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Dreaming Again

Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo the first A Bertram Chandler story to be published in 24 year is now available in the Anthology Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann.

The Mentor

Grimesish Grumberlings, The Curse of Ned Kelly

When, late last year, I typed THE END at the bottom of the final page of KELLY COUNTRY I thought that, Kellywise, my troubles were over and that I should be able to drag Commodore Grimes, kicking and screaming, back from his Long Service Leave and sign him on for another series of misadventures. To date I have managed just one 10,000 word story; the rest of my time has been fully
occupied by Kelly hassles.

Does the unquiet ghost of Ned Kelly have it in for me? I wonder, If so, why? Is it because in my story there was some hanky-panky between Ned’s beloved sister Kate and the Englishman John Grimes (not the John Grimes but an honourable ancestor), with skinny-dipping in the billabong by moonlight and seduction on the shore thereof? Or is it because I made the point that the Australian Revolution could not have succeeded without considerable help from outside any more than the American Revolution could have done? (After all, the decisive action in the American War of Independence was the Battle of the Chesapeake Capes between the British and French navies.)

Or could money be the trouble?

Many people starting with Ned’s sister Kate - have cashed in on the Kelly legend, with plays and books and films and have done far better financially for themselves than Ned ever did. Could all these ill-gotten gains be sent back in Time to the real-life hero of all these works then Ned Kelly would never have needed to embark upon his bushranging, bank-robbing career. And then none of us would have had anything to write about. Yet another Time Travel paradox...

But as things are, Ned must be regarding all the playwrights, film makers and writers as a shower of bludgers, making money from his misfortune.

Anyhow, I finished KELLY COUNTRY. I had the final arguments with Susan about certain episodes. I did some tidying up. I decided to put the Australian marketing of the manuscript in the hands of a major literary agent who has an office in Sydney. (Quite some time ago, when I was dissatisfied with my usual English agent, I decided to put my Pommy affairs in the hands of this big company but discovered that they were utterly clueless regarding science fiction. I was obliged to return to my original agency. And then, not so long ago, I used
the Sydney office of the major literary agency to handle film rights negotiations,to draw up the contract and all the rest of it.)

The literary agent got the original copy of the manuscript to market in Australia. I wanted another original typescript to send to my New York agent and a good, clear carbon copy for my Japanese publisher and another one to send to the Literature Board of the Australia Council as proof that I had been doing something to justify my Senior Fellowship. So a rather scruffy carbon copy was put in the hands of a firm handling all kinds of office work, including professional typing. I told these people just what I wanted and their manageress assured me that I should have three “perfect copies”.

Well, the literary agency was very slow in reading the manuscript. The professional typists were very slow in getting it typed. It so happened that on the same day I heard that the literary agency had decided not to handle KELLY COUNTRY and that the professional typists at last had their job finished. My first call was to pick up the original copy. I had a long talk with the local director of the literary agency, He had liked the book, but... It was the science fictional aspects of it, the flickering back and forth .in Time, that had put him off. Oddly enough he had especially enjoyed the Battle of the Tasman Sea sequence, a chapter which Susan had not much cared for.

This particular agency, as a matter of fact, is rather notorious for its extreme reluctance to handle anything out of the ordinary. I was reminded of the story about Ian Fleming and Paul Calico. Ian Fleming, then a journalist with no works of fiction in print, showed the manuscript of the first James Bond novel, CASINO ROYALE, to Gallico. Gallico was enthusiastic and advised his friend to lodge it with his, Gallico’s, agent. The agent said that it was unsaleable. Fleming found another agent, who proceeded to do very nicely out of Bondage. That first one must have been kicking himself ever since.

My next call was to the professional typing agency. While I was enjoying coffee and a yarn with the manageress I flicked through the pages of the work. I found a typographical error - Grimes spelled Grime. There were apologies and the offending pages were taken away to be corrected. I did more flicking through and found more errors. There were profound apologies and promises to correct every error that I found. I said that I wanted to get everything in the mail the next day and that I would make my own corrections, in ballpoint, in my usual manner.

There followed twelve solid hours of proof-reading, during which I tallied over two hundred typographical errors. (Probably I missed a few). A common one was “navel” for “naval”. And Brest, the French seaport, was spelled “Breast”. In four pages sentences were missed out, making nonsense of the narrative. But finally, on the Friday afternoon, I was able to do all the heavy mailing - one copy, registered, to an Australian publisher in North Ryde, one copy to the Australia Council, one copy to New York and one to Tokyo,

More days went by. I thought that it was time that I heard from the local publisher, with whom I had had a telephone conversation before posting the novel, I rang them. It had not yet, they said, arrived. I rang the Australia Council. Their copy, although unregistered, had arrived in good time. There was telephoning back and forth between the publishers and myself, as a result of which I made enquiries at the Potts Point Post Office, where I was given the usual form to fill in and advised to ring the North Ryde Post Office to make my own enquiries. The North Ryde Post Office had no record of any registered parcel’s having been delivered to the publisher.

Shortly thereafter, however, I had a telephone call from the publisher’s office. The manuscript had been found. It had been delivered by ordinary mail and thrown into the slush pile....

After all the above I’m wondering what Kelly-engendered disasters are heading my way from Now York and Tokyo.

But, as Kelly said, such is life.

Originally Published in The Mentor No: 37 - Apr 1982