Fortune smiles - in Moosejaw

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The Independent Online
Excuse me if I blow my bags this week. Things have been rough for the last few months, so you won't mind my alerting you to a radio commercial currently being aired in Moosejaw, Colorado, for Mountain Mac's Mobile Diner.

"Hurry hurry hurry while stocks last! Mountain Mac's hot cakes are moving as fast as The Big One, The Black One, The Fat One and The Other One!"

This, you may remember, was a collection of my Independent pieces, published in 1992 by Michael O'Mara Books and, quite properly, remaindered three days later.

Meanwhile, the El Independo shoot in Bournemouth has been held up for the moment while my Associate Producer's contract with Debbie Mason's outfit, Kudos, is being renegotiated by Mrs Lamb of the Insolvency Service.

It is Mrs Lamb, in fact, who recently created this insatiable appetite for my stuff in Middle America (and not just in Moosejaw, but in Boot Hill and Wink Peyote, too) and she is over there at the moment collecting monies due to me - or, more accurately, to her.

Miss Mason can, in the general run of things, take care of herself, but she will be no match, I think, for Mrs Lamb when the latter returns to London next week. Mrs Lamb instructed me to sign nothing in her absence and, before jetting off to Moosejaw, she said how much she hoped that Kudos was of the old school: holding - against Tiger Aspect Television, say, which, as I discovered to my dismay during Root Into Europe, believes that "You should put the money on the screen" - that the immediate needs of the producers, not least of the Associate Producer, should prevail.

I hope so, too. I'm of the old school myself, having learnt my producer's craft from Henry Sherek, an immensely fat old-time impresario. Sherek never put on a show whose set wouldn't, at the end of an irrelevantly short run, look better in his drawing-room than the three-piece suite in place; for the sake of his wardrobe, the juvenile lead had to be as fat as he was; and the ingnue was required to have the same measurements as Mrs Perkins, his plump and past it general manager.

Everything I know I learnt from Henry Sherek. Once, I persuaded John Bird that his satirical revue Here Is The News should be accompanied by a 15-piece strict tempo dance band placed on stage. When the show folded after one night in Coventry, I inherited 15 sky-blue bandsmen's suits. As a consequence, I did the Sixties as Geraldo and his Orchestra - this circumstance accounting for the fact that, 30 years later, I did the Sixties again on my own, my antics this time round causing me to fall inevitably into the hands of Mrs Lamb of the Insolvency Service.

And I'm very glad I did, since she's incomparably the best representative I've ever had. Cat Ledger, my ex-temporary literary agent, won't mind my saying that for some time things between us had been very poor indeed. You expect to be told, when trying to get your agent on the phone, that she's talking to Jim White on the other line, but you know you've had it when, on getting through, she asks you to spell your name and, further, to tell her what company you're with.

That said, Cat did surprise me by phoning out of the blue three or four months ago.

"This will make you laugh," she said. "There's an American publisher over here - Tom Meagher of the prestigious Akadine Press and The Common Reader - who thinks he can sell your stuff over there, not least your Independent column!"

"What did you say?"

"I told him to forget it. Imagine a mountain man in Moosejaw trying to figure out who Fat Pat and Andy From The Sixties are! To say nothing of the thin man in trade and the little trollop who took you to the cleaners. However, I've said we'll have lunch with him. I'll be able to talk about Jim White."

Mr Meagher turned out to be a delightful, bookish sort of fellow and so - as one feels obliged to do these days - I apologised for everything about us, the look of us, our skinny acting and crap tennis players, our television, our lack of irony, our nancy soccer players, the pink right- wing faces of our corrupt self-pitying police force, our attitude, at once patronising and doggily submissive, towards Americans.

"Don't mention it," he said, and then he said he could sell my stuff by the bucketful at home - and not just Root but my collected columns, too. At which point Cat could contain herself no longer.

"Pull the other one! Readers here can't make head nor tail of what he writes. Jim White, on the other hand ..."

"I'll get my coat," I said.

Then, a month ago, Mrs Lamb of the Insolvency Service decided to find some new markets for my stuff. "What about America?" she said. "El Independo could have them rolling in the aisles in Dodge City and Hangman's Creek."

I mentioned Mr Meagher of the Akadine Press, and Mrs Lamb went to work - the upshot being that Root Into Europe, which did pussy here, is at No 2 in Elk City and Comanche Shoals, being out-sold only by The Big One, The Black One, The Fat One And The Other One. And next week, according to Mrs Lamb, there's to be an El Independo Festival in Moosejaw.

"The locals," she says, "dressed as Fat Pat, Cat Ledger, Michelle and Mr Alway, will throw cowpats at effigies of the thin man in trade and the little trollop who took you to the cleaners."

You'll excuse me if I blow my bags. I'd not be in Debbie Mason's boots, however, when she discovers that El Independo will feature a 15-piece dance band in sky-blue suits; further, that the ingnue's measurements will be the same as Mrs Lamb's.