Death's Jest-Book

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Book: Death's Jest-Book Read Online Free PDF
Author: Reginald Hill
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Political
which led to a temporary improvement in menu and the permanent
removal,under some kind of cloud, of a still-smiling Bonkers.
    A short time later all over the
jail ears and other things pricked when it was announced that a new
trick cyclist had been appointed, and that it was a woman!

Duerden has interrupted me again.
    I see now that I misinterpreted
his reaction when he first saw me. He wasn't dismayed to find he was
sharing the Quaestor's Lodging but puzzled to find he was sharing it
with someone he'd never met and never heard of.
    An Englishman would have slid
around the subject, and some Americans can be pretty devious too, but
he was of the straight-from-the-shoulder school.
    'So where're you working, son?'
he asked me.
    'Mid-Yorkshire University’
I replied.
    'That so? Now remind me, who's
running your department these days?'
    'Mr Dunstan,'I said.
    'Dunstan?' He looked puzzled.
'Would that be Tony Dunstan the medievalist?'
    'No, it would be Jack Dunstan,
the head gardener,' I said.
    Once he got over his surprise,
that really tickled him, and I saw no reason not to be completely
open with him. I explained about being Sam Johnson's pupil and how
Sam had got me a job in the gardens, and how, as well as being Sam's
student, I'd also been a close friend and was, through the good
offices of his sister, his literary executor.
    'Sam was scheduled to present a
paper at the conference,' I concluded, 'and when the Programme
Committee contacted me to ask if I would be willing to read his
paper, I felt I owed it to him to accept. I presume my name's been
substituted for his all down the line, which is how I come to be in
the Quaestor's Lodging.'
    He said, 'Yeah, that must be it,'
but I suspect he didn't really reckon that even Sam rated high enough
to be his roomy.
    In fact, I've
been wondering about this myself and I think I've got it sussed. The
programme says that special thanks are due to Sir Justinian Albacore,
the Dean of St Godric's, under whose auspices we are the guests of
the college. That name rings a bell. Could this be the same J. C.
Albacore whose study of the Gothic psyche, The Search for
Nepenthe, you probably know? I've never read it myself, but I
often saw it propping up the broken leg of a sofa in Sam Johnson's
study. For this man was the great hate of Sam's life. According to
Sam, he'd given a lot of help to Albacore when he was writing Nepenthe, and the man had shown his gratitude by ripping off
his Beddoes project! Sam got suspicious on finding someone had been
ahead of him when he delved into a couple of rare and apparently
unrelated archives. Finally it emerged that Albacore was also working
on a Beddoes critical biog. to appear in 2003, the bicentenary of
TLB's birth. And not long before his death, Sam was spitting fire at
the news heard on the grapevine that Albacore's publishers intended
to preempt the field by publishing at the end of 2002.
    I described myself to Dwight as
Sam's literary executor, which wasn't precisely true. What in fact
occurred, as you probably heard, was that Linda Lupin, MEP, Sam's
half-sister and sole heir, decided out of the generosity of her
spirit to place the reins of Sam's researches into my hands. It
probably won't surprise you to learn that the publisher with whom
Sam's biography was contracted wasn't best pleased.
    I can see his point of view. Who
am I, after all? In literary terms, nobody, though my 'colourful'
background was something their sales department felt they might have
been able to use if the field had remained clear. But with Albacore's
book already being hyped around as the 'definitive' biography, their
judgment now was that setting me up to carry on where Sam had left
off was throwing good money after bad.
    So, sorry, mate, but no deal for
the big book that Sam was aiming at.
    They did however make an
alternative proposal.
    Because Beddoes' life is so
thinly documented, Sam had been interlarding his script with what he
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