Wednesday, December 27, 2006


(Just as an update--I'll be posting here and MySpace for awhile until I've got WordPress up and running.)

Peter Lavery is one of my favorite people and one of the most humble. This the guy who has published China Mieville, Hal Duncan Jeffrey Ford, KJ Bishop, Justina Robson, and Liz Williams, along with a slew of others (too many, really, to list). He was the first editor at a major publisher to buy my books. He's also a wonderful guy.

This holiday season, I thought I'd share with you the secret life of Peter Lavery, Pac Macmillan editor (appearing in my secret lives book).

If you know Peter and are so inclined, you could do worse than share your own (true or false) anecdotes about Peter.



Peter Lavery works for Pan Macmillan on the third floor of the Pan Macmillan building in London. A tallish man who has been known to appreciate a good red wine, Peter spends his days stamping out the incessant "rabbiting" of his authors, whilst simultaneously coordinating this and acquiring that. Dealing with writers is his joy and his burden. They are always e-mailing him about something—"rabbiting on" even when not writing books—and yet he loves them all.

Still, sometimes, as much as he enjoys his job and working with the nefarious Stefanie Bierwerth and the devious Rebecca Saunders, Peter needs a break. Whenever he feels the restlessness coming on, whenever the pressures of the job begin to rise like a tide against cliffs, he walks down the stairs to the basement. The basement is filled with rats, cockroaches, and Pan Macmillan employees. After a few minutes of nonchalant conversation to allay suspicions, he saunters over to the far wall. He is usually sweating a bit by now, for this is the moment of greatest peril. He looks around, this way and that. When everyone is busy typing away at a computer keyboard or looking at cover proofs, when no one is looking at him—

—in one quick, twirling motion, Peter presses the hidden button and hugs the wall as it swivels open, depositing him in the secret tunnel behind the wall . . . before sliding innocently back into place, no one the wiser.

Safe, Peter breathes in a mouthful of the salt air that wafts faintly toward him. To his left is a natural grotto holding several bottles of merlot, pinot noir, burgundy, and cabernet sauvignon. In front of him lies the tunnel, carved from the rock over many years by Peter himself, finally completed only a few years before. The floor of the tunnel has train track running out toward a smudge of light in the distance. A miniature train car idles on the track in front of him. Peter lets out a deep sigh of satisfaction. "Free for awhile," he mutters. "No more rabbiting for awhile."

Selecting a bottle of wine, Peter sits down on the plush cushion atop the seat, pulls a red lever—and off the car goes, down the tracks, accelerating to a pleasant thirty kilometers per hour.

The sea scent gets closer and closer. The train car rocks gently from side to side in a pleasing way. The breeze picks up, the murky circle of light ahead more distinct, until eventually it replaces the walls of the tunnel entirely . . . and Peter is released into the light.

The light comes from the pale blue sky above, seems to reflect off of the black sand beach and the mirrors of tidal pools, before sliding up across the arc of brambly cliffs that frame the scene. With a light bump, the train car comes to a stop at the end of the track. In front of Peter is a former Blackpool tram car, converted into a cottage get-away. It is bedecked in barnacles, the green paint fading and chipped.

This is Peter’s refuge, and inside all that seems eroded on the outside has been restored: a galley kitchen, all gleaming stainless steel and polished wood; a bunk bed; a living room with two comfortable chairs and a number of books and magazines; a refrigerator for the occasional beer; a phonograph and stereo system; and, most of all, blessed solitude.

Peter has never been exactly sure where this place is in relation to London; nor can he remember how the tram car came to be in this place. All he knows is that he has found it, and he is grateful.

He looks at his watch and reminds himself that he should return in a day or two. Time passes differently in this place; when he returns, it will be as if he never left.

Meanwhile, he will drink his wine and listen to his music and read his books and watch as, out in the water, strange phosphorescent creatures breach hard above the crystalline water, under twinned murky suns, all thoughts of author rabbiting driven from his mind.