part ways right then.”
She desperately wanted the money and was delighted, but remained coy.  “Is that dinner at your home or a restaurant?”
“I was thinking of a restaurant, but whatever you like.”
“I would rather a nice restaurant,” she replied.
“Do you have a preference?” he asked.
“I like the Dressing Room on Powers Court,” she answered.  “Do you know it?”
“I do,” he answered.  “There, eight o’clock, tonight?”
“I’ll see you there and then.”
She had a little trouble deciding what to wear, whether conservative and professional, to portray the writer; or dressed up and alluring, to ply her feminine charms.  In the end she settled on an attractive blue cocktail dress that in her mind enabled her to do both.  She was punctual and he waiting; he rose to greet her and held her chair.  Once seated with pleasantries exchanged, Sid took hold of the bottle of wine that was there and said:  “One glass, correct?  Would you like that now or would you rather wait?”
“You can pour it now,” she said.
He did, then smiled and continued. 
“I took the liberty of ordering for the both of us, and instructed the waiter to begin service a few minutes after your arrival.  I’ve read Bangkok Brothel and want you to write my biography.”
“What did you think of my book?” she inquired with sincere curiosity.
“Who knew so much went on behind the scenes at a brothel?  The few times I ever went all I saw was whores and door keys and dirty rooms.”
“Well, these women do have lives—boyfriends, husbands and children—and dramas that spill into the work place.  It was quite the soap opera at times,” Callie explained.
“You have an excellent way with words, and of storytelling, and I’d like you to be my biographer.”
“Two thousand up front entices,” she remarked.  “What are the rest of the terms?”
He removed an envelope from his jacket and handed it across the table.  “There is that—two thousand dollars.  Thank you for coming.  For further payment I have two options to offer you.  The first is one thousand dollars cash per chapter, payable as they are completed.  I envision thirty five or forty chapters of no longer than ten or fifteen pages.  If you can do even two or three a week, that’s handsome recompense for an aspiring novelist.  If you’d rather be paid by the page or the word, I can accommodate that as well.”
She clutched the envelope, looked at him and smiled, then placed it in her purse.  “That’s worth considering,” she answered.  “What is my second option?”
“That is for you to work on spec: twenty percent of everything I ever make with the book,” he explained.  “You can even start working for a thousand dollars a chapter, and if at any time you decide you like the potential, you can opt in for the percentage, which will be adjusted accordingly by the number of chapters written for cash.”
“I am here now, and everything is on the table, as it were,” she said.  “So why don’t you give me an idea of chapter one?  Give me an idea of what I would be getting into.”
He wasn’t expecting that, and paused a moment.  “Very well,” he finally assented.  “I plan to start chapter one with my enlistment in the military on my eighteenth birthday.  My childhood was uneventful, and the few memorable moments were the ones that shaped my adulthood, and those anecdotes will be incorporated as I describe the events they influenced.”
“Interesting,” she replied with pique.  “Do tell.”
“I was born a military brat,” he continued.  “I had no siblings, and spent my childhood hopping from base to base, never staying long enough to form real relationships and friendships.  It’s a tired story that need not be retold, which is why I want the book to start with my enlistment.  I subconsciously resented my parents for bringing me up in so unstable an environment, and without brothers or sisters or friends, and by the time I was eighteen I wanted away from them.  Ironic as it was, enlisting seemed to be my only escape, and all I could think to do.  Well, I also joined because I was young and angry and I liked to fight; but at a time when most of my peers were going to college, getting deferments and protesting, I volunteered the very day I was able, and started channeling my rage into blind hatred of the Vietnamese people—for no good reason, I must add—in preparation to killing them.”
“I befriended a guy in my outfit, his name was Vern.  He was both the best friend and brother that I had never had.  We were together nearly every minute of every day, and watched over each other like hawks.  After we got into combat, I noticed Vern slowly losing his grip.  One day he recovered a small money belt from an American soldier who had died near him on the field.  He didn’t tell anybody but me, and called the money belt ‘Hinky’s billfold’—Hinky being the dead soldier he’d recovered it from.  It contained about thirty five hundred in twenties and fifties; he usually wore it under his shirt, but whenever we went into battle he wore it around his neck outside his uniform, like a necklace, so that if he did die in battle someone else could easily retrieve it.  He also talked about his plans for the money, to go home and marry his girl and make a down payment on a house.
“One day Vern snapped.  I was staring right at him the very moment his eyes popped like spent bulbs.  We had gotten separated from our company during some bombing and wandered into a village.  Vern started shooting up everyone in sight—women and children and animals.  His rampage triggered something inside me; and I couldn’t stand the slaughter any longer.  I followed him into a hut where Vern waved his gun and menaced a terrified woman and her two small screaming children into a corner.  I knew his mind was broken, and he was gone, so I drew my gun and pretended to be giving him cover.  Then I noticed ‘Hinky’s billfold’ hanging from his neck, and I coveted it. 
“I still don’t know what made me pull that trigger—to save the innocents or to steal the money—but I did pull it.  I tell myself to this day it was to save those helpless people, but the first thing I did, after making sure Vern was dead, was to pocket ‘Hinkey’s billfold’; only then did I reach out and comfort the woman and her children by assuring them they were safe.  It was awkward, and I quickly thought it best to remove my gun and myself from their presence, and so I ran into the jungle, where I promptly sat down and counted the money before returning to my company and reporting that Vern had been shot and killed by a Vietnamese soldier using what I thought was a stolen American weapon.”
Callie was rapt.  “So what happened after that?” she almost whispered.
“Not much,” he answered.  “I was almost done with my tour, and while I’d planned on re enlisting, following that afternoon I accepted my honorable discharge and returned home, where I opened a bank account with ‘Hinky’s billfold’ and went to work.”
“That’s an awful story,” she sadly said.
“That’s the horror of war,” he replied.  “Anyway, may I ask about you?”
Her face changed.  “Ask me anything you want, and I’ll tell you what I like,” she mischievously offered.
“What did you do when you were eighteen?” he asked, seizing the opening.
“I had that boyfriend I told you about,” she explained.  “I was reared in a repressed Christian home, and he was the one they wanted me to marry, and I thought I loved him, but the moment I denied his proposal I felt relieved and released from it all.  I said goodbye then turned and went wild.  I sought out the bad boys and started running with them.  I also started dabbling with drinking and shoplifting, and got a tattoo and did various things for money.  Not my body, mind you, but I was open to just about anything else.”
He was very intrigued, and said so.  “How long did that go on?”
“For a year or so, till I was twenty one,” she explained.  “That’s when I came into a large sum of money and took off for Europe.  Anyway, I don’t mean to sound callous or cold, but what else do we have to discuss tonight?  I have to get back to my husband.”
He was shocked, and unable to conceal his surprise.  “You’re married?  I didn’t know that.”
“You didn’t ask,” she rejoined.
“But you don’t wear a ring,” he observed.
“So you looked,” she observed.  “I thought I caught your eye gazing at my ring finger.  My husband and I are separated.  It’s a trial, though we’ve both removed our rings.  But I do have to get home so he can leave the house.  We have a sick dog he’s watching while I’m here with you.”
Sid was completely off guard.  “By all means, once you’ve made your decision please let me know and I’ll consider the two thousand fairly earned.”

“I can tell you my decision right now,” she replied.  “I’ll write your book for the one thousand dollar per chapter offer for now, and as we progress I’ll let you know if I decide to switch to your proposed royalty schedule.  If you have more stories like the one you just told me, I imagine that possibility will become a serious consideration.”  She rose and thanked him for dinner, told him she’d call when she had something written and left.

The Guns Opening

Here follow the first ten pages or so of The Guns, one of my Pillow Talk Novellas.  The Guns tells the story Lenny and Marilyn Unilicky, newlyweds who move to New Haven, Connecticut one January, where Marilyn has secured a position as an English professor at Yale University.  Lenny is an award winning journalist writing his first novel.

Lenny Unilicky’s lifelong dream was to become a novelist.  A bibliophile from birth, his mother read to him as a toddler perched on her lap, and she began teaching him to read even as he was uttering his first syllables.  As he grew he learned new words insatiably and read voraciously.  In elementary school he made a game for himself at the beginning of each year by reading every book in the small classroom bookshelf which contained about one hundred books.  Once he’d run through those, by the beginning of November, he simply fetched more from the main school library.  While other students pointed to field day and the last day as their favorites of the school year, Lenny’s was the day of the book fair. 
Lenny got along well with his schoolmates, and had friends and loved to play sports, but he also loved to study the minutest details of the histories of the sports he played.  He was a reasonably athletic and well adjusted bookworm who dreamed of becoming a great novelist.
When he graduated high school and entered university, it was without a major.  No particular discipline interested him except English, and since he did not feel called nor had any desire to teach, and try as he did he could not generate ideas for stories, much less novels—he begrudgingly settled into the journalism program, which degree would at least enable him to be paid to write, and if novels came to him in the future, then so be it.
He attended Princeton, and in November of his junior year he attended a peace rally at one of the campus commons to protest the latest U.S. war.  He was both participating in while covering the rally for the campus newspaper, and although he could not know it at the time, it was where he met his wife.
Her name was Marilyn Glurp.  She had hazel eyes, gorgeous thick chestnut hair and the lithe body of a runner, with perfect curves in all his favorite places.  They were introduced at the rally by a mutual classmate, and while the physical attraction was instantaneous and powerful, that only intensified as they came to know each other inside as well.
After the rally they went to a nearby dive bar for beers where they talked until closing.  From there they went to Marilyn’s off campus apartment and the next three days passed like a minute, not a minute of which they spent apart. 
She was an English major and they loved all the same literature, and much of that time they spent falling in love was titillating each other with heady talk about Shakespeare, Don Quixote and Dostoevsky. 
They were the same age and in the same class and they graduated together.  With their degrees attained they remained a couple while embarking on different career paths: Marilyn continued in academia and matriculated into graduate school, with the ultimate goal of becoming an English professor.  Lenny left school and sought a newspaper job. 
They lived together for the next several years as she worked toward her degree and he reported about matters as tedious and mundane as city council meetings.  He longed for a conceit for a novel or short story, and wracked his empty brain for one; or even an interesting piece to write for the newspaper—but he continued to be creatively effete.  Then one evening he and Marilyn went to the reception for a lecture at the university.  The cocktail party was hosted by Marilyn’s closest friend on campus, a political science professor a few years older named Cassandra Alzinta.  Lenny, Marilyn and Cass were sipping wine together on the verandah when the conversation turned to one of Cass’ students, a young woman named Liza who had recently completed her spring semester internship.  She had worked for a state senator named Richard Scrotorum and explained that she had seen him openly engaging in a variety of shady behaviors with various shifty characters.  Liza described having witnessed crimes as high as the receipt and payment of bribes to lawmakers and judges and as low level as prostitution and drugs.  That the corruption existed was indubitable—only the full extent was the unknown.
It was exactly the type of sensational salacious story that Lenny was yearning to write.  He started giving it thought, and discussed it with Marilyn who excitedly encouraged him, and with Cassandra’s cooperation they arranged for Lenny to be Senator Scrotorum’s intern that fall.  The senator was a conservative who was running for re-election in November.  Lenny researched the re-election campaign extensively before reporting to his first day of work, and even rehearsed an intimidating, Mafioso Italian sounding accent.
Scrotorum’s opponent was a liberal civil rights lawyer named Giulius Dando.  Lenny secretly planned to vote for Dando, but you wouldn’t have known that by listening to him at Scrotorum’s campaign headquarters.
 Lenny threw his full passion into his character and uncovering the story.  After becoming acquainted with everyone associated with the Scrotorum campaign, he started openly spouting scornful contempt of Dando to anyone who would listen.  His enthusiasm, energy and seemingly boundless hatred of Dando quickly caught the attention of Scrotorum’s inner circle, and as the weeks went on Lenny was entrusted with more important and sensitive tasks. 
He returned home to Marilyn every night with a full briefing of the day’s events.  She couldn’t wait for his arrival each evening, and with all her brilliant advice and suggestions she became an invaluable collaborator on the story.  It was all so thrilling and exciting that it deepened their love while it heightened their lovemaking.
Toward the second week of October Lenny began to realize the full extent of Scrotorum’s involvement with the mob.  That was when Marilyn suggested they contact the FBI.  Lenny concurred, and even the following day began wearing a wire.  That went on for another week before the feds moved in on Scrotorum and arrested him and a number of his campaign staff and cronies on a list of charges that read like the table of contents of a novel.
Chapters one through five were all related to his political campaign: accepting illegal contributions, which he turned around and used illegally; for bribes exchanged with judges, businessmen and fellow politicians; and for numerous other similarly ugly sundries.  He was even charged with trespassing and petty larceny for removing Dando campaign signs from private properties.  Chapters six through nine were charges related to his mob affiliations.   These included racketeering, intimidation and operating a prostitution ring out of a mob owned strip club.  The rest of the chapters were miscellaneous charges ranging from writing bad checks to misdemeanor drug possession.  And while it wasn’t a violation of the law, the epilogue did break families and ruin lives when it exposed the affair that Scrotorum was engaged in with one of his colleague’s wives.
It was early October when Lenny started wearing the wire, and on the fifth day of being wired he had a freak accident at campaign headquarters.  He got jostled between two people and an opening door snagged his shirt and ripped off a button, nearly exposing his secret.  He was so unsettled by the accident that he made up an excuse about not feeling well and left the office early.  He turned in the wire to the FBI and explained why he wouldn’t be wearing it again.  He then returned to Marilyn who convinced him to cut his ties with the Scrotorum campaign and start writing the story.  He phoned the Scrotorum campaign the following morning and explained that he’d gone from their office to a doctor, who diagnosed him with toxoplasmosis and told him to expect to be bedridden for at least a month.
He then started organizing his notes, and with Marilyn’s excellent editorial input he wrote the long expose.  That took a few days, during which time he was informed that the Attorney General’s office was preparing to indict Scrotorum any day.  Lenny brought his expose to three different newspapers; all three were well aware of the story; Lenny exacted a lucrative price, and his bombshell story ran the day the indictments were served.  That was two weeks before the election, and not only was Lenny’s reputation as a meticulous journalist and talented writer instantly established, but two weeks later Dando ran unopposed and won election in a landslide.
Collaborating on the Scrotorum story only brought Lenny and Marilyn closer than ever, and realizing just how profoundly they loved each other, and what a fantastic team they made, they decided to marry, and quickly.  They had always shared the belief that it was better to skimp on the wedding to splurge on the honeymoon, and so a couple weeks after the election Lenny and Marilyn were married in a modest ceremony, and then repaired to a Caribbean beach in Mexico for an extended honeymoon.  At the same time Lenny was writing the Scrotorum story Marilyn presented and defended her PhD thesis, and very shortly thereafter was offered and accepted a professorship at Yale University.  They had over six weeks until Marilyn’s winter semester began in January and they were beyond content to spend every last one of those days together on Mexican beaches eating, drinking, dancing, relaxing and loving day and night. 
They had been there for two weeks when a call home brought news that, were it possible, made the honeymoon even sweeter.  Lenny’s article exposing Richard Scrotorum had won a prestigious journalism award that included a $10,000 prize.  After celebrating that with mai tais in the hot tub, they began to discuss how to use the money, and quickly agreed that Lenny should live off it and try to write a first novel. 
He was still at a loss for a conceit, and when Marilyn suggested the obvious—a novel based on the Scrotorum affair—Lenny balked.  He didn’t want his first novel to simply rehash his only significant literary piece.  He wanted to write something completely different, yet remained clueless as to what.  He was in a gorgeous place with the beautiful love of his life—he couldn’t imagine being in a more inspiring setting, and still inspiration escaped him.
They returned home in January and moved to New Haven, Connecticut.  Marilyn started teaching her winter classes at Yale, and that very first weekend she was invited to a ‘get acquainted’ cocktail party that one of her colleagues was hosting for several new professors, including Marilyn.  She was especially excited about the evening because she was finally able to present Lenny as her husband. 
Marilyn was off with the hostess on a tour of her home when a man approached Lenny and introduced himself.  His name was Vernon Tutwell, and while to Lenny he was a stranger, Tutwell knew Lenny.  He had read Lenny’s expose of Scrotorum, and like everyone else had been greatly impressed.  He worked in New York City, as executive editor and president of the Pyramid Mystery novels division of Pyramid Publishing.  Lenny recognized the Pyramid name and perked right up.  They refreshed their drinks, took up on a settee in the corner and engaged in a long conversation about the publishing world.
Vernon repeatedly expressed his admiration for Lenny’s writing skills, and virtually promised that if Lenny produced a mystery novel half as good as his award winning article, he would guarantee publication along with a significant advance against royalties.  Lenny could barely contain his elation, and while he sat there listening to Vernon his mind raced, trying to force a concept for a mystery novel.    Eventually Marilyn joined them, and then Vernon excused himself and a short while later the party dwindled to its end.
As Lenny and Marilyn rode home they mused that every time it seemed they couldn’t be happier, something greater happened in their lives to prove them wrong by lifting them even higher.  Now Lenny had it all—a perfect wife, ten grand in his pocket and a wide open door to a potentially lucrative career as a novelist.
Yale had provided their newest English professor and her newlywed husband a rental house on Livingston Street, at the foot of East Rock, roughly three miles from campus.  East Rock Park was built at the end of the mountainous ridge.  It was over 350 feet high, with a long, sheer cliff face of 300 feet.  East Rock had a twin about three miles west, aptly named West Rock.  Both were parts of the larger Metacomet Ridge, and the two rock formations created a sort of natural geological gateway into the lively little city of New Haven that had been founded by Puritans in 1638 on the shores of the Long Island Sound.  
Livingston Street was in a wooded area below East Rock, and the prim old houses were well maintained and comfortably spread apart.  Across the street there were no homes, only the trees at the edge of East Rock Park, and since several of their neighbors also worked for Yale, it was a very secluded and quiet place, particularly during the day—ideal for a writer.  Lenny had a tranquil environment with a lovely park conveniently across the street any time he wanted to take a walk in the trees to plot a novel or to let inspiration come.  It was the perfectly idyllic setting to inspire a creative mind and yet through the first few days Lenny continued to be completely devoid of ideas, and he spent most of his time learning the streets of New Haven or wandering the woods surrounding East Rock. 
He had heaped so much pressure on himself that he his mind lost all clarity, and nothing Marilyn tried could alleviate that condition.  After several days of agonizing frustration he finally decided to walk downtown, go into the library, select a random newspaper and write about the first crime he came across.  He picked the New York Times and the first crime story was a doozy.
Two members of a neo Nazi Aryan gang brazenly watched an Asian owned jewelry store until it was empty of customers, then entered with guns drawn and robbed the place.  The Asian owner didn’t hesitate or flinch, and before the neo Nazis’ demands were uttered, the Asian owner grabbed his gun from under the counter and started firing.  The surprised neo Nazis fled the store, with the Asian owner and his brother in hot pursuit with their guns blazing.  One of the neo Nazis fired a shot over his shoulder at one of the Asians and inadvertently hit a member of a black gang who was standing on the corner.  They quickly rallied to their motorcycles and joined pursuit of the neo Nazis robbers.  The police arrived en masse and kettled them all into a blockaded street.  Steady gunfire hotly peppered the air for the next several minutes until the situation ended with seven dead gang members and one dead policeman, as well as another fourteen casualties, several of whom were in critical condition.
As he walked home Lenny tried to imagine himself in the middle of the gun fight, and when he arrived he sat down and wrote a fictionalized, first person account of the event.  It took him over two hours to compose almost two pages, and when he read it back over he didn’t like it.  It didn’t feel realistic; it seemed exactly what it was: a stiff second hand account imagined by someone who was not present at the scene.
When Marilyn arrived home she kissed him then asked if he had accomplished anything that day.
“I did,” he replied, holding forth the two pages.  “And don’t coddle my ego; I need your honest response.”
“Of course I’ll tell you what I think,” she answered.  She took the pages and sat down on the couch; he followed and joined her.  “Remember how thoroughly critical I was of the Scrotorum story?” she asked.  “That’s part of why it was so well written.”
“I remember well, and that’s the same editor I need right now.”
She read the two pages then looked at him quizzically before speaking.  “This is that recent shooting in Brooklyn, right?”  He nodded.  “It reads like you read a newspaper or saw a television report and then tried to write it as fiction.  You wanted me to be honest—it’s not very convincing.”
“I knew it!” he responded.  “That’s exactly how I felt!”  He snatched the pages from her and ripped them up.
“Tutwell publishes mysteries—how does a gang robbery fit that genre?” Marilyn asked.
“It was more an exercise to get my pen moving,” he explained.  “If I wanted to incorporate the scene into a novel I could have the brazen daylight robbery and shootout staged as a diversion while cohorts of the robbers who initiated the shooting move into the store and steal a cache of priceless jewels that the store owner is holding for some reason.  But all that’s irrelevant now; my fiction voice sounds phony.”
She slid over and onto his lap and her lips reassured him with soft words and softer kisses.  “You will grow into it.  Every artist does.  Every author I teach matured as a writer over the course of their lifetime.  I predict that five years from now you will have five novels published and five more in the works!”
“I’d settle for one or two, as long as they were good,” he replied. 
On that she took his hand, rose up and led him to the bedroom where she reassured him repeatedly until he was free from his insecurities.  After another such roll in the blankets they were laying awake in the still of the night when Lenny slowly said: “I want to buy a gun.”
“You want to what?” Marilyn cried, propping herself up on her elbow in the dark.  “A gun?  For what?!?”’
“For inspiration,” he quietly replied.

Dear Madam Gilda Opening

This is the opening of Dear Madam Gilda, one of my Pillow Talk Novellas, which tells the story of a poker player who falls in love with the madam of an exclusive New York City escort agency.  

Dear Madam Gilda,     

I have been one of your clients at Apotheos for some months now and first want to offer my gratitude for the ongoing satisfaction and enjoyment I experience every time I enter your esteemed establishment.  You are an astute businesswoman and my highest compliments to the superbly trained staff of nubile beauties you maintain.
I write because in the course of my visits with the girls of Apotheos I have fallen in love with you.  Since expressing my heart is the aim of this epistle, I’ve decided to forgo beating around the bush and simply make for the mark. 
While the ugliest of your girls is flawlessly gorgeous, you stand out from all as the pearl of Apotheos.  Everything about you is peerless:  your mysterious hazel eyes possess an enigmatic, penetrating gaze; your cheeks are as finely cut as your perfect nose is chiseled.  I have never seen such incredible hair as your pillowy blonde tresses which my racing mind, fueled by the desires of my pounding heart, fantasizes seeing spread across a satin pillow.  Had Da Vinci seen the slyly seductive plump lips of your sweet mouth, he would have insisted you sit for the portrait of the most famous smile in history.
And notwithstanding your sublime physical beauty, when you open that mouth and speak, the sultry words riding your warm breath are like a bellows on my burning heart.  I strain to hear and hang on every word you speak when I am at Apotheos—your articulate eloquence exudes a confident self assurance that heightens my excitement just before going on my date with one of your girls.  And while I have and continue to indulge myself in your escort service’s delights, more and more I find myself preferring to do so in the dark so I can pretend the girl I am with is you.
I’ve noticed that you’re always busy answering the phone and organizing girls and I’ve never actually seen you with a client, so I don’t know how to approach you.  Do you also date professionally?  I don’t know how to phrase it any more delicately, and you can certainly understand why I would ask.  You are very attractive to me in every way, and I find myself involuntarily drawn toward and wanting to get to know you as a person and not as a client. 
That is why I’ve chosen this semi anonymous way of introducing myself.  If you are married or otherwise unavailable, or creeped out by this letter, I fully understand and you will never hear from me again.  But if you are available for a date I would really love to get acquainted with you over coffee, a drink or dinner.  My eyes already know your outward beauty; my inner voice tells me that beauty extends within. 
I am no psycho or weirdo—I regard myself a gentleman and live quite comfortably off a large sum of money I won fairly a couple years ago.  So if you’re willing to let me take you out, please respond by sending or leaving a message for me at the Caldwell Hotel.  I am in room 5A.  If not, as I said I fully understand; and if that is the case I still wish to continue patronizing Apotheos, which is why I write anonymously. 
Regards,

One who yearns to emerge from the shadows and know you on a first name basis.