Airport Paperback is just about the hugest, most monstrous success story in publishing history, that’s all!
It’s sexy. It’s outrageous. Yet it’s also moving and emotional. Its action sweeps continents and the ebb and flow of the generations, yet it also tells of the quiet moments of the heart and the tender love of a woman for the novel she is writing. It’s … Airport Paperback.
Airport Paperback tells the story of Emily, who was married to a man she quite liked. Surely fate had destined her to do more in life than clean up after someone, put his underwear in a washing-machine and make his dentist's appointments? And so it was that in her kitchen, or at the controls of her lonely two-action vacuum cleaner (it blows, it sucks), Emily allowed herself to dream. Power, intrigue and passionate love, and the clash of mighty business empires… these were the dreams that Emily had.
And one day a voice said: ’Write down your dreams. Tell the story of your innermost desires, but make them happen to other people. Write down this story in an exercise book. Take six years over it, in your quiet moments, in your rare times off, when everyone thinks you are at the controls of your two-action vacuum cleaner.’ Three action more like, thought Emily: blow, suck, and break down. ‘Not a bad joke,’ said the voice. ‘Put it in your…’
Airport Paperback! The story of how one woman fought against her fate and rose from the humdrum ashes of her life to bring a blazing bestseller into the world!
Yes, for six long years Emily toiled away at her epic story and then she met Eric the publisher. ‘It’s not bad,’ said Eric. ‘Not bad at all.’
Emily blushed slightly at the condescending tone of this patronizing but handsome publisher, who had taken her out to eat in a posh London restaurant with big prices and tiny portions.
‘I like the idea of writing a novel about the battle to control the world’s airport bookshops. The idea that the world might be changed by the people who ordain what people shall read on holiday. I like it. We’ll have to change a few things, of course. More sex. A few more jokes, perhaps – I like the one about the vacuum cleaner.
‘And then your novel will arise from this old exercise book like Cinderella going to the ball- it will appear in three lurid colours, with an embossed title, a caption reading ‘The Great New Bestseller’ and a tribute saying ‘You must read this - Jack Higgins’.’
‘Oh really? Any other changes?’ said Emily defiantly.
‘Yes,’ said Eric, leaning forward and very lightly touching her on the cheek. ‘To you. We’re going to take you out of those dowdy clothes, and give you a beautiful new face and a lovely new name and you’re going to be a star, little Emily.’
That summer the publishing world could only talk of two things: the runaway, bush-fire success of Emily’s novel, and the intense heat caused by her whirlwind romance with Eric the publisher, which withered two marriages as it crackled and burnt. Then she flew to Hollywood to discuss the screen transformation of the novel which one in every three airline passengers was reading, and met the man who was to break her heart.
‘I’m Jack,’ he said. ‘I’m going to be producing your film.’
And giving you a child and leaving you cruelly, he might have added, if only he had known. Emily was to write many more runaway successes and make many more films, but she was never again to know a love like Jack’s. She acquired glamour and money and power, yes, but after Jack she hid her softness and warmth behind a high security wall. Many men believed it was no longer there.
Only her child, Oscar, named after her first award, knew differently. (If a girl, she was to have been called Emmy. Their dog was called Purlitzer.) For Oscar received all the love which she could no longer…etc. etc. When he grew up, he was to take revenge on Jack, the man she had never told him was his…etc. etc. But before that could happen, Oscar fell in love with…etc. etc.
Yes, it’s all in Airport Paperback! It’s the sizzling novel which strips away the veneer from the glamorous world of airport fiction and shows you the seething jungle beneath! But is Airport Paperback, the name of the book that Emily wrote? Or is it the book which tells the story of the book that Emily wrote? Or is it just the name of the book which Emily dreamt about writing but never did because she is still leaning on her two-action vacuum cleaner and weaving her fantasies?
Read Airport Paperback and find out!
The Independent 1988