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Hamilton: Rejection, the fear of every writer

Bill Hamilton.

Bill Hamilton.

For many years, the back page of Writer’s Digest featured a contest that asked readers to make believe that they were the publishers who had the bad judgment to reject submissions by some of the world’s greatest authors. The contest was called: Reject a Hit. Recently, this writer finally decided to submit a Reject a Hit based on Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, only to be rejected because Writer’s Digest decided to drop Reject a Hit and replace it with a different type of writing contest. Rather than discard it, my Reject a Hit submission is this week’s “Central View.”

Pegasus Imprimis Press

8 Herbert Crescent

Knightsbridge, London

September 30, 1971

Dear Mr. Forsyth,

Thank you for your recent submission of your manuscript The Day of the Jackal.

While the idea of a manhunt conducted across France to intercept an assassin employed by the Organization l’Armée de Secrète to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle is intriguing, it is my duty to inform you that former French President Charles de Gaulle was never assassinated. As every French school boy knows, President de Gaulle died in his sleep on November 9, 1970, in his home in Colombey-les-Deux-Ḗglises.

Should your work ever find a publisher or be the plot of a motion picture, which we seriously doubt, any knowledgeable reader or viewer would know that President de Gaulle was never assassinated. No reader is going to be captivated by a plot which could not possibly be true — past, present, or future. As our junior reader said, “We know the climax already, the plan fails.”

Based on the biography you attached to your manuscript, it appears that holding onto a steady job is not one of your strengths. You have been a RAF fighter pilot, an amateur bull-fighter, a small-market newspaper reporter, worked for a news agency, been a free-lance journalist, and now, you purport to be a novelist.

But, because our junior staff reader says your writing has a certain authentic ring, as if you actually experienced some kind of paparazzi pursuit of President de Gaulle, we might entertain future submissions; provided, of course, that they have some sort of basis in fact.

Looking toward our list for next year, we might be interested in a novel about Nazis who were never brought to justice or, perhaps, a novel detailing the gruesome work of mercenaries in Africa. Meanwhile, forget about The Day of the Jackal. Try to find a steady day job.

Sincerely,

Howard Hutchinson

Editor-in-Chief

Pegasus Imprimis Press

Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the Army Language School, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.