Addled by glue fumes from a nearby cobbler, former Chelsea Hotel resident and Whitbread Prize Winner Joan Brady was forced to abandon work on her highfalutin novel, Cool Wind from the Future, and turn instead to a less demanding thriller, Hot Blast from the Past (The Times, 1/24/08).
Actually, she calls it Bleedout. And yes, the title does make the book sound rather outhouse-worthy. But the real story is that Joan won 115,000 pounds from the cobbler, a factory called Conker, for compromising her intellectual powers! And this despite the fact that Bleedout sold 10,000 copies.
Which makes me wonder, where’s the monetary damage? If her impairment continues she’ll probably make more money writing thrillers than she would have with the highbrow stuff. She should have told them to gas her a bit more, and then maybe she could have landed a real job, like used car salesman or shoe factory owner, and then she would really be pulling in the bucks.
Or maybe she could become a lawyer. Despite getting Joan a decent settlement, the lawyers in England must have been sniffing the fumes themselves, since they only made 30,000 pounds for themselves. I just read an account of a woman who sued Bed Bath and Beyond for misstating the thread count on its sheets, and while she only got $1500 or so, the lawyers collected over $250,000! If those English lawyers (what do they call themselves, barristers, solicitors, something highfalutin like that?) had any sense, they’d all move to America.
And what about her son? The poor guy wrote a book ass-backwards! (Stuart, a Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters, who also stayed at the Chelsea for a time.) What’s he been sniffing? Who’s he going to sue?
Actually, all kidding aside, The Times seems to be poking a bit of fun at Joan and trivializing her claim—at least to some extent--which is that she suffered nerve damage as a result of the fumes. She seems to have had plenty of evidence too, since she had to go up against her town’s District Council as well, which took the side of the cobbler. The real shame is that she had to waste her time and talent going after these scumbags, and now she even had to move for fear that they would retaliate against her.
Her struggle reminds me of what we’re going through in New York with the developers who are wrecking the city and throwing people out in the street. It’s the same thing: people apparently devoid of shame or conscience who will do or say anything for money. The council’s health department inspector apparently denied being able to smell the fumes, and then lied and said no test was available. And listen to this pathetic appeal from one of the factory’s co-owners: “My two children worked at the factory for six years each. There’s no way we would have subjected ourselves, let alone our children, to toxic fumes.”
Gee, maybe it was the elves who work in the factory at night who released the fumes. Silly cobblers, go make a boy out of wood. -- Ed Hamilton