Writing about The Raw Shark Texts the other day, I was reminded of a little experiment I tried some time ago which involved the same book. I originally bought the book because the blurb had piqued my interest:
FIRST THINGS FIRST, STAY CALM.
If you are reading this, I’m not around anymore. Take the phone and speed dial 1. Tell the woman who answers that you are Eric Sanderson. The woman is Dr Randle. She’ll understand what has happened and you will be able to see her straight away. Take the car keys and drive the yellow jeep to Dr Randle’s house. If you haven’t found it yet, there’s a map in the envelope – it isn’t too far and it’s not hard to find.
Dr Randle will be able to answer all your questions. It’s very important that you go straight away. Do not pass go. Do not explore. Do not collect two hundred pounds.
The house keys are hanging from a nail on the banister at the bottom of the stairs, don’t forget them.
With regret and also hope,
The First Eric Sanderson
I read the book pretty quickly, and loved it. I thought my brother James and my friend Dave would love it too. So I did what any sane person would do under the circumstances – I created a new Gmail address for The First Eric Sanderson, and sent them both emails, making sure I copied in both their personal and work email addresses. Neither of them drove at the time, and they lived in Barcelona at the time, so I had to tweak the blurb somewhat:
First things first, stay calm.
If you are reading this, I’m not around anymore. Take the phone and call Fnac. Tell the person who answers that you are looking for a book called ‘The Raw Shark Texts’, by Steven Hall. They’ll understand what you need and will be able to help you straight away. Take the train into the centre. If you haven’t found it yet, there’s a link at the end of this e-mail.
Fnac will be able to answer all your questions. It’s very important that you go straight away. Do not pass go. Do not explore. Do not collect two hundred pounds.
The train ticket is in your wallet, don’t forget it.
With regret and also hope,
The First [Their Name]
And then… I left them to it. I called Dave for a chat a week later. About 15 minutes into the call I said “So anything interesting happening? Have you received any weird emails?”. There was a long pause on the other end, and then: “You! It was you, you bastard!”. As it turned out the email had been quite effective – he hadn’t written it off as spam, and he’d been thinking about it. My brother, it turned out, had even gone to Fnac and asked about the book, though unfortunately they hadn’t received it yet (I’d bought the book when it was first published in hardback in the UK, and I guess it hadn’t made it to Spain yet). He did later get hold of it, and read and loved it.
With most my reading done on a Kindle these days, I expect the next time I do something like this it will have to involve some sort of digital crumb trail.
Photo by Ari Moore via flickr.