After winning every prize in publishing from Booker to Whitbread and predicted to out sell J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, My Pet Titanic is about to go into its twenty-ninth printing. More private and reclusive than J.D.Salinger, author Zapata Smith remains somewhere, not making an official statement since his literary agent quoted him as saying, "Far out".
The plot of My Pet Titanic deals with Captain Chico's attempt to out run an iceberg floating in the North Atlantic. While ignoring the warnings of his officers, later made to walk the plank, Captain Chico remains stubbornly on course and following the collision, abandons ship, getting away on a speed boat powered by killer sharks. Taking revenge on the iceberg, Captain Chico declares war on the polar cap, announcing plans to melt it. He is given another ship, and by the end of the book, embarks upon the quixotic attempt to melt the North Pole.
Publishers questioned the plot of this children's story before Gone Mad Publishing accepted the manuscript.
"Yeah? So what happened to Santa Claus?" asked a leery children's book editor at Simon and Schuster.
"Santa Claus was okay with the idea. Zapata has a subplot where Santa invites Captain Chico to address his elves at a town hall meeting."
"A town hall meeting?" questioned an editor from Random House. "Elves have town hall meetings?"
"We're in the North Pole. It's magic. We can have town hall meetings. Captain Chico explains the situation to the elves and they agreed with his plans. The elves call Captain Chico the voice of a man we can trust, like Santa Claus."
"Who in Sam's hell would give this snake oil salesman another ship?" demanded a Bloomsbury editor.
"Don't knock the plot," hammered Zapata Smith's literary agent. "He's not like Black Beard, Bligh or Caine. Our Captain Chico is self-deprecating and folksy. He blamed his fender bender on the bad old iceberg. Everyone's had a fender bender. He also makes grammatical mistakes and parents can use that as a learning tool. The publisher that picks up this story will sell hundreds of books around the world. Parents will empty the shelves. And don't forget book awards, they're waiting for us and Zapata is already working on his acceptance speech."
"Nah," said an editor from Viking Press. "It's an insult to redwood trees."
"In the sequel, Captain Chico is promoted and sails off toward the Antarctic. My Pet Titanic will make more money than Halliburton. You're going to see Captain Chico dolls; clothing, furniture, lunch pails, boats, video games. You name it , his face will be on it. A real cottage industry. You can out source the printing in India for a nickel a copy and sell it everywhere for twenty bucks. And there's a fortune waiting in the film rights."
Much to the dismay of those publishing houses that rejected the manuscript, these predictions came true by the twenty-ninth printing of My Pet Titanic.
"There is a degree of dignity in our failure to publish My Pet Titanic," lamented one editor.
"Yeah, but no bucks."