Literary connections

T. R. Softly writes:

The other day I heard from a reader who wants to know how it came to be that my adventures with Khaki and Mallory, not to mention Potus Pohtiss and GOGS, found their way into a book. It’s not that we needed any more word-of-mouth referrals. We had more than we could handle.

It actually was one of those chance things. One evening a month or so after the events chronicled in Everything Is Jake had ended, Mallory, Khaki, and I were having dinner in one of my favorite Washington watering holes, the KBK Club at the Carroll Arms Hotel at 1st & C Streets, NE, just across from the Senate Office Building. I had just finished a short assignment that had an odd twist to it and was regaling my two favorite ladies about how it unfolded. We were in a merry mood and the more spirited we got the more wine we drank and vice versa, until soon, I’m a bit embarrassed to report, we were speaking a wee too loudly for the general ambience of the hushed clubby room. There came a moment when at a startling turn of my story and in a fit of exuberance rare for her, Khaki exclaimed: “You should get someone to tell that tale. It’s too good to hide.” She raised her hand to her mouth to acknowledge and stifle her vocal excess, and the napkin she was holding flew up and free and sailed onto the head of the guy sitting at the next table. Turned out to be our Author. He also turned out to be pretty good-natured about his unnatural head covering and brushed aside Khaki’s mumbled apology.

Then he surprised us all by swiveling his chair around, leaning toward us, and saying: “Aren’t you T. R. Softly, the detective?” Needless to say, I was even more surprised by a complete stranger somehow knowing who I was. I admitted to the identification readily enough but wondered aloud how he knew. “Oh, I follow you in the pages of the YAM.” A fellow Yalie. I reached over and offered him my hand. He said, “a little before your time, I’m afraid,” and we shook. “And what do you do?” I asked, innocently enough. Should have known. Some detective I am. He said, “As it happens, I’m an author and between books.” Mallory smiled beatifically and said, “Well, there you go.” And there you have it.

3 comments

  1. Not so fast, big boy. I know you like to be fanciful, but I don’t remember it happening quite like that. Our Author knew you on sight? Don’t think so, and certainly not through an alumni magazine. I thought you liked to keep a low profile? Here’s how I recall it. We were sitting at that table all right, and I plead guilty to feeling jolly. It had been such an oppressive time for so many months and now, if you’ll permit me, everything was jake. So there we were, talking about that case, and somebody, maybe it was me, said that it would be neat to have it written up. And just about at that moment, some guy walked up to the guy sitting at the table next to us and said, rather too loudly, to be sure, “Well, if it isn’t my friend the almost world-famous author,” at which point I was so surprised I admit my napkin flipped up and landed on the poor guy’s head. The standing guy turned out to be the other guy’s agent; they were quite coincidentally there to have dinner to talk about the Author’s next project. What are the odds? You got up, courtier that you are, to retrieve my napkin. You introduced yourself, as I recall it and the guy stood up and introduced himself. “You’re an author?” you said, and invited the two of them to join us. “We were just talking about needing an author,” Mallory said. That’s how it all began.

  2. Our Author Responds:

    Well, okay, you two have had your fun. I’d like to assume the question was propounded to TR in good-faith and so for the record let me tell it how it really happened. It’s true I was between projects, though I had been working pretty steadily on this one particular project (see here).

    About four years ago in the spring I happened to attend an annual lunch in New Haven for alums of an undergraduate society I belonged to. That year they decided to mix up the classes at the tables so we’d have a chance to meet older and younger members, and I found myself sitting next to a young fellow whom I had never met or even ever heard of. He was talking mostly to the fellow on his left until that fellow suddenly got up and wandered off. TR turned to his right and joined our side of the conversation just as a waiter starts to put salads down on the other side of the table. TR takes his napkin, which had been sitting untouched on the tablecloth, and lifts it off at the exact moment the server shows up at our side. TR’s arm collides with the server’s, and the white towel that’s draped over the server’s arm somehow flops down and lands on my head. TR laughs, removes it from my head, and introduces himself. And of course I subject TR for the umpteenth time to the “Excuse me, your name is what?” routine. He’s very polite, as if he’s never been subjected to such a grilling before, and explains, and then I give him my name and he says, “excuse me, what?” and we both laugh, and I go through my routine, which for my entire life has been pretty much like TR’s, and so that’s how we get to talking.

    I didn’t think much of it at first to learn that he was a private detective, though the occupation was a bit unusual, I remember thinking, for a Yale graduate. But then he tells me the nature of the Pro Bono Detection Services Agency, and I find myself getting very interested. He deliberately has chosen to forgo fees, something that most authors like me endure merely by circumstance. We wind up talking through the whole lunch and after we adjourned from the clubhouse we spend pretty much the rest of the afternoon talking over too many drinks at Mory’s. He tells me a story, a long confidential story, about a set of events I had certainly lived through, and pondered at length some years before, but had not investigated beyond the newspapers. I ask why it’s never been committed to paper and he says they’re too busy and they’ve never trusted anyone else to do it. I said, “let’s build some,” meaning trust, of course. When we were back in Washington I met the whole crew over several dinners and home visits, and within four months we all signed off on the PBDS–Authorship Arrangement. Everything to run through me, TR to retain the right to require some details to be suppressed. That, dear Reader, is the real story. (And, oh yes, at the end of our society lunch, as we’re singing “Bright College Years” and waving the traditional napkin at the rousing ending lyrics, “For God, for country, and for Yale,” I let slip my napkin and it fell on TR’s head. True story. Somewhere there’s even a picture.)

  3. Clearly things happen at Yale reunions that never happen at Columbia University undergrad gatherings (of course, I would never know, since I have never been to one). It is good that Softly got to tell their story (I, of course, use the pronoun in the proper fashion – although I realize that introduces a certain ambiguity: does “their” refer to Softly, or the whole cast of characters? I do hope that the next episode will be appropriately woke, and that shape-shifting will remain.

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