Then in the early 1980s another problem cropped up: Martin Scorsese released his movie The King of Comedy, which had a similar premise, the kidnapping of a famous television comedian. Don decided he’d just shelve the book permanently rather than run the risk that people might think he’d taken the premise from the movie. It’s a shame, since other than the premise the book and movie really have nothing in common – but of course it’s our good luck, since if he hadn’t set the book aside 30 years ago we wouldn’t get to give it its first publication now.
Were you guys already in the process of publishing it before he died or did this happen after he died?
No – we did work closely with Don on several of his other books, but this is one we only found out existed after he died.
How would you summarize the plot?
A group of angry political radicals left over from the 1960s kidnap a Bob Hope-like comedian and threaten to kill him unless the government releases ten of their imprisoned cohorts. The government sends in a disgraced FBI agent to rescue him. Meanwhile, the comedian’s trying desperately to rescue himself, and the kidnapers are falling apart as things begin to go awry. It’s a tense, suspenseful story with great characters and great writing – such a pleasure to get to hear Don’s voice one more time.
And now an excerpt from this book, the last few paragraphs of Chapter 1. The book starts by introducing us to TV personality Koo Davis as he warms up the crowd before a show. Then he goes off stage to get ready to do the show.
Koo has three minutes to drink a little ice water, get the makeup adjusted, have a quick last look at the script, play a little grabass with Jill, and then come out stage center into a group of eight tall lean dancing girls and his opening line of the show: "I can remember when legs like that were illegal." Now, he moves briskly along a cable-strewn alley created by the false walls of stacked sets, toward the door to a corridor leading to his dressing room, and as he reaches that first door somebody on his left says, "Mr. Davis?"