It is almost axiomatic that many agents are life and literature’s bottom feeders, but in all my blogs about Abrams, I’ve not yet mentioned the role of my own American agent, Ginger Clark, at Curtis Brown in New York. It was she I handed the representation of a big novel to, on a plate, when I went back to New York, and I was already so systematically being pushed away from Abrams. Susan Van Metre assured me she will ‘fight damned hard for you’, and Ginger told me once she ‘would unleash the hounds of hell’, if she ever thought personal issues in a firm were affecting my work. She of course had the most limited psychology, and she too who so shockingly jumped ship, two days after she had told me how worried she was for my emotional state, and when I was paying her to represent me. It came after a back-room phone call between her and my so-called editor, Susan Van Metre, long before Howard Reeves was edged out. How bogus were the lines like ‘it’s been an honor (American spelling) working with you’, and how transparent was the loyalty that an agent will show, not to their client, but the real powers that be, publishers, when politics gets into the frame. But then Ginger is the archetype of knowing where your bread is buttered, and never did anything at all, but ask me what she should say to a publisher, and pass it on – ‘right?’.
In my battle to stop Abrams repudiating two contracts though, but also to find some honour among that lot, struggling to finish and get support for a novel, and to be allowed some say in my own life and work, I wrote to the CEO asking them to rewrite a contract, so that Curtis Brown would not take any royalties, if a book succeeded. Naturally, they passed the buck, and refused. Looking back, there is not one moment, except when I threatened to sue, that Abrams, or the people in a department that should now be a byword for cynicism, selfishness and political manoeuvering, acted with a shred of honour, or real human decency. It had not been true in the past, which is why it became so extraordinarily shocking, most especially out of a two-year personal relationship. Never mix work and pleasure, or never in New York City, but then I took full responsibility for that mix, and the person at the other end of the line did exactly the opposite. There are many cowards and rats in life, but you don’t expect them to actually sink the ship they sail on, though naturally only in good weather! DCD