“What do you think? Poisoned Pink, or Pink Menace?”
The young blonde woman of whom this question was asked adopted a pose of deep concentration, weighing the matter with all the deliberation of King Solomon presented with two feuding mothers. That the colors under discussion were nearly identical to the naked eye seemed to escape the notice of both women. The manicurist held the two small bottles aloft in the late winter sunlight streaming through the window of the trendy Knightsbridge beauty salon.
“The Poisoned Pink, I think, Suzie,” the blonde said at last. “The other is so, like, totally last year. Positively no one in New York would be caught dead wearing it any more. Besides, Poisoned Pink sounds perfect for a crime writers’ conference, don’t you think?”
Suzie nodded, bending to her task and laying about with an emery board. Give me an old-fashioned romance book any time, she thought. Barbara Cartland, now: There was a woman who knew which way was up with men and all. Lovely hair she had, too.
“I’m getting an award from my publisher during this conference, you see. Did I tell you?”
Only three times.
Kimberlee Kalder, the blonde, paddled the fingers of one elegant, narrow hand in a bowl of soapy water as she lifted one elegant, narrow foot to examine the hand-woven gold brocade of her £900 ballet flats. “And for that and, well, other reasons, I want to look, like, to die for.”
So there’s another man at the end of all this effort, then, thought Suzie. Thought so.
“Not that I don’t always strive to look, like, really hot,” Kimberlee went on. “Image is, like, everything in this business, my agent says.”
“I’m certain he’s right, Miss.”
“She, actually. At least, for the moment.”
Not really interested, Suzie asked politely, “When’s the conference, then?”
“This weekend. I head to Scotland tomorrow. My publisher is treating his most successful—well, in some cases, just his longest-lived—authors to a few days at Dalmorton Castle and Spa during Dead on Arrival.”
Seeing Suzie’s look of mystification, Kimberlee said: “That’s a crime writers’ conference held in Edinburgh every year. And, as I say, he’ll be handing out a special award to his most successful writer: Me.”
“Me,” as Suzie well knew, was a favorite word in Kimberlee Kalder’s vocabulary. That and “I.” She was a big tipper, though—writing must pay bloody well.
“I always wanted to write a book,” said Suzie wistfully. “Maybe I will one day when I have time. I’d write about me gran, during the war—”
Kimberlee just managed to stifle a snort of derision, although she didn’t bother to hide the contempt that lifted her beautiful, chiseled mouth in a smirk. If she had a pound for everyone who was going to write a book when they could find the time. Like they were going to pick up the dry cleaning or something when they got around to it. Really, people had no idea.
Cutting off the flow of wartime reminiscence, Kimberlee said: “No one cares about that old crap anymore. Don’t forget—I want two solid coats of the topcoat. Last time my manicure only lasted two days. And watch what you’re doing. You’ve missed a spot.”
“Must be all that typing you do,” Suzie said quietly. Kimberlee was her least favorite customer and there always came a point in their conversations when Suzie remembered why.
“What, me? Type?” said Kimberlee, as if to say, I? Slaughter my own cattle? “I guess you’ve been looking at my publicity stills. ‘The Famous Writer at home, fingers poised over her laptop.’ But I have people who do all that. I mostly just dictate.”
Really? thought Suzie. So what else was new?
News item from the Edinburgh Herald, by Quentin Swope:
Book lovers wait in thrilled anticipation of this week’s Dead on Arrival conference, where fans and would-be authors gather to meet their favorite crime writers—in the flesh. Said writers will also be signing their books “by the hundreds,” conference chair Rachel Twalley tells this reporter.
Among conference highlights is the anticipated appearance of hot young newcomer Kimberlee Kalder, who burst onto the crime-writing scene last year, quickly climbing the charts with her runaway “chick-lit” hit, Dying for a Latte. Kimberlee will be fêted before and during the conference by her Deadly Dagger Press publisher, Lord Julius Easterbrook, who must be thanking his lucky stars for leading him to Kimberlee. She may single-handedly have revived his moribund family publishing house.
Other Dagger authors invited to push out the boat at Easterbrook’s exclusive gathering at Dalmorton Castle include Magretta Sincock, Annabelle Pace, and Winston Chatley—the stars of yesteryear. Rumor has it top agents Jay Fforde and Ninette Thomson, and American publicist B.A. King, are also on the guest list, along with ex-pat Joan Elksworthy, author of a detective series set in Scotland, and American spy-thriller novelist Tom Brackett. Also look out for newcomer Vyvyan Nankervis—a little bird tells me she’s really Portia De’Ath, a Cambridge don, and the author of a delightful series of Cornish crime novels.
But it’s our little Kimberlee who is stealing the other crime writers’ thunder. Definitely, a publishing force to reckon with!