Valentine’s Day this year marked an anniversary for me, as it was on Feb. 14, 2011, Hollywood came knocking. Actually, it sent an e-mail and lured me in with a promise of great things. I’m not normally a naïve person, but I fell for the spiel and flattery. Then, just as quickly as it began, the all-too-brief acquaintance was over.
The person who contacted me was an Emmy Award-winning producer with major credits to his name. He wanted to chat about my first book, On the House, which details the bizarre murder of speakeasy habitué Michael Malloy in Prohibition-era New York. A gang of thugs, subsequently named “the Murder Trust” by the tabloids of the day, decided to take an insurance policy out on Malloy and do him in. Unfortunately for the would-be killers, Malloy proved to be a drunken marvel of indestructibility and survived multiple attempts on his life—each one more outrageous than the last—without realizing anyone was trying to kill him. The gang, consisting of a syphilitic speakeasy owner, crooked undertaker, trigger-happy gangster, desperate greengrocer, and alcoholic bartender, grew increasingly desperate with each failed attempt.
They fed him shots of rat poison and anti-freeze, served him sardine sandwiches laced with carpet tacks and metal shavings, got him drunk and buried him naked in the snow, all to no avail. When running Malloy over with a car failed to get the job done, the gang decided to kill someone who looked like Malloy but might prove to be an easier target. To cut a long story short, Malloy was eventually murdered. The members of the Murder Trust paid for their misdeeds in the electric chair. In the wake of his death, the downtrodden Malloy became the toast of New York society. Much like Seabiscuit, the guy became a symbol of Depression-era resilience.
The book—published in 2005 by Penguin’s Berkley imprint—is now out of print, but I continue to have a soft spot for it. Anyway, the producer wanted to chat about On the House and the other books I’ve written. Why, he wanted to know once we connected on the phone, was I spending my days in an office when I was obviously a “great, fucking writer”? He told me to send copies of all my books to him and his partner, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter. Initially, I did a pretty good job keeping my hopes grounded—but the guy kept working me up. At one point, he wrote in an e-mail, “You won’t be sorry!”
The guy vanished into the ether and cut off all communication just as suddenly as it began. A movie he produced hit theaters last year and his name appears in the trade publications attached to various projects with big-name stars, but we’re incommunicado. What really ticks me off about the whole thing is the fact I sent the dude free copies of all my books (including the last two copies I had of one book in particular). With all his success, couldn’t he have just purchased copies and slipped a few bucks in royalties into my pocket?
C’mon, show a writer some love–and respect!