I've just remembered (and rooted out an incomplete copy of) an e-mail exchange I had a few years back with an American writer called Timber Masterson. He'd developed a plan to create a fake literary agency, with a letterhead and plausible-sounding, vague-bell-ringing name, through which he would submit his book to publishers.

I enthused and suggested refinements and said:

Shacklestein, your personal agent, should be a real killer, a gorilla. Hire someone to play him if need be. He's not a gangster but he grew up on the same streets as them. If he ever gets to meet editors on your behalf he should come in chomping on a really big and sloppy sandwich and spill sauce everywhere and his handshake should be sticky with it. When they offer money he should repeat the amount incredulously and scream and break things and drop his pants and yell, 'Come on, then, if you want to fuck me in the ass so bad,' and generally carry on until they pay him more to go away.

A good way to sell your book, in fact, would be to have him ring up publishers unannounced and threaten to kill them if they try to sign you without his approval. In the middle of the night, he rings them at home and yells, 'I hear you had lunch with my client. Are you trying to screw me? Are you trying to fuck me in the ass?' 'I'm afraid I don't know what you...' 'Don't play dumb! Tim Masterson! M-A-S-T-E-R-S-O-N! You think I'm not watching him? You think I'm not going to protect my investment? My sources tell me he had lunch with some snooty college-boy fop, I figured it was either you or that faggot from Random House. Listen, you try to get the kid to sign anything without going through me I'll rip your stinking liver out with my bare hands, you understand?' 'I'm afraid I...' 'Don't give me that! I'll kill you! You think I wouldn't kill you? We ain't playing patsy for the first Ivy League boy with fancy vowels that comes along, there's going to be an auction, you hear me, an auction! And you'll plead and beg to be there, you little bitch, and if you try to get to him beforehand I'll feed you your spleen.' 'Sir, I have no idea what...' 'Damn it, how did it leak out? Who talked? No-one's even supposed to know about him yet... It was Saul Bellow's undertakers, wasn't it? Goddam Bellow, asking to be buried with the kid's manuscript in his coffin, sentimental asshole... You stay away from my client, hear me?'

He follows this up by sending them hideously mangled dolls in their likeness; follows them in his car and tries to run them over a couple of times. He sends an audio tape labelled 'Testament from another asshole who tried to screw me' which is just thirty minutes of a grown man crying. They get memos informing them of dates for the auction and then mysteriously cancelling - insane demands, it will cost them thousands up front just to attend - the manuscript is being kept in a bank vault in Geneva; a senior editor will be allowed to read alternate pages, but he'll have to be cavity-searched on the way out. Finally, though, he limps into their office one afternoon on crutches and swathed in bandages, a chastened and broken man - in a hoarse whisper through a damaged windpipe he explains he defaulted on a gambling debt to the wrong person and has to get away quick - consequently he'll sell you to them for a measly 100,000 in cash.

Timber then told me about a real agent he'd had who was a 95-year-old woman. I expressed my envy of this and decided:

Shacklestein should have a partner who's a 95-year-old-woman. A very elegant patrician one. She was at school with Elizabeth Bishop and dated Robert Frost. Knew everyone who was anyone but was older than them all and has a fund of embarrassing baby anecdotes about eminent literati. E.g. she remembers bouncing the infant George Plimpton on her knee and his adorable little winkle became aroused.

Even better, she should remember that sort of thing about potential publishers, really put them at a disadvantage. Just walk right in and pinch them on the cheek and go 'Ooh, it's little Pudgy-Pants all grown up! You don't remember me, do you? But I remember you! Do you still piddle in paddling pools? Do you still like to slide down bannisters with your pants down? Ooh, he used to like that! Ooh, I can still see his adorable little winkle! Ooh, let me see it! Show me your little winkle like you used to... Oh, he's gone all shy now...'

I still think this is a good plan for an aspiring writer.