An Introduction to All This

‘I’d like to write a book where the two main characters are me and you,’ I said to Tomomi Ishikawa, and absentmindedly organised the objects on the table.

‘Oh good,’ she said, and started to cough. ‘I could have consumption. And we could go and live in Italy and you would spend your evenings drinking absinthe with women of ill repute, and you’d write terrible, terrible romantic poetry that you’d read to me on my deathbed and I would tell you it was the beauty of your verse that was killing me.’

I stopped myself laughing. ‘That’s not really what I had in mind.’

‘Really?’ She sounded surprised. ‘Why, what were you thinking of?’

‘It’s the story of two people who hang out and talk about stuff.’

‘Uh-huh, yes, good,’ said Tomomi Ishikawa. ‘And what’s the angle?’

‘There is no angle. There’s no romance, no adventure, no—’

‘Wait, wait, wait, you must be mistaken. That would be boring. A book like this should have at least a betrayal, a stolen painting and a talking dog, or a monkey.’

‘Oh.’ I thought she would have been impressed with my idea.

‘Well, perhaps there could be a mystery. Like a series of killings we have to solve.’

‘I see,’ said Tomomi Ishikawa, ‘but who could have done them?’

‘You!’ I grinned.

‘Me? Oh, Ben Constable, thank you. I will change my name to Mimsie and then the book can be called M Is for Murder!’

‘Ow!’ Now I laughed. ‘No. I’ll be called Ben Constable and you will be called Tomomi Ishikawa.’

‘But those are our real names.’

‘That’s the point.’

‘Oh, OK. You could still call me Butterfly, though; it’s less formal—B Is for Murder.

‘It’ll be like a nickname,’ I assured her. ‘And the twisty plot will beckon the reader through the streets of Paris, and New York too.’

She leaned in across the table. ‘Will Ben Constable perhaps be the final victim?’

I leaned in as well. ‘I’m not fond of that idea.’

‘Don’t you even want my help?’

‘Well . . .’

‘Do you think . . .’ We both stopped to see who would speak but Tomomi Ishikawa took the conch. ‘Do you think you might spare me the gallows? It’s such a dismal end after the glamour of a criminal’s life.’

‘There won’t be gallows,’ I said. ‘I’m not even sure that there’ll be murders. You’re not imagining the same book as I am, Tomomi Ishikawa. I want to write about an unusual friendship. I don’t want to ruin it with fanciness and gimmicks.’

‘But you said—’

‘It’s about things like now, this conversation.’

‘So they talk and they drink and laugh late into the night.’

‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘Our reality’s as gripping as any fiction.’

‘Sure it is.’ She smiled. ‘But maybe at the end of the evening the fictional Tomomi Ishikawa could stalk some women who were in the same bar’—she shot a glance at the people at the next table, then lowered her voice—‘and kill them one by one, leaving their entrails draped across their naked bodies.’

‘Maybe you should write your own book,’ I said.

She considered this for a moment. ‘Yes. Maybe I should.’

Intrigued? Find out what happened to Tomomi Ishikawa here.

Learn more about Ben Constable here.

Excerpted from Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa. Published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.