* A joke I am ashamed to say I didn't get till last week, when I Googled "Norman Conquest" to find a picture of the book jacket and got this instead.
October 22, 2001. "It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window." -- Farewell, My Lovely
Your lips: fire-engine red. Your heels: black leather, impossibly high. Your pistol: a Colt .45. Your name: Miss Dynamite. Impeccably coiffed, you leave your day job at a children's book company to roam the streets of Manhattan in search of a stiff drink and a stiffer man. But as you sip your highball at the club, in walks Norman Conquest, the most dangerous gumshoe this side of the Hudson. The last time you two tangled, you ended up with a bare ring finger and six months in the clink -- damn his eyes.
"Hiya babe," he says. "Riker's treat you well?"
You consider giving him the brush-off, but then you remember that Arthur doesn't need that flap copy till Thursday, so what the hell. "You know," you say, "I bet some girls fall for your nice-guy act, but not me -- I just take the fall."
"Listen, gorgeous," he says, lighting a cigarette, "Nobody asked you to put two holes in Billy's tux -- while he was wearing it."
"I rather thought it improved his looks," you say. "Billy was never known for his sense, fashion or otherwise."
Arnie starts the band playing your song, and you grind out your cigarette on the bar and finish the highball in one go. "Come on, kid," says Norman, and you two step out onto the parquet, the lights reminding you that the last time you let yourself get dazzled, your intern took a one-way trip over the Brooklyn Bridge.
"So tell me," breathes Norman in your ear, "what's the word on the street about the manuscript for Book 5?"
But he shuts up real quick when he feels the cold steel of a barrel against his back. You just can't trust some guys. They make like they're angels -- till you see St. Peter’s boot-print on their backs.
"Bye, Normie," you whisper on your way out. What a city. You go out looking for stiff drinks and stiffer men -- and find yourself surrounded by plain, dead stiffs.