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Chicken, Dickens and Death

    I've got a book coming out. My publisher is very busy - often the only time we talk is when he's walking home in rush hour. He's a power walker so he is always out of breath.

    He rang me yesterday. "Peter? puff… puff…It's your… puff…publisher… puff puff."

    The next day I had an idea: "Peter, you're a life insurance salesman! If you can sell that, you can sell your book. The reader won't even have to die to get the benefit - and it's a lot funnier than death."

    Which is why last Tuesday I was at a Covent Garden pizza restaurant about to go on at the trendy Hospital club before a packed house to compete in "Literary Death Match" - books and words instead of gloves and punches. There were going to be four authors competing.

    OK - three authors and a life insurance salesman.

    Earlier, I'd gone to pick up my Lily, my daughter, from the station. While I was waiting, I thought I'd practise by reading my piece to someone.

    I looked around. Who looked like a Larry David fan?

    "Excuse me." I said to the fair-haired young man in his 20s. "Have you heard of Curb your Enthusiasm?"

    "I love LD," he said. "Hey… 'Palestinian chicken'!?"

    "Great. I'm about to do a reading of a story from my book… about how I once bumped into Larry David at breakfast in New York - can I read it to you?"

    " You met LD!!? " he said. "Hang on… are you entering Literary Death Match?"

    "Yes! How did you know?

    "I'm waiting for my brother - he's one of the authors!"

    "What are the odds! What's his book about?"

    "The Artful Dodger… but it starts six years after Oliver Twist ended," he said.

    "Terrific!" I thought. "I'm against the new Dickens."

    I was now eating pizza with Lily and Dani, my publicist. Dani's a sweet young north London Jewish guy - really a Daniel.

    "Can we talk about what you're going to be reading in 10 minutes?" he said.

    I read them a bit of the Larry David story, but kept getting the accents muddled. One minute LD had an English accent and I was the New Yorker.

    "No Dad, you can't read that one," said Lily.

    "I agree," the young Sicilian waiter said. "Too much dialogue; I think you need more narrative."

    "OK Lily… why don't you and Roberto choose?"

    Lily said "How about 'The night my ears melted'. It's really funny!" "Roberto… what do you say?" I asked.

    "Yes it's funny." "Ok… we'll go with the ears."

    "You're on in three," Dani said. "Ciao," Roberto said, adding: "Remember sir… please, no Larry… I love LD… but you're no Larry."

    "Are you really a life insurance salesman?" one of the other authors asked. "What are you doing here?"

    "I think they wanted to add a bit of glamour to the evening," I said.

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