How publishing's newest wonder ended up on the dole

Two months ago Keri Beevis was hailed as one of the literary phenomena of recent times with, according to her publishers, a record first book deal worth pounds 750,000 waiting to be signed. Today, The Independent can reveal, she is preparing for a different kind of signing - signing on for the dole. Kim Sengupta investigates the story behind the hype.

After some 50 newspaper interviews, photo-shoots, radio and television chat show appearances Keri Beevis sits at home reflecting on her own version of the 15 minutes of fame. "I feel embarrassed, humiliated, angry and fed up," she declares. "God knows what's happening to my books. I've got no alternative but to sign on. I have been left with egg on my face."

After consultation with her publishers, the hitherto little known firm of Buckley-Bennion, Ms Beevis, who twice failed her English O level, gave up her job at a travel agency to concentrate on her writing and undertake promotions.

That was a month ago. The company was supposed to pay her pounds 200 a week to cover her loss of earnings. Ms Beevis, who writes under the name of Keri Leigh, says she has not received a penny, neither has she seen anything of the pounds 750,000, despite the alleged lodging of a cheque for pounds 200,000 as the first instalment of the advance.

The launch of her book, the first of three horror novels which were supposed to take the genre to a new plane, was originally meant to be in mid-July. It was then delayed until last Monday. Now, according to Buckley-Bennion, it will appear sometime in the future, but they do not know when. To complicate matters further, Emrys Bowen, the publishing executive dealing with the project, has left to start his own company.

This is all very different from the fanfare which greeted Ms Beevis's arrival on the scene, and got acres of free publicity both for her and Buckley-Bennion. It was said she had finished three manuscripts, When The Pen Writes, The Host, and Dead By Dawn. She was described as " the Picasso of writing" and her publishers claimed "Hollywood people" were negotiating film rights. Jack Nicholson was said to be "very interested".

Ms Beevis was allegedly hooked on horror after being left alone when 12 with a pile of videos including the film The Shining, in which Nicholson starred - hence the rumours of his interest. After that, according to a Buckley-Bennion press release, she would go upstairs every night accompanied by her dog and cat, go into a trance, and write. Sometimes all night.

According to a press release on the literary genius in the making, her mother Linda despaired: "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". It was also claimed that the books were the subject of a fierce tussle between literary agents Curtis Brown, and AP Watt, two of the most renowned in the country.

A previous inquiry by this newspaper had cast doubt on many of the claims. Established publishing houses expressed astonishment at the size of the supposed advance, and Curtis Brown and AP Watt disclaimed interest.

Buckley-Bennion, it was discovered, 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 artist and promoter Paul Trevillion, who is now Ms Beevis's agent.

Ms Beevis is no longer giving media interviews, but she made an exception for The Independent. Speaking at the family home near Norfolk, she said: "I suppose I have been naive. I was made all these promises and I trusted these people. Now I feel, very very let down. How can I explain to people why the book isn't coming out? The public will feel they have been fooled.

"Of course, there was huge media interest because of the size of the advance. I cannot go into the details, but I have got nothing from it. The contract is now with solicitors."

She showed a letter from Marcus Buckley-Bennion, managing director of Buckley-Bennion Associates, which stated: "We are all better served by your being able to give up your work at the travel agency. I am therefore glad to offer you a non-redeemable advance on your commission of pounds 200 gross per week. The offer is to start as soon as you can be released from your present employment and we hope that you will now be able to concentrate on your writing".

Ms Beevis said: "All we have got from them so far has been around pounds 150 for travelling expenses when the family went down to London for a television interview. We have had to pay for things like photocopying ourselves. I am now broke, and I can't even get my old job back, although they may be able to give me a week's work."

"The [publishing] company made all sorts of public promises. But in reality they seemed to be amateurish. They produced a `mock-up' copy of When The Pen Writes, and it was full of spelling mistakes. They weren't my mistakes, but theirs."

Andrew MacLachlan, assistant to Marcus Buckley-Bennion, had said in the past: "We read Keri's book and it was obvious that she was an extremely talented writer. The advance she is receiving is a lot of money, and we believe it is a British record. but we consider it a wise investment."

Yesterday he was less bullish: "The launch has been put off, but we do not want to say when, we don't want to give any information out."

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