Breaking new ground in the book world

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The Independent Online

Yesterday I brought you a couple of tales for our times, so what could be better than two more today?

Early one morning, when it was still dark, a policeman on patrol in a big city saw a man leaving a large bookshop by the back door. He arrested the man, who gave his name as Eric Shilling, on a charge of breaking and entering with intent to steal.

In court, however, the theft charge was dropped, as the man had left the shop without any stolen goods. In his defence, the defendant said he had no intention of taking anything - he merely gained access to the shop to publicise his own books.

"I do not understand," said the judge. "How can an act of breaking and entering a shop help an author?"

Eric Shilling explained that he was a crime writer under another name, Jack Nandrolone, and that his publishers were not rich enough to buy him the premier window position that other publishers could get for their authors.

"A vast amount of an author's sales," said Mr Shilling, "come from being prominently displayed in retail points of sale, especially if there is also a notice saying 'Book of the Month'. Now, such notices are not always effective in all spheres of trade, but with books, readers are easily led by such displays."

He explained how he had therefore decided on a campaign of breaking into bookshops and rearranging his books to give them a major position in the fiction display. He had also added a notice proclaiming him as "Britain's Great New Thriller Writer!" The effect had been dramatic. After visiting 20 cities, he had a chain of big displays across the country (for bookshops seldom check their own window displays) and his sales had quadrupled.

Nevertheless, said the judge, he was guilty of breaking and entering, was he not?

Not really, said Mr Shilling. The lock on the side doors of most bookshops was so feeble that any self-respecting crime writer would know how to get in. Fiddling and entering, yes. Leaning and entering, yes. But breaking and entering? He didn't think so.

The judge congratulated Mr Shilling on his defence, and asked if he might purchase a signed copy of his latest book.

MORAL: Crime sometimes pays.

A businessman called Frank Dulally worked so hard at his desk all day that he had very little time for eating. He had even less time for exercise, so he gradually became podgy.

"Not having the time to go to the gym," he thought to himself, "I must evolve a business plan to deal with the situation."

Frank Dulally worked out if he could exercise while he was actually working, his problem would be solved. He therefore devised various exercises which could be done at his desk. They involved such things as trying to lift his desk with his knees, squeezing a golf ball in his pocket, and trying to lift his computer with outstretched arms.

Within three months, Frank had started to ripple with muscle and look positively sleek. But two of his superiors, who knew nothing of his exercises, found this worrying.

"It's hard to believe," said one, "but I think Dulally must be on some sort of steroids."

"Easy to find out," said the other. "Do you remember that random drug testing programme for employees which we put in place? Let's use it."

So they tested Frank for drugs, and found no trace of steroids. Unfortunately, they found traces of all the other drugs he used out of hours, and he was instantly dismissed.

MORAL: Business plans may cause problems as well as solve them.