05 March 2015
As a well-respected, much admir’d and hugely desired member of the English Aristocracy, I have been oft-interviewed by newspaper reporters and the like. It was during one such interview, conducted by an agreeable gent from The London Illustrated Picture-Print News, that I let slip that I had been keeping a diary, a diary which I had not only kept, but written in as well. Within its pages I had kept careful record of each and every one of my astonishing adventures, replete (in some instances) with saucy etchings. This incredible revelation was reprinted in the newspaper article itself, which in turn sparked a furious bidding war between the many publishing houses of Great Britain, all of whom wished to get their hands upon my journals and transform them into the Greatest Books Ever Printed.
It began with three publishing houses: Poppycock Press, Chaffinch Books and Fibber&Fibber, all of whom put in terribly good offers for the rights to my desirable diaries. Then each tried to outbid the other, driving the price ever skyward.
This was, of course, good news for me, but alas it was not so good for the publishers, each of whom now stood the chance of bleeding their companies dry in the pursuit of my excellence. Eventually, the heads of Poppycock Press and Fibber&Fibber, (Mr. Jasper Poppycock and Mr. Farnaby Fibber, respectively), held a secret meeting in a tavern, whereby they decided to join forces in a bid to spread the financial burden of acquiring my work, and to muscle Chaffinch Books out of the running.
However, word got back to Mr. Gill Sans, the head of Chaffinch Books, who was, naturally, rather incensed about this clandestine deal. So incensed was he, that he hired an assassin to take out the two men involved. The assassin, who specialised in deeply ironic deaths, dispatched Mr. Fibber by stabbing him in the eye with a quill, the very quill Mr. Fibber had just used to sign a contract for the publication of an anthology of true crime stories.
The assassin never got the chance to eliminate Mr. Poppycock, however, for Scotland Yard caught up with him shortly thereafter, and found him in possession of a business-card from Mr. Sans, along with a signed proof of a forthcoming novel to be published by Chaffinch Books, and a lithograph of the two men together, toasting their deal.
Needless to say, when word got out of Mr. Sans’ indiscretion, all ruddy hell broke out. Mr. Poppycock again joined forces with Fibber&Fibber, allying with the sole remaining Fibber, a Mr. Flaubert Fibber. They hired their own armed mercenaries to storm the offices of Chaffinch Books and to execute its president. However, Mr. Chaffinch had got wind of their scheme, and sent his own armed mercenaries out to take care of Messers. Poppycock and Fibber.
What actually transpired was that fighting broke out across the heart of London’s literary scene in Paternoster Row, when the two forces collided. Bloody, violent clashes took place, with soldiers falling left, right and centre. Overseeing the carnage from their plush offices, the heads of the respective forces began sending in reinforcements made up of their own employees, office workers poorly equipped to deal with life on the battlefields.
The Great Bidding War, as it was later dubbed, lasted for three long days, during which some two hundred and seventy mercenaries lost their lives, along with thirty-two proof-readers, sixteen editors, five cover designers and one publisher (Mr. Poppycock perished leading his forces into battle on horseback on the second day). Many trendy coffee bars were destroyed in the carnage, along with a couple of ale houses and a milliner’s shop.
Mr. Sans was eventually captured by a small team of soldiers and a shirtless Mr. Flaubert Fibber, who decided to finally get rid of his business rival by hurling him into his own printing presses. “Well, he had always wanted to be in books,” Mr. Fibber is rumoured to have quipped at the time, possibly while lighting a cigar.
The worst thing about this whole, sorry affair is that the devastation left in the wake of The Great Bidding War was so huge, the publishing houses involved all fell into bankruptcy trying to pay for it all, so I never did get my publishing deal. Tsk! War, eh? What is it good for? Absolutely bloody nothing.
- Lord Likely.