by Michael Palmer
(author of Fatal, Silent Treatment, Extreme Measures and many more)
As published in Midnight Mind Number Five
After 22 years I really don’t think at all about when my first book (The Sisterhood) was bought by Bantam. I don’t think about it being January 7, 1980 at 2:15 in the morning. I don’t think about having to request my agent, Jane, to call me at a friend’s phone because mine had been turned off for failure to pay the bill.
Actually, the moments of that morning are so deeply etched in my memory, that I really believe they will be the last to go. I knew something was up because Jane told me to expect a call. I had fallen on pretty hard times (the phone wasn’t the only thing to go) and had decided I could make the three months to finish the first draft off a $5000 advance. Fat chance!
Fingers crossed, I answered the phone at exactly 2:15 am — negotiations had gone on longer than Jane had expected.
This was the conversation:
J — Well, it’s done. The Sisterhood is sold to Bantam Books.
M — Hey, that’s great.
J — Yes, it is.
M — Um . . .
J — Yes?
M — Um . . . could you tell me how much?
J — Oh, that . . . Guess.
M — What!!?? I’m not going to —
J — No, no. Guess what you got.
M — Okay, okay. Five thousand (breath held, fingers now crossed to near-breaking).
J — Nope. Much more.
M — (fullness in throat beginning) Ten.
J — More.
M — (tears starting) Dammit, Jane, I can’t play this game. How much?
J — Guess.
M — (Hoping to end the game with an absurdly high number) Okay, fiftythousanddollars.
J — Much, much, much, much more.
Now you see why I haven’t forgotten that morning. The actual number was $250,000 which in 1980 was even more significant. I hurried home to my two room apartment and danced to the theme from Rocky for four hours, until it was late enough to head to a payphone and begin collect calling.
by Michael Palmer