You might recall that Mervyn Peake’s head lives next door, and now it’s pissed off. He wants to know if I swiped the manuscript he showed me, that for Titus Awakes. The lost novel in the series only sketched out before his apparent death that too I mentioned here before now, and then mysteriously we find out it is to be published.
‘Honestly no,’ I say. Mervyn seems to believe me. But someone swiped it as it’s been discovered we hear in the family attic. ‘Truly, I was honoured to read the fourth book so...’
An awkwardness comes between us. I’ve been ignoring Steerpike until now. Not so much for being fictional as rather because he is dead. Titus killed him. Nonetheless there he is by the window with his big head, red eyes and ugly limbs all about that thin little chest. There’s not much of the Rhys Meyers about him. There’s not even much of the Rhys Ifans. ‘You might as well tell him,’ he says.
‘Tell me what?’ There is another story, two in fact. Both short but more excitingly one of those in a collection, Sometime Never, Three Tales. ‘With whom? Who else is in this collection?’ Oh wonderful, William Golding and John Wyndham, two more of my favourite authors. I ask if they have a copy. Neither of them does. I’ll find out later that thery’re going for two or three hundred quid. I can’t help but think that publishers are missing a trick here. Annoyed I say, ‘Well I hope that which is released is that which you wrote. It’s been a while.’
I hear there’s a plan afoot. For Steerpike to track down the source of this Titus Awakes. Since I had it for a few days it’s been handily marked. Any book that comes into my hands becomes dog-eared, bath curled and as I would put it, loved. Also Bosswell put a lollypop on it. They want to know if I can suggest anyone to accompany Steerpike. I suggest my friend Mme Roux.
I would go of course only I’ve still got a big shirt to iron.