"Far be it from me to beat my own drum."
I never should have said that aloud because Jackie overheard. "Yeah, right. Except at every opportunity that arises."
"That's not true. I was thinking of The Broken Drum, a bar I once frequented in Leesville, Louisiana. Its slogan was 'You can't beat it.'"
"I might have known it had something to do with a bar."
"That's not funny. While we're on the subject, though, did I mention that my story Panic on Portage Path was nominated for a Shamus award?"
"Not since breakfast ten minutes ago."
"Some people are interested. They said they hope to meet me at Bouchercon."
"We're not going to Bouchercon. Anyway I thought you already knew everyone in the business."
"Some have retired. Some have passed away. New ones have come along."
"And they're all dying to meet you."
"I wouldn't say all."
"Three or four."
"That many, huh? For that you think we should go to Bouchercon?"
"I don't want to disappoint my fans and . . . Why are you laughing?"
"Your fans? Are you talking about the one beside your desk or the one over the kitchen stove?"
"I told you you're not funny. Bouchercon would be timely. It's in October and I have a story in the November issue of Hitchcock. It's called Deathtown."
"I know. I proofread it when you wrote it. I brought the free author's copies in from the mailbox. I read the story in the magazine. All that and now you tell me its name."
"I thought you might have forgotten."
"Fat chance. The cover doesn't even have anything to do with your story."
"It might have. A guy gets shot in it. That just happens to be Amos Walker getting plugged."
"Plugged. That's the first time anyone expressed it that way since 1937. Are you saying Loren Estleman killed off his protagonist?"
"Of course not. Amos wasn't really shot. Well, maybe a little."
"I didn't know a person could be shot a little."
"What I meant was . . . wait a minute, we're talking about Deathtown, not Amos Walker."
"At least Estleman gave his protagonist a name. You didn't bother, did you?"
"I forgot. Anyway, Amos is a series character. Mine isn't. He didn't need one."
"It might have been nice to know. He would have been more memorable."
"Look, Bill Pronzini has written dozens of books and stories without giving his protagonist a name. I do it one time and you make a big thing of it."
"Why is it Estleman and Pronzini have written all those novels and you haven't?"
"You know I hate writing long stuff. I have the old newspaper reporter syndrome. I like to start at 7 a.m. and be finished by noon."
"Speaking of which, isn't it time you got back to work?"
"I am, I am. I just wanted to ask if I'd mentioned that Shamus nomination . . . hey, quit throwing things!"