hello! the latest newspost is now live: http://www.followersofzeb.net/news/september-19
there’s lots of things for us to discuss, alongside the new remastered kassim album release im sure were all really excited for!! this fanbase has kept me going this past year and im so grateful to all of you for your contributions on the forums. theres a lot of big things in the works for the months ahead, so keep your eyes peeled! and for those of you part of the zapper club, our discord call has been postponed until next weekend
-randall anderson iii
Antonia’s face was illuminated by the dim light of an empty document. A cursor blinked on a blank screen. A few days had passed since her last attempts, and she’d made little progress. She’d saved this one as “wip poem” but no poem looked back at her. Only the blinking of the cursor and the blankness of a screen. She debated how to start. There were embers of something, but she wasn’t sure. At night, she often lay awake wondering how much collective time is spent on ideas that won’t come. She was 43.
A phone rang. She resented that she spent much of her time doing what should have been other people’s jobs. Antonia put away her work and plodded through the vaulted rooms until she reached the front hallway, where she identified the howling device that beckoned her. All throughout the family home lay telephones and perennially charging tablets. Primed and ready at all hours, they lay waiting to receive the inevitable: the spasmodic jingles of a phone call, a video message or an invitation to a virtual boardroom meeting. They were portals to a numbing world of administration, arrayed in separate rooms like clusters of wailing infants. The simple act of recognizing which device was bawling was half the difficulty in the sprawling spaces of the manor house. Antonia entered the kitchen and answered the phone. She was tired.
“No, no…yes. Yes, that’s right. No, I haven’t yet had a look at Lung Rat’s new album. I might know their last one if they’ve ever been on the radio, I don’t really know. Wait, I don’t think so. God, okay. Who are Lung Rat?”
This call inevitably introduced another copyright case to the burgeoning load that had bled into her life. It had come through a large record label; the one that her brother’s most popular album had been released on. This meant she had to speak to a Mr. Maurice Declan from London. This was particularly troublesome, as she recalled that Mr. Declan had breath that smelled like dog sick. On hearing his voice down the phone, she recalled the stench as if he were breathing into her face.
“I don’t like to bother you as I know you’ve got your hands full with your submissions, but the thing is ‘Tonia, this isn’t a case of fair use, it’s plagiarism. There is no attempt to change or parody your brother’s work, Lung Rat are just trying to rip off his image. The cover art, well, the whole original album is part of preserving something special, you know what I mean?’
The men on the other end of the phone tended to finish their requests on some pithy remark relating to “legacy.” She understood it as a plea to get her to nod her head and agree: The family must be complicit in the myth-making process. This is how her brother’s old record labels still sold new pressings. Mythical musicians sell records, especially when they kill themselves.
“I’ll look into it and get back to you, Mr. Declan. I could ask my father what he thinks.”
“Oh, please. Call me Maurice.”
He let out a chuckle. She imagined how his tongue smelled. Christ. She composed herself. “Okay, thanks.” She paused. “Maurice, when are they sending the lawyer?” There was heavy breathing on the other end of the phone. Seconds passed.
“It’s not exactly our department, but I’m fairly sure Carol at reception said that the lawyer is in town – your town – and that he’ll be down with you sometime this week.’
Antonia knew this, but she wanted to be sure.
“That’s great. Thank you, Mr. Declan.”
She heard Maurice gulp a breath and lower his voice; an attempt to speak softly.
“Antonia, I heard about what’s been happening. If you don’t mind me saying, I’d like to offer some advice: Don’t let the eccentric characters get to you. It’s awful that you must read those letters, and I’m sure it’s scary when they seem to not understand your need for privacy. But it’s all bluster. They are simply lonely and troubled fans of your brother’s music. When they try to make a connection or send their little letters to you and your father, they’re just reaching out in an affectionate way.”
“He mailed me his toenails, Maurice.”
“Yes, well, as we’re aware this one fan is a tad more extreme than the rest.”
“He’s the only ‘fan’ I’m concerned about.”
“Like I said, our legal man will help sort it out this week when he visits, alongside with this Lung Rat copyright business. Let me first say that—”
She hung up the call before he could speak further, and before another imagined whiff of his English tongue-rot came to her. This was Saturday. There was no doubt that there would be another dozen or so interruptions before the day was out, and with each she would have to recall which suited-and-booted man was on the other end of the connection. Have I met him before? What did this one look like? Which record label or book publisher did they work for? Is this one an asshole?
Such was the result of the man twenty years long dead. Hundreds of careers in the entertainment industry had been built on the promotion and dissemination of his work, and so her life continued to hinge on the fulcrum figure that was “Russell Kassim Callaghan III.” Even now, his huge and grotesquely handsome face stared down from the kitchen wall: lightly bearded with a half-shaven head up to the crown, with the other side trailing dark locks tinted purple at the very ends that rested on his shoulders. The large poster was a headshot taken in ’87, the film grain cratering the detail of his face where the ink had begun to fade from years of direct sunlight. Captured in a picture frame, he was there, watching over the happenings of the California estate he purchased decades prior. Only Antonia and her dad remained. The musical world had moved on, the orbiting contacts leaving in the years following Russell Kassim’s death. Being his sister no longer meant boozing backstage at sold-out concerts. It meant opening letters containing the toenails of middle-aged superfans named Randall Anderson. It meant dealing with copyright cases involving imitation college bands called Lung Rat.
She took a deep breath and set the phone back on the marble countertop before trudging to the low-backed stools at the breakfast bar, seating herself with a slump. There was a large window above the sink. Beyond it was the familiar fog-logged landscapes of the pacific northwest; the Britain of her childhood long forgotten. Through the glass lay an expanse of flaxen grassland, lined with rising hills, and pockmarked on occasion with deciduous trees. She looked and felt nothing. A meandering river cut across the family estate, throwing up clouds of spray and mist along the horizon. Antonia and the family used to go skinny-dipping in the river when they first crossed the Atlantic with Russell, decades ago.
In the next room, a lathe rumbled quietly as pressure was applied to timber stock. A chisel pressed into the curvature, sending out streams of wooden debris like glorified pencil shavings. The pressure relented, and the pattern was complete. It was a small wooden pot lined with decorative indentations. Later, he would make the lid, and line it with felt. He placed the pot on the worktop and wiped his brow with a musty cloth. His old, gnarled hands looked like fisherman’s knots. He spoke quietly to himself: British tones. Well done. Good lad. You won’t need help soon. Giving me a run for my money. He smiled, exhaling. He turned and stepped uncertainly on an angled offcut and was sent stumbling to the floor with a clatter. Antonia called out to him.
The crashing and tumbling ceased. Silence filled the following seconds, and there was no response. Antonia got to her feet, rushing into the hallway. She proceeded into the garage annex, the floor changing from carpet to concrete smattered with epoxy resin. The smell of freshly cut wood hung in the air. She looked down and saw her father lying in the sawdust. It was stuck to his lips, which he smacked and blew. He saw his daughter’s disapproving gaze above him.
“Yes, I know. But I’m alright. Just stepped on a chipping. I’ll be fine.”
She pressed forward but had deduced he was fine. Her concern for the old man had become essential for he enjoyed batting away her pleas. He was someone who preferred being old.
“Jesus. Keep the floor clear, dad. Haven’t I warned you about picking up what you drop?”
“I didn’t drop it. It fell there after I cut it off.”
“Then you should have picked it up.”
He sneered at her. The same face he’d teased her with since nursery. She smiled. “Dad, there is sawdust in your nostril.”
He blew out and hunched forward to a kneel. Antonia moved toward him, but he waved her away. He gradually rose to his feet and ambled toward the worktop on his creaking legs.
“Look at this pot.” He said. “Look at it.”
She looked at it.
“I just finished it. We could put it in the kitchen or living room or something or other. I thought we could use it for keeping loose change in.”
She smiled. They didn’t have loose change and hadn’t for decades. The family funds were in online bank accounts with seven digit totals; Russell’s estate only grew after his passing. Dad knew this of course. He wouldn’t immediately seek her approval; he simply offered a crafted item with some practical purpose in mind. This bowl is great for plonking car keys in. You can keep teabags in this pot. Antonia understood that he’d never ask for her opinion, no matter how much it meant.
“I love it, dad. The patterns are lovely, I like the waves in the detail. What wood is this?”
“Boxelder cherry. Don’t like working with it, it fights you in a strange sort of way. Not used to it, really. It’s nice-looking though.”
“It’s beautiful. The colors are really – wow – yeah. It’s great, dad.”
He fiddled with a button on his shirt and mumbled. Like a small boy.
“You like it then, love?”
“It’s gorgeous. Thanks. I’ll put it in the kitchen by the Keurig. It’ll look nice there.” He beamed with his crooked teeth and clasped his hands.
“Fancy a cup of tea?”
“I’m good thanks, dad.”
She didn’t understand his tea. Her dad was an anomaly in their sparse slice of California. She ordered British teabags for him online. She didn’t tell him this because she knew he wouldn’t like her going through the hassle of it.
She turned to leave before remembering something.
“Dad, what fell over?”
“Me. We’ve been over this.”
“No, I mean – there was a crash, like something fell.”
Antonia’s mouth opened as her father furrowed his gray brows. They turned, together, to look at a raised shelf above the worktop. There, nestled in place between a few dusty ornaments and photographs, sat Russell Kassim Callaghan III. He was made of zebra maple wood engraved with ornate decorations. A layer of decorative coal dust had been bound to the surface by a veneer of varnishing sealant. He was a small wooden jar. Inside were ashes of the man.
“Look, it was a chisel. I’ll boil some water.”
He quickly placed the fallen tool back on the worktop and jerkily walked out of the annex. They didn’t discuss what they’d both just looked at, or what they had feared the noise might have been.
Antonia stayed for a moment, breathing in the space. Her father had worked with wood his whole life. First, Yorkshire. Later, once the family followed Russell’s success to the States, a carpentry shop on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, though he never really got on there. In his retirement, it was here. He crafted for her, but it was really for his own good. Filling up his latter days. It was important for him to work in this room, which she thought outlandish. Antonia looked to the raised shelf again where her cremated brother sat, and slowly, her eyes wandered up to a high beam suspended across the space. It hung below the ceiling looking down on her ominously, as it had twenty years ago.
Few people came this far out anymore. The nearest town was a lapsing farm community that held on via a half-dozen motels and cheap rentals; the sort of place that tourists would book into for a weekend. The rows of fields provided kitsch photo backdrops during the summer months, but that was the extent of the area’s usefulness for the rare passers-by not interested in remote Californian agricultural history. The landscape here had been too rugged, too distant for mass-automation. The rest of the year, the town was occupied by the same rural families that had lingered there from the turn of the last century into the one that had forgotten them.
That town was now far behind the black sedan as it neared its destination. The outlying hills were adorned by the occasional homestead conversion, expensive faux manors that were no more than glorified brick farmhouses, but they too petered out as the car rode up the steepening incline. Once over the rise, a wide stretch of dry plain spread out on each side of the dirt track. In the distance was the manor house: a mixture of white wooden slats and cubist tumors. A tower of gray concrete shot out of the roof’s center, reaching skyward until it stopped flatly below the clouds. On its southern face were square windows spaced evenly down to where the tower met the original building. The looming extension looked as though it went down through the old manor, and the foundations beneath it, into the crust of the earth.
From the kitchen window, Antonia noticed the dust rising on the road and spotted the sedan as it approached. She went to the hallway and pushed a button to allow its entry. In the distance, a mechanism groaned under the weight of wrought-iron gates. They swung open, and the car rolled into the grounds of the manor until it came to a stop before the front door.
“I’d heard that the tower was large, but I’d never imagined it to be so impressive. Amazing!”
Antonia resisted the urge to sigh. The man’s accent was a kind of whiney suburban Angeleno, and she thought him shorter, paler, and uglier than expected. He’d climbed out of the car clumsily and now stood fingering a loose thread at the hem of his suit jacket, dividing his attention between Antonia and the manor behind her.
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Griffin. How was the drive?”
She noticed his pudginess. His flabby neck was corralled in and squeezed by the stiff white collar of his button shirt.
“Good. Like a dream. I assume you’re Miss Antonia Callaghan?”
“Great. It’s not easy getting to you out here, but it’s worth it for the scenery. When was the tower added?”
Antonia hesitated, raising an eyebrow.
“The mid-eighties sometime. My brother wanted extra rehearsal spaces. It’s a bit of a sore thumb, but you grow to live with it.”
“Well, in my opinion, Antonia, I think it’s fantastic. It’s brutal, uncompromising. The albums recorded there were legendary. Your brother was such an original man.”
She was mortified. The scavenger careerists that surrounded the “legacy” were bad enough, but they were at their worst when they believed what they peddled.
“Thank you, Mr. Griffin. Thank God that that part of the house isn’t tainted. Let’s go inside now if you please.”
He was quiet now. The lawyer returned her gaze bearing a nervous smile, and she gulped down the following silence heartily: you’re not a tourist, you’re here to work for me. In truth, she remembered Russell as her reckless and lovable older brother who liked to play guitar, dress extravagantly, and sing about fashionable social issues. One way or another, that’s all he ever did from his teenage years in London until his middle-aged heroin twilight in California. Somehow it made millions.
Mr. Griffin found his way to the business at hand after a few prompts. He and Antonia sat in the dining hall and arranged themselves at a corner of the long table, where she spread out a handful of documents and began.
“The first order of business we need to deal with is Lung Rat,” she said.
“Lung Rat. Supposedly, they are a college punk band up in Washington state. I’ve been told that they are ripping off Russ’s Troublemaker.”
“Yes. Great. I’ve been told they are imitating it. Something to do with using unabridged or unedited songs. No covers and likely no fair use. Worse still, they have brazenly used B-roll shots from the Troublemaker cover photoshoot without noticeable alterations. We might want to contact the photographer Russell used back then.”
“Gerald Menken was Russell’s photographer in ‘83. They shot the album cover at the old Thames Ironworks in Leamouth because Menken lived nearby and Kassim liked the location.”
“Won’t do much good anyway. Menken is in his late seventies now and has dementia. He lives in Oswestry,” he said. “That’s a place in England.”
“Oh.” Antonia replied.
There was a lull.
“Your people pay me for my knowledge and expertise, Miss Callaghan.”
Griffin wiped the sweat from his pudgy face with a handkerchief he took from his breast pocket. Antonia realized she’d never seen a man actually use a pocket square before.
“No of course. What should I tell the label? I got the call from London only a few days ago.”
“You can leave it with me. If they are just a college band like you say, then they’ll bow out after a few pressing phone calls. Do you mind if I take these?”
Griffin motioned to the documents and began piling them into his briefcase. “Wait please. There’s another issue. Something else I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
Her voice faltered. Griffin put his hands together and formed a triangle with the tips of his bloated fingers.
“There’s a stalker issue. We have a stalker issue.”
She paused to let the thought permeate.
“There’s a man – a Mr. Anderson. He used to write my brother letters in the nineties and Russell was naïve enough to write back. Now he writes to me. Well, not just writes. Up until a year ago he used to try calling us on the phones. I have no idea how he got our numbers. I eventually blocked him, but there’s no way to stop the mail; he just makes up other names.”
“What do you do with the letters?”
“Well, I just…put them in the trash. I kept them for a while, but they filled a whole drawer.”
Mr. Griffin sat still staring vacantly at Antonia, seemingly without clear understanding. In that moment of frustration, she wanted to castrate him.
“Mr. Griffin, this is important: you see, he sent me his fucking toenails. Pardon me for saying this, but he clearly isn’t right. Russ always took pity, but this Randall Anderson is the worst, and he has gotten worse. The guy writes poems to me, poems, Mr. Griffin.”
“Where are the toenails now?”
“The toenails. Did you keep them? Are they here?”
“What? Of course not. They’re fucking disgusting. They’re evil. I wrapped them in the letter he wrote and flushed them.”
Griffin brooded on that thought for a moment. He bowed his head and fiddled with his handkerchief until he noticed Antonia’s consternation.
“Well, Miss Callaghan, I don’t know what to say. They would have been the only legal basis you would have to go on, and I can’t see how we could file an injunction from here. Even if we found him in the phonebook, if you no longer retain anything that you’ve been sent, and have no valid return address for this Anderson, then there’s not a great deal we can do.”
Once more, she found herself the bystander in the narrative of her brother’s life. Antonia placed her open palms flatly on the table.
“Excuse me, but you don’t understand. Mr. Randall Anderson runs a fansite called Followers of Zeb. He and other users dedicate their life to it. He sends letters to this address. This home. He knows we’re out here. He writes that he lives in a rooming house with his mom somewhere in-state. He writes elegies for my brother, as if he knew him, just because he likes his music. It’s laughable. I barely knew Russell before the end and he barely knew any of us. The last letter said that he wants to meet “Kassim” in heaven. The only Russell Kassim I know lives in a fucking wooden jar.”
Her father had appeared from the hallway. He had a smile on his face, and she felt a pang of embarrassment for her outburst. The lawyer shot to his feet and extended a clammy hand.
“I’m Mr. Griffin, part of the legal team. Pleasure to meet you Mr. Callaghan.”
“Pleasure’s mine.” Dad tended to exaggerate his Yorkshire accent when talking to Americans. He knew the charm never seemed to wear off. “So, you’re the poor bastard they sent up from the city?”
Griffin was already chuckling along with the old man.
“Yes sir. Antonia and I were just discussing some of the recent issues the estate has been facing.”
“It’s all just odds and ends these days, don’t worry yourself. Would you like something to drink?” Dad had spied the lack of cups on the table and shot a disapproving glance at his daughter.
“Uh, sure. Thank you.”
He padded out into the kitchen, leaving Antonia and her guest alone once more. They stared at each across the surface of the table.
“Like I said, Miss Callaghan. There’s not much that can be done about it.”
Antonia kept looking at the collar and tie enfolded under his neck. He smiled dimly at her like a sad fat boy in Sunday best.
“Your father seems nice.”
She attempted to speak but was interrupted by her father shouting if they wanted tea or water. Mr. Griffin wanted tea.
“I’ve never tried British tea. What an experience,” he said.
…Kassim’s first album had been released in the seventies when he was only nineteen and the family was still living in England. It was a record of imitation rock tunes in the mold of the early Stones. He was then signed by a part-time talent spotter and full-time desperate alcoholic following a particularly riotous gig in an amateur London venue. A few pressings of the record were exchanged on British university campuses amongst the flare-panted and stoned aficionados of underground music, but Russell Kassim Callaghan’s 1979 debut album Zapper! made no more than a ripple in the British music industry. However, his second album, with funk-laden riffs and a now-iconic album cover, is when industry foundations were rocked to their core following a handful of scathing reviews in conservative newspapers. One stated that “Callaghan’s tracks are filled with hate and bile, and his deviant lyrics are sure to warp any child of good manners. Avoid this rubbish at all costs.” Accordingly, every teenager from Land’s End to John o’ Groats went out and bought it, or at least, they knew someone who already had. Thus, the career began, and the stand-out tracks of Kassim’s 1983 album Troublemaker are included on every compilation album of eighties’ hits.
The new definitive biography of the great Russell “Kassim” Callaghan, coming to all booksellers near you. She put it to the side. A non-event, she thought. She’d been given the manuscript to “proofread,” though she knew her consent was perfunctory. Every five years or so a new definitive holy text emerged, usually in line with an album’s anniversary or a remastered release, and always just in time for the holiday season. This forthcoming hardback claimed to be an exposé of Kassim’s lost ‘Afrobeat’ phase, coinciding with a new 34-minute release of unearthed and remastered rehearsal tapes for a concept album that never came to fruition.
Antonia remembered this happening. It was a fat lie. No such album was planned. Her brother and a few gregarious session musicians had recorded some material after having a weekend binge listening to Fela Kuti records. They were all beginning a comedown, or more likely still using, at the time of the recording. What was now being touted as a recovered holy grail she instead remembered as a loud racket that kept her up for a whole weekend in 1994 when she was studying for her college entrance exams. Yet here it is. A supposedly new story in the endless rediscoveries. A fresh part of the winding “Kassim” narrative that cannot be allowed to end. The man is dead, the musician lives.
She didn’t hold anything against the biographer. It was easy money. She’d met him once in New York. A nice man, but his career as a fiction writer nosedived some time ago. He had encountered Russell at a few parties, which was supposedly enough to write his entire biography. There was no doubt in Antonia’s mind that the book would sell, and that a pretty chunk would be made for everyone involved, including her. Her brother’s name and face had become annual Christmas stocking filler for middle-aged dads who once had their trembling first times to a Kassim song. Pumping away in the backseat of an ’85 Suzuki Cultus in the high-school parking lot. Probably high or piss drunk. She had accepted this. That’s the shared cultural memory that most people have of her brother and his music. The fate of icons.
“Everything just seemed to work.” She heard. “He placed his fingers on the neck and he could play.”
“That’s incredible.” Tidbits came through the open doorway. The meeting had wavered, and her dad had led Griffin away with cups of tea.
“—and it took only a few days and then he was suddenly writing full songs that were—” “—it’s just insanely good. That last album sent shivers up my back, I couldn’t believe—” “Me? Oh, I’ve been woodworking for years, first as a lad—”
“Yes, I’m from Los Angeles—”
Antonia got up and closed the door. The conversation became a pair of muffled voices. In her mind’s eye she could see dad in the next room. His eyes lit up; his charming tombstone teeth set in a smile, nattering in northern English shades. Talking to someone interested, someone who was a fan of his son’s records. He was lost in memories of the family. When his wife was still around and Antonia was a toddler, when Russell was a teenager learning to play guitar. What his son’s laugh sounded like. How Russ came out, eventually. His regrets from those days. The din of an unwatched TV set playing George and Mildred in the flower patterned lounge after dinner. How he used to help in the workshop, well done, there you go, good lad. The scent of sawdust. Maybe you can make me something someday, from scratch.
The emotional crash would come once they were alone again, and Antonia would be the one to pick up the pieces. Once the guests have all left and had their fair share of the family stories. She would see the memory dad returned to in his moments of surrender, an image of pale white skin and swinging legs. Holding him in her arms whimpering, her own father would cry into her neck, weak, wrecked, calling Russell’s name, his knotted hands shaking as he held his daughter through his years of long suffering that only a parent can know.
That’s for later. She had a few hours to herself for now and she would relish it. Antonia was in the sitting room and had decided to perform her latest attempt. A few of her works had been published in smaller periodicals, but she dreaded they had only accepted her once they realized who she was. The goal was to write enough to put out a collection under a penname, though she doubted the chances of getting her work in print this way. Either way, once dad passed, she could sell everything off and move somewhere else. The blinking and the blankness. She sat on the vintage couch that Russell had bought. It was worth twelve thousand dollars.
A device rang somewhere in the building. She groaned. The blank document seemed to be goading her as she put down the laptop. She got to her feet and went into the paneled hallway where the guffawing from the other room hit her, a wall of sound.
“Smashed the amp—”
“Plenty of girls I bet he—”
“I’m so grateful, I –”
Revulsed, she craned her head away, walking faster. The ringing led her to the main hall where she realized it was from a device upstairs. She trudged two, three, four flights, until she was taken into the studio tower block. The gray room was left mostly as it had been when he died. It was not an effort of preservation; they simply had no reason to go there. Russell had been the only musician in the family. Inevitably, the notable items such as the iconic instruments and outfits had been whisked away to exhibits by the studios while the body was practically still warm. But here in front of her were a few dusty rehearsal guitars, a beaten drum kit, and a novelty item: a triple-sized sitar. It cost thousands and was never more than a one-time gag for when Russ would bring new people into the studio. In his mind, it had been worth it.
For Antonia, this room was where there were a few spare power outlets. She had realized that she was the only person in the last twenty years that regularly accessed the studio where the great Kassim’s albums had been recorded, and it was because she needed it to charge a Samsung Galaxy 7. She picked up the call. Instinctively, she wretched.
“Hiya ‘Tonia, just calling to ask how you are getting on with that Lung Rat business.”
“Gerald Menken. He lives in a place called Oswestry. He has dementia.”
“Well, yes, the photographer, we know that. But how do you feel about the situation? Still mulling it over? If we prosecute it’s probably open and shut, you know.”
“I don’t really give a shit, Maurice.” She could imagine her blank laptop waiting in the downstairs lounge.
“Well. There we are then.” He exclaimed, attempting humor. “I think we’ll likely just push on with it in that case. I’ll tell Carol at reception to pass it on to the lawyer’s office. Oh yes, that’s another thing, it’s come down the pipeline that he’s got a lot on.”
Antonia raised an eyebrow.
“We’ve already spoken. He stopped by early this afternoon.”
“Really? Carol at reception mentioned that he’s all tied up. Some business down in San Diego or something or other.”
“Well tell Carol at reception that she’s wrong.”
Maurice was awkward. He chortled like he was deflating; Antonia could smell it.
“I’d say he had to travel pretty bloody quickly to get from San Diego up there to you, love. I assure you Carol at reception runs a tight ship.”
Love. The English fucker.
“Firstly, Maurice, you’re half the globe away in London. You can’t tell me what is or isn’t happening here. Second, Carol at reception is a dope. Mr. Griffin is still here. I could go downstairs and pass you on to the prick if you don’t believe me.”
“Who is Mr. Griffin?”
“We’ve hired Ken Morton from Morton and Cargill. You remember Ken, don’t you? Ken Morton? Ken with the Stetson? He was at the wine and cheese luncheon in Pasadena last autumn.”
“Then where is Ken?”
“Like Carol at reception said, he’s tied up in San Diego until next Wednesday.”
“Then who the fuck is Mr. Griffin?”
She finished asking the question and stared into the middle distance.
“Look, ‘Tonia, we’ve obviously got our wires crossed.”
Antonia’s father had a gaping wound above his left eyebrow. He’d cried during the struggle. He was on the floor now. Sawdust was gathering into the inch-wide sticky laceration. Mr. Anderson loosened his tie and shirt-collar with one hand, making sure he kept hold of the zebra-wood box with the other. His bloated fingers wrapped around it, leaving smudges on the surface. The bottom corner had chipped off. It was coated in blood after being used as a blunt instrument. Randall was careful not to let the hasp unlock itself so as not to spill any of the contents. He undid his shirt, button by button, presenting the faded T-shirt underneath that he had sweated right through. “The Followers of Zeb” it read. Reaching over the prostrate old man on the epoxy floor, he grabbed the ceramic mug he’d been given half an hour before to drain the last of its contents. He’d never tried British tea.
The sister was coming down the stairs at speed. She was going to catch him. He fumbled with the container and looked for another exit, but she was already in the doorway, looking at him, seeing him.
“Hi, Miss Callaghan. I’m really sorry. He wouldn’t give it to me.”
She looked at him with fear, but he could tell that she didn’t know what to say.
“I’m sorry I had to make up a bunch of stuff. There’s a special connection between all of us here, I can feel it. I’ve been meaning to ask, does that make your dad Russell Kassim Callaghan II?”
Antonia looked down at the floor. She spoke slowly.
“No. No one ever called him that. Dad’s name was Eugene. The ‘third’ part was an invention.”
Randall bowed his head and fiddled with the wooden box of ashes until he noticed Antonia crying.
“What a shame.” He said.
Maurice flicked through the document. It had been urgently sent to his office from the New York publishers and his manager had been on his back to approve it. They’d only been able to begin writing when the legal proceedings finished in April; it had been a real triumph of effort to finish the damn thing by the October deadline. He didn’t really have the energy to read. It was a cold winter in London, and it was five minutes to five. He looked up over his monitor; Carol was reaching down to put away some boxes and he began to ogle her behind. She stood up straight, and he looked back to the monitor before she caught his trout eyes looking. Gordon Benford, an ex-writer from New York, had sent over his draft of the blurb:
“The wind whipped through the dry plains. On the horizon was the manor house. When Randall Anderson approached, he came there with an insidious goal: To steal the ashes of the man his cult had worshipped.”
This book tells the full account of what conspired in the lead up to the fateful day that captivated news audiences in the summer of 2019, including new and exclusive interviews with Simon Dunnard, the go-to drummer for the late-great musical prodigy, and Valerie Isaacs, Kassim’s trusted agent up until his untimely death. Through their first-hand accounts we can trace what Dunnard calls “a line of dominoes set to fall” from the release of cult classic The Tale of Zeb (1991), until the remastered release of the previously unheard Kassim: Africa (2019). Also interviewed is Craig Brenmer, ex-member of Anderson’s now-shuttered cult fan-site The Followers of Zeb, who describes how fandom can become fatal. This book represents the most detailed account of the horror that captivated the headlines of the musical world almost twenty years to the day after the tragic suicide of the legendary Kassim.
£14.99 / $20.00
In all good booksellers near you.
Yeah, that’s alright, Maurice thought. Probably be a good read, actually. A shame what happened out there. He forwarded his approval to his manager. The confirmation of the London office was the final tickbox before it went to the printers. It’ll be out in time for the winter holidays.
— Christopher J. Hodges is a Welsh writer from Rhondda Cynon Taff and a recent graduate of Cambridge University. His present writing interests are in the everyday transatlanticism of western politics and the pliability of regional identities in the era of mass culture. In years to come, he is likely to be found agonizing about something.