marvin simmons was the most distinguished literary critic of his time.
his approval of a book might induce some people to pick it up.
one night he was driving back to new york from a weekend in vermont when his car was overtaken by a violent storm.
marvin took shelter in the hide-away inn, a motel which dd not look like part of a chain.
when he was safely ensconced in his room with the wind and rain howling outside, he was about to turn on the television, when he noticed a book on the table beside the bed.
the title of the book was “laughter in the wind” and the author’s name on the jacket was amelia cartwright. there was no author photo or information about the author on the dust jacket. the publisher was unknown to marvin.
thinking that a few pages of the book night be unintentionally amusing, marvin opened it.
and was immediately entranced.
it was easily the best book he had ever read.
he turned the pages with increasing speed, riveted by the mesmerizing plot and flowing prose.
he laughed, he cried, he was illuminated on every page by the author’s incisive yet compassionate insights.
he wanted to bond with the book’s hero, and go camping with him or sail around the world with him.
he was in love with the heroine, and wanted to live with her forever, and escort her to the parties of famous and beautiful and enlightened people.
the machinations of the villain gave him fresh insights into the injustices in the world, and made him want to saddle up and go to war against them.
marvin was emotionally drained by the time he finished the book, with its stunning but perfectly logical surprise ending.
where had the time gone? marvin put the book back on the table beside the bed and went to sleep.
when he woke up in the morning, he thought he might have dreamed the book and its contents, but the book was right there beside him on the table.
he had a couple of hours before checkout, so he set up his laptop and began searching for information about the book and, more importantly, its author.
he found nothing about “amelia cartwright” or about the publisher, which if it had had any existence apart from the one book, had left no trace of itself that google could find.
“laughter in the wind” had two reviews on amazon. “a reader” from charlotte north carolina gave it five stars and a one-word review - “superb”. another “a reader” from lincoln nebraska gave it two stars because “i just didn’t like the characters”.
marvin was disappointed. he wanted to share his find with the world, but hesitated to do so without more information. he decided to do more investigating when he got back to new york.
“amelia cartwright” sounded like a pseudonym, but of who or what?
the female name was a good start, because he could not be accused of being an old boy, but…
how did he know “amelia cartwright” was even a woman?
how did he know the author was not a serial killer or serial rapist serving a life sentence in alabama?
or even worse, an accused rapist or child molester who had bought his way off and was a university president or ceo of a fortune 500 company?
or some kind of racist or homophobic or right wing demagogue, male or female?
or - this really gave marvin pause - the disgraced perpetrator of some previously exposed hoax?
“amelia cartwright” might be a pseudonym for anybody - anne coulter or roger ailes, ayn rand or margaret thatcher or josef goebbels.
none of this seemed likely to marvin, given the brilliant and compassionate nature of the book, but people had been fooled before, and you couldn’t be too careful.
marvin took the book with him when he went to check out.
he showed the book to the desk clerk. “i would like to buy this book from you, if you please?”
the desk clerk, a teen aged girl wearing a tank top, looked at marvin strangely. “you want to buy it?”
“yes, if that is all right.”
“sir, you can just take it. people take them all the time. my mom buys them from the library for twenty-five cents and has a big pile of them to put in the rooms.”
“oh. well, here is a dollar, you can buy four of them.”
“uh, thank you, sir. you have a nice day now.”
outside the sun was shining. the roads were not too clogged and marvin made it back to new york in good time.
but he was never, despite cautious but persistent researches, including attempts to contact the two “readers” on amazon, able to discover anything more about either “amelia cartwright” or the book.
he reread the book several times, and found it as compelling and inspiring as before.