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by S.F. Wright
Kendrick Hoyt had gotten, in recent years, quite successful. His first six books had produced
mediocre sales, but his recent string of novels, about a thirty-something-year-old detective who,
for some reason, still lived with his parents, had done well; each subsequent book, in fact, sold
better than its predecessor. And, as Kendrick Hoyt lived nearby and was a relentless self-
promoter, he was a familiar presence at Drew’s Barnes and Noble, much to many employees’
delight—albeit Drew thought the guy a pretentious pain in the ass.
“Hey there,” Kendrick Hoyt said to Drew one night, at the customer service desk. He
extended his hand as he scanned Drew’s name badge, even though Drew had met the man four or
five times. “. . . Drew. How you doing? Kendrick.”
And Drew awkwardly shook Kendrick Hoyt’s hand and, upon the writer’s request, called
someone to retrieve his books, so he could sign them.
“Dufus” was the word Drew privately used to refer to Kendrick Hoyt, and this cognomen
was inspired as much by the writer’s ungainliness as it was by the man’s inept attempts at social
graciousness. Kendrick Hoyt was a giant clown sans makeup: he was six feet four; his arms
swung stiffly at his sides when he walked, or not at all; his mouth perpetually gaped; and his was
the gait of a man whom it seemed, despite his bulk, would be easy to knock over. Drew
imagined, as a child, that Kendrick Hoyt constantly walked on his toes and forever was falling
onto furniture and into walls.
Ironically, Kendrick Hoyt’s actual mien was the polar opposite of the one he attempted to
convey on his dustjacket photos. In those images, he exuded suaveness and confidence; was
adorned in jeans, a black t-shirt, and a brown leather jacket; and stood invariably in front of some
quasi-famous New Jersey landmark or an anonymous brick wall. Arms folded, Kendrick Hoyt
looked at the camera with searching toughness; the gaze of a man who’d seen the grimmest and
grimiest the earth had to offer and wasn’t afraid to look harder to uncover even more seediness,
for the sake of his readers. What a surprise and letdown it must be when his fans met the real
Kendrick Hoyt at a book signing.
But whatever his deceptions and pretenses, Kendrick Hoyt had made it. He lived, as
Drew read in an article in the local paper, in a restored 19th century quasi mansion with his wife
and children; his novels were bestsellers; three of his books had been optioned for films. And
Drew—as he tried not to show annoyance at and disdain toward Kendrick Hoyt when the man
came in, benignantly shook Drew’s hand, and signed all the books in stock bearing his
name—wondered if his privately calling him a dufus was partially, if not mainly, due to
resentment; that he was simply envious of a man who, even though he wrote hackneyed fiction,
For Drew, although he rarely admitted this, wanted to write books. He didn’t care—or so
he told himself—if he were commercially successful like Kendrick Hoyt, although he wouldn’t
scoff at success like that either; he simply desired to write a few decent novels that would be
recognized as works of literature—and, hence, art. But his lack of work ethic, and his proneness
more to dream about being a writer than to work at becoming one, rendered his desire a pipe
One night, on which Kendrick Hoyt had visited the store, Drew, during a lull, walked
over to the mystery section and opened one of the man’s books. Maybe, Drew thought, turning to
the first page, Kendrick Hoyt’s writing did have some redeeming qualities. Was not Raymond
Chandler a great writer? And Dashiel Hammett? And Patricia Highsmith? Maybe Kendrick Hoyt
was as good as or better than any of them, but had just been marketed as a mainstream author for
the sake of sales.
Drew read the first paragraph.
In addition to a mortifyingly awful simile (something about the protagonist’s life being as
hopeless as a “squashed grapefruit”), there appeared one of the worst exchanges of dialogue
Drew had ever read, in which the protagonist—the detective—tried to convince his mother,
apparently, a subpar baker, that he enjoyed her latest batch of cookies.
It was like something from a sitcom.
Drew’s resentment returned; but it was a broader, more encompassing scorn: for it was a
travesty, an absurdity, that a man who wrote as badly as that could make a fortune from it.
But walking down the aisles, arms crossed, Drew felt resolute: He’d show them, for he
had talent; he could feel it, knew it . . .
If only he could figure out how.
S.F. Wright lives and teaches in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Hobart, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other places. His short story collection, The English Teacher, is forthcoming from Cerasus Poetry, and his website is sfwrightwriter.com.