Nightbeat: Why Book Sales Are Down

Nightbeat column, Star-Gazer News Service, Junction City, TX, July 1, 2021–Woke up early this morning because the “patriots” across the street were firing off cherry bombs and M-80s before the dawn’s early light even had a chance to pull itself together.

When I called the cops, the 911 dispatcher said they thought all that racket was “simply another neighborhood gang war, so hadn’t bothered to investigate.” I made coffee and checked to see if my typewriter had finished the column I started last night. Unfortunately, the only words on the otherwise blank sheet of Eaton’s Corrasable Bond typewriter paper was the title:

Nightbeat: Why Book Sales Are Down

Sometimes evil spirits, haints, and things that go bump in the night write my columns while I’m sleeping or passed out. No luck, so I showered, shaved, drank two cups of Maxwell House Coffee, and walked to the bad part of the neighborhood which, actually, is right next door. I cut through the unmowed backyards so the “patriots” wouldn’t see me and knocked on the man’s back door.

“Who sent you?” he asked.

“Bob Costas,” I whispered.

The door openly quickly and a withered arm snaked out and yanked me into the mudroom which, coincidentally, was filled with mud.

My source looked like death warmed over. “What do you need?”

“The straight skinny about falling book sales,” I said.

“Did James Patterson die last night?”

“No, but that wouldn’t matter since Tom Clancy is still churning out bestsellers.”

“When you’re right, you’re right, Jock,” he said as he lit up a Lucky Strike. “Otherwise, serious small press authors are being hurt because everyone thinks they have a book in them–actually, many books.”

“The old gag was ‘every journalist thinks he has a book in him and that’s where it should stay,'” I replied.

“My sources tell me the old rules and the old morals no longer count. Today’s self-published and small-press authors have developed writer’s diarrhea.”

“That stinks.”

“No sh_t. They’re–how should I put this?–spewing out cookie-cutter genre books at the rate of thousands of words per day per person. It’s the chief cause of global warming and insanity. I checked a secret survey last week and, as it turns out, only two or three people in the country are not writing books. You know what that means.”

He took a swig of Jack Daniels and passed me the bottle.

“Damn, that’s good,” I said. “Of course I know what it means. It means that Larry, Moe, and Curry, and the scum across the street are the only people out there who are still reading.”

“Damn straight.”

“So, that means that two or three people are using different names to post highly positive reviews on Amazon for those tawdry books while the good writers are lucky to find a review anywhere.”

“You planning to stay for breakfast.”

“Bacon and eggs?” I asked hopefully.

“Bangers and mash with gravy.”

“I’ll pass.”

“As always, this conversation never happened.”

“I know.”

I went home, typed up my notes, and faxed this column to the newspaper. The editor wouldn’t like it, but I don’t give a flaming rat’s butt about that because she knows I know she’s one of the people ruining literature with her 40-book series “The Piper and the Piper’s Missus.” People are addicted to it. It’s worse than Fentanyl.

Her readers are reviewing her books before they’re even released. We’re entering the end of times, kind readers, and you read it here first.

Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter