The end is death

by Dan

Marcus Antrobus, celebrated author of the Damian Kilbride mysteries, was still not dead.

He just went on and on producing blockbusters.

For 45 years he’d sat in his legendary eyrie in the bell tower of the mysterious Handsford Hall writing one book a year. Along with the five he’d written before he’d moved there that made 50 in total from “Sleeping Dogs Lie” (1969) to “The End Is Death” (2019). He was a money making, Golden Dagger Award-winning, machine. His reclusive lifestyle was all part of the mystery from “a modern master of suspense.”

Geoff Stock, who was sitting in his GP’s waiting room, hated Antrobus more than anyone alive. The odious fake had stolen his career. If it was possible to kill him he’d most definitely do the deed. With the lead piping, in the Billiard room! But it wasn’t.

He read the latest review, “Another smash from Antrobus!” Delighted Crossword Monthly, “A novel so page-turning it would cause you to miss flights and ignore the screams of unmanageable toddlers. Since the first few novels, which now seem turgid, Antrobus has blossomed into the nation’s finest crime writer. A genius at the top of his game!!”

“Hummph!” said Geoff throwing down the magazine in disgust.

Norton and Wilberr, Antrobus’s publishers would be watching the money roll in. Another series had been commissioned by ITV but because the lead actor who played Damian Kilbride was 74 and nearly blind, Antrobus had seamlessly written up the part of young assistant Mariella Croyde, so that she did all the action scenes and was often the brains too. Ability to change with the times was part of Antrobus’s brilliance.

Geoff Stock could cry at the unfairness of it all.

He’d been too ambitious, cared too much, dreamed of being a proper writer.

He remembered the meeting at Norton and Wilberr. How they had wheedled, cajoled and bullied, offering an ever bigger advance, but he’d stood firm not another word would pass his typewriter. Then they had come up with the solution, one that at the time seemed suitable to all parties. Instead of killing off his nom-de-plume and publishing his new books under his own name they would buy the name from him and he would sign a secrecy contract to allow them to continue the series, no one knew who the mysterious Antrobus was anyway.

With the money banked he could write the non-crime masterpiece about his post-war childhood on the streets of Manchester.

It seemed like a good deal to him, but every publisher in Britain had turned down “Love beside the Ship Canal” (all 1376 pages of it) while Antrobus became an all-conquering, team-written Leviathan.

Geoff Stock’s wife’s passing meant that the new book seemed to loom larger than his usual releases. The End Is Death glared at him from bus stops and window displays, reminding him of his own vanity and folly.

He took his latest package of pills from the GP, he had been storing them up for months ready for this day. Soon he would drift away into a less cruel world, one without Damian Kilbride and Mariella Croyde. He was ready and could handle it, after all, for everyone except Marcus Antrobus, the end is death.