I ATTENDED the American Book Fair in Atlanta recently. This is the main booksellers' event of the year, where publishers display their wares of the upcoming fall and spring season. As with the clothing industry, there are certain fashions in the book business that publishers tend to follow.
You can tell a lot about where the country is at just by reading the titles of the books that are on display at a publishers' convention.
There seemed to be an awful lot of titles on how to make money in the coming recession, how to grab power and keep it, as well as books on miracle diets, occult self-help medical tomes and, of course, countless novels on sex and Armageddon.
As I walked down the aisles, the thought occurred to me that if I could combine the themes of all the books the publishers had bet on, I might produce a best seller.
My working title is, "How I Made a Million Dollars in Pork Bellies With No Scruples By Going on the Grosse Pointe Diet After World War Iii."
The story would have the best of fiction and nonfiction plots, for mass appeal.
It would open in Gorky Park in Moscow, where a beautiful Beverly Hills widow, one of the richest women in the world, would be ice skating with a PLO terrorist whom she had fallen madly in love with when they met in her exclusive jean store on Rodeo Drive.
The widow's late husband, besides leaving her $500 million, also left her the secret of how to make a hydrogen bomb from a can of baby formula. Naturally the terrorist wants the formula, as do the Russians, the Americans, the Israelis, the South Africans and a group of ex-Nazis who live in Argentina.
The terrorist is shot in the park, and the grief-stricken, frightened woman goes to a health spa in Grosse Pointe, where she decides to lose 10 pounds in one week by going on a diet of hominy grits and honey and taking three Gatorade baths a day. The miracle diet makes her a new woman and now, rather than love, she wants power.
She finds out the secret of power in America. And that is: to overtip. Wherever she goes, she hands out $5 bills. In restaurants she adds 22 percent to the bill, thus attracting attention and respect that no one gave her before. Airport porters, bellboys and chambermaids pay attention to every word she utters.
At cocktail parties she tips the waiters every time they bring her a drink. When dining in private homes, she hands the hostess a $100 bill so she will get a good seat at the table. The widow has found the secret of power in America and how to keep it.
Now her thoughts turn to World War III and how to invest wisely after it is over. After reading about the neutron bomb, she decides that there will be a big boom in real estate. But she also doesn't turn her back on gold or diamonds, which history has shown maintain their value no matter how large the damage.
Once she is sure her money will be safe, she finds wrinkles under her eyes and, in searching for a cure to eliminate them, discovers soybean paste mixed with vitamin C and turkey giblets that will make her look young again.
Now she is ready to meet men once more. But first she develops a new aerobics exercise program that guarantees to take three inches off her waist.
Returning to Beverly Hills, she finds that her house is haunted by a dead movie star from silent pictures, and when she wakes up in the morning she finds a severed horse's head on the front of her bed.
It turns out it was put there by a demented child whose body has been taken over by the Devil. She calls the FBI and three PLO terrorists show up in a blimp. She is saved just in time by the head of the Israeli secret police, who happens to be in Los Angeles at the time promoting a book of recipes taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The last chapter tells how the widow learns to probate her own will and avoid paying Uncle Sam any taxes.
If a book that includes everything the publishers are pushing this year doesn't become a best seller, then I must be in the wrong business.