Corky is a brilliant entertainer with a bright future ahead of him. He has good looks, many women, and enormous talent. He also had a secret and a certainty: a secret that must be hidden from his public at all costs; and a certainty that the dark forces of magic were out to destroy him.
“Fascinating . . . This dazzling psychological thriller cannot be put down! . . . The most imaginative and enjoyable novel I've read since Marathon Man. . . . [A] bizarre journey into the world of illusion.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Kept me up half the night. . . . A brilliantly alarming novel!”—Cosmopolitan
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About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:August 12, 1931
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Education:B.A., Oberlin College, 1952; M.A., Columbia University, 1956
Read an Excerpt
Trust me for a while.
I understand that’s really the line the spider hit the fly with, not “come into my parlor” as popular legend has it, and I also realize I am not always your most Walter Cronkite type fella, sturdy, staunch, etc. But in this particular instance, there is just no doubt in my you-should-pardon-the-expression mind that I know whereof I speak.
Corky thinks I’m crazy, natch.
Somebody sure is.
I don’t know quite how to put this without sounding unduly melodramatic, but something, and I wish to Christ I understood what, is happening to Corky.
He is changing.
Look—nothing wrong with change. And I’m not implying this is something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and there’s some giant pod from outer space beginning to inhabit his cranium.
And I’m also aware that he’s functioning full out, his career is rocketing right along and the broads he’s all the time picking up never seem to have any complaints—why he always only sees them once though, I’ll never figure, it’s like they fall off the face of the earth or something, but his sex life isn’t all that much my business, probably he bores easy—and not only is he doing good and screwing good, he’s still as decent and thoughtful a guy I guess who’s come down the pike of late.
But goddammit, I see signs.
Example: the moodiness. Never used to be there. And if he would get down on himself in the old days, I could always zing him a little, force some kind of rise out of him, snap him to. No more.
Now there’s these long silences.
And he’s closing off. He used to be so open you’d almost want to advise him to lie a little. Well he’s lying now. And not just a little either.
My deepest fear? I think Corky’s cracking.
Query: define for those of us with less intellectual equipment than thee, oh wise one, “cracking.”
A kosher Freudian would answer thusly: the state of being balmy; of having misplaced the marbles, loosened the screw.
Follow-up query: and you actually mean to conclude that just because a close friend gets quiet on occasion and on other occasions fibs—this is proof to you that he is becoming loony tunes?
No, I guess not, but I also can’t sit here and ignore the fact that this very afternoon in front of God and everybody, he got, for the first time in his life, a migraine—can you believe that?—in the 1970’s?—it’s right out of a Joannie Crawford flick for chrissakes.
He was being quiet for what I thought was too long a period, so I asked, “Something the matter?”
“No, should there be?” Corky answered.
But a little too innocent for me to buy completely, so I hit him with a follow-up: “You sure been staring out the window for a while.”
“I’m thinking is all.”
He shrugs. “Things.”
“That’s pretty specific.”
“Nothing, really, just a couple little things that are maybe kind of bothering me.”
“Schmucko,” I said logically and soft. “If things are bothering you then logically, by definition, something must be the matter. So I simply ask again, what?”
—and he explodes—
Corky. Yelling, screaming. The same Corky who is so sweet you want to whoopse, as I never tire of pointing out to him, is insulting the shit out of me.
This is my journal, and I can put in what I want to put in and leave out what I want to leave out and I choose to leave out the details of the abuse. But it goes on and on and on until finally I say, “Aw Laddie, please Jesus, I was only trying to help.”
He cut off then. Started to pace. Stopped. Started again. Slowed. Then the blinking. You could sense something. Now he stopped the second time. Little almost imperceptible pulsing in his temple area. He stood there and you could actually see the moment when the pain whipped down, descended like a snowfall.
Do I have to tell you I had tears behind my eyes?
Tactful comment: this is starting to seem just the least bit flitty, Fats old stick.
Honest reply: I know, I know, and we’re not, but I can’t help the way it sounds. “Tears.” “Migraines.” Sometimes I think that if me and Corky only had one of those infinitely complicated unceasingly sado-masochistic homosexual relationships, boy, how simple life would be …
The Wisdom According to Fats Entry for: 10 October, 1975
Found at: 7 Gracie Terrace
20 October, 1975
The Contents of This
Entire Journal Will
Be Listed As:
POLICE EXHIBIT D
In the middle of Manhattan is the Frick, and in the middle of the Frick is the Garden Court, many columned, a gently curving glass roof over it all. There is a small fountain in the center, and the room is filled with plants imbedded in dirt so rich and black it seems almost painted. There are a few marble benches where you can sit and rest and look at the plants and listen to the quiet falling of the water. If there is a more peaceful place in the central city, it remains thus far undiscovered.
And it was in the Garden Court of the Frick Museum at close to six o’clock, on the 11th of October that Corky Withers, seated alone in the corner, began silently to weep.
The crying gave no warning, had no build. One moment he was staring at the fountain, dry-eyed, the next he was caught up in quiet tears. He reached for his handkerchief, wiped a few times, but it didn’t help, so he buried his face in his hands.
“I don’t suppose you want to talk.”
Corky looked up into the old woman’s face. He had seen her around, sometimes helping at the little stand where they sold books and postcards.
“You come here often,” she said.
Corky made a nod.
“You like the paintings?”
“This room,” Corky said. “It’s so peaceful I feel good here.”
She pointed to his face. “If this is what you’re like when you feel good, I’d hate to see you when you’re happy.”
Corky had to laugh. After a moment, he dried his eyes. “Thank you,” he said.
“Things will get better, you’ll see.”
“Things are getting better, that’s what’s so crazy.”
She sat down alongside him on the bench. “I’m Miss Flanagan, what’s your name?”
“Corky people call me.”
“Why really were you crying—I’m a terrible snoop.”
“Never at tears.”
“I got a piece of wonderful news yesterday.’ ”
“I’m not laughing,” Miss Flanagan said. “But that’s not to say I don’t see the humor.”
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Corky said.
“Because I’ve noticed you before and you’ve always reminded me of somebody and I just realized who. You look like a young Spencer Tracy.”
“Big ears and big nose you mean?”
She shook her head. “It’s in the eyes. I believe you. You should run for president. I always thought that Spencer Tracy would have made a wonderful president.”
From a doorway, a guard appeared. “Closing up shop, May.”
Miss Flanagan nodded and stood. Corky did the same. “Where do you live?” he asked. “You’re not the only snoop on the block.”
“I have a room up in Yorkville.”
“I go that way. Let me taxi you home.”
“I’m not in the habit of traveling with strange men.”
“I only drink blood on Tuesdays,” Corky told her.
She studied his eyes. “Just like Spencer Tracy,” she said, she held out her arm. “It would be my pleasure.” He smiled his good smile and guided her to the street, helped her into a cab. It was the first time she had taken one, she said, in eleven years, except once when a rainstorm hit just after she’d bought a brand new pair of shoes.
They got out on the corner of 87th and First—her room was halfway in toward York —and on the corner, as he paid, she stopped and stared at the tiny jewelry shop that was closing up on the corner. She waved to the little man inside. “He’s very nice, Mr. Shaber, he lets me window-shop all I want,” she said when Corky came alongside.
“You do it a lot?”
“Before I go home.”
She nodded. “Just for a minute or two.” She pointed to a lovely design of silver chains. “I always tell Mr. Shaber I’m saving for one.”
Corky took her into the shop. “Gold would look better on you,” he said. He pointed to a slender strand of gold. “Price, please?” he said.
“For the choker? Hundred and ten plus tax.”
“Fine,” Corky said and got out his wallet, put two hundred in cash on the counter, held out his hand for the choker. “Turn around,” he said to Miss Flanagan.