Facts and the fiction of a young author's astonishing arrival

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The Independent Online
The final touches will be applied today to what appears, on the face of it, to be one of the publishing phenomenons of recent times. Keri Beevis, an English O-level failure who has signed a reported pounds 750,000 debut books deal, will hold talks with various members of the literary establishment. She will also look over possible venues for what promises to be a glittering launch. To cap it all, discussions will be held with "Hollywood people" about film rights.

Her publishers, a hitherto unknown company called Buckley-Bennion, say the work of the 25-year-old Norfolk woman, has become a fierce tussle between literary agents Curtis Brown, and AP Watt, two of the most renowned in the country.

Curtis Brown's managing director, Jonathan Lloyd is due to meet Beevis and her publishers this morning, following a tour of the London Dungeon, whose management - according to Peter Willis, the new novelist's agent - want her to use their premises for the launch.

Mr Willis, says: "It's not going to be cheap. Keri is the Picasso of writing, she is mega. We hold all the aces, the story is truly astonishing."

So Beevis appears to be standing on the threshold of international celebrity status. Indeed she was written up recently in many newspapers, including The Independent, as having achieved precisely that success. But now we have looked behind her meteoric rise and found, as in all good thrillers, that everything may not be quite what it seems.

The prologue

One evening, 12-year-old Keri left alone at home with a pile of videos. One of them is the Jack Nicholson film, The Shining. That night she has a nightmare, and from then on she is apparently fixated by horror. She goes up to her room at eight every evening,goes into a trance and writes, sometimes all night.

Her mother Linda says: "She is a natural fun-loving girl until 8pm, then we lose her. It's been the same ritual for 13 years ... She has written four books now - they are all recollections of her nightmares."

The plot

Keri is now 25. She has failed her English O-level twice, and has one GCSE in art. Last year, Mr Beevis mentions his daughter's "living nightmare" to a family friend, Paul Trevillion, whose claim to fame in the past has been as "British speed-kissing champion" and "DJ Bear", the Panda of Peace." His agent is Peter Willis who now becomes Beavis's literary representative and gets her what he says is "pounds 750,000 deal" - believed to be the highest ever by a first-time novelist, with Buckley Bennion.

Beevis under the name of Keri Leigh just happened to have three novels written; When The Pen Writes, The Host, and Dead by Dawn. Despite her new-found fame and fortune she continues with her day job at a travel agency.

The ending

Beevis's father "accidentally" alerts the media to his daughter's literary progress. There follows a deluge of publicity; Beevis appears on chat shows, repeatedly mentions Jack Nicholson and says she would like to have married Alfred Hitchcock. Interest follows from Curtis Brown, A P Watts etc. Nicholson is said to be "very interested".

The reality

The Beevis family live in neat modern bungalow at Thorpe End in Norfolk. Keri shows off a photo of Alfred Hitchcock and various books by Stephen King, and James Herbert, but there is no sign of the contract between her and Buckley-Bennion. It was signed, according to her father on 24 March, or according to Mr Willis "sometime in July". It is apparently lodged with Beevis's accountant. Also lodged there is a cheque for pounds 200,000 as a first instalment of the advance which has not been cashed. There is no documentary evidence of Nicholson's alleged interest.

Buckley-Bennion started three years ago and is primarily involved in sports promotion. It has published just one work so far, a 96-page instruction manual called Rugby for Heroes, illustrated by Paul Trevillion.

Emrys Bowen, the company's publishing director, said: "Peter Willis got the figure wrong it was not pounds 750,000, but pounds 600,000. For that we get the film rights as well. So it is a very good investment. Curtis Brown has seen her work and they are very keen. We are going to see the managing director on Monday. We must decide between them and AP Watts. Andre Deutsch has also approached us because they want to get involved in the publicity deal. London Dungeon want to host the launch party."

Asked about the unheard of situation where Mr Willis is acting for both author and publishing company, Mr Bowen denies that the agent works for Buckley-Bennion. But Mr Willis, in another conversation says: "I do work for Buckley-Bennion in another capacity."

At AP Watts, Sam Boyce, who works in the office of director Caradoc King, recalled: "I contacted Miss Beevis's agent. I did see some of her material, and quickly decided it was not for us. I let them know that. I know that people in publishing are rather sceptical about the whole thing".

At Andre Deutsch, Nigel Stoneman said: "I do not think we are likely to be involved. I think what happened was that we got an inquiry from Miss Beevis's people and let them know we were not interested"

Jonathan Lloyd, of Curtis Brown stated: " I do find it strange that such a massive sum was supposed to have been offered when no other publishers were interested."

Peter Armstrong, general manager of the London Dungeon, said: ``We do hold functions here. Miss Beevis wanted to be shown around and that is being done. They approached us, we did not approach them to the best of my knowledge.''

One literary agent who did not want to be named, said: "Is it a scam? Of course it is. These people have used the media to get massive publicity when the book comes out they will regurgitate all this and no doubt it will sell a few copies. If it's crap, as I suspect it is, we shall hear no more of Keri Beevis."

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