Flash Fiction: Rogue Copies by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: a book keeps appearing out of the blue in the most unexpected and unusual places.

This week’s story comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

 Rogue Copies

 Phil Yeats

Yesterday, I saw a copy of Tilting at Windmills sitting abandoned on a park bench. I sauntered by perusing the cover. It was definitely my cover, my title and my pen name.

I’d recently distributed electronic copies of the manuscript, including jpegs of my proposed covers, to eight writing colleagues for final comments before I formatted it for self-publication. I’d also sent the first fifty pages, no covers, to several publishers. But I hadn’t published it.

After sneaking down another path, I approached the bench from a different direction. I stood behind one of the Public Garden’s giant rhododendrons and noted everyone within sight as I tried to understand this strange event.

Had someone stolen my manuscript, printed copies of the book, and placed them for sale in local bookstores? Or had someone left a mock-up of the covers with blank pages where I’d find it? A none too gentle reminder from a colleague telling me I’d taken too long getting this manuscript finished.

I watched for half an hour, but no one approached the book, and no one I recognized loitered nearby. I picked the damn thing up and leafed through it.

Two things were obvious. First, it wasn’t laser printed covers around blank pages. It was a properly formatted and printed versions of my book, one I’d have proudly displayed if I’d produced it myself. Second, someone had sliced out the page that identified the printer.


This morning, I looked for a listing on Amazonnothing. I stopped by two bookstores to see if copies were on their shelvesagain, nothing. Finally, I visited the library to search for it in their catalogue.

I saw the second copy on a display table of books by local authors. I picked it up and rushed to the information desk.

The librarian on duty shook his head. “Not ours. Someone must have slipped it into our display.”

I now had two copies of my unpublished book and no idea where they came from. I wandered into the library’s busy café, ordered a coffee, and tried to unravel my little mystery.

A woman appeared, plunked a third copy of Tilting at Windmills on my table and disappeared into the crowd near the café entrance. I grabbed my backpack and chased after her, but realized the futility as I pushed through the crowd inside the café into a larger one outside. I’d only managed a brief glance at the woman, enough to conclude she wasn’t anyone I knew, but little else. She’d been wearing a colourful cape, but she could easily have slipped it off and blended into the crowd.

I returned to my half-drunk coffee slightly wiser. I was now certain someone targeted me with these copies of my book, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it.

An idea popped into my head. I could format the authentic version of Tilting at Windmills and rush it into print. In the meantime, I could write blog posts describing the strange occurrences of rogue copies of my as yet unpublished book. If they caught on, they could form the basis of an interesting publicity campaign.


A week later, I passed George Foster, one of my eight beta readers, on Spring Garden Road. “I see your manuscript is finally published,” he said without stopping.

I stared at his retreating back. Was he referring to the e-book version I’d posted on Amazon three days earlier, or more rogue copies floating around Halifax?


 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/


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