Only Milo cover This installment concludes Wordstock’s serialization of Part One of Only Milo, the new novel by Barry Smith. Barry Smith appears at the Festival on Sunday, October 10, at 11am on the Wordstock Stage.



At the time of my interrogation, I didn’t know

Christina had already spilled the beans.

We’d been kept apart throughout the day. I thought

maybe they thought maybe Christina was involved in

some way.
Read more »

In the penultimate installment of Part One of Barry Smith’s dark comedy about the publishing world, Only Milo, Milo does a Dexter—only to discover his scheme has a fatal flaw.

Only Milo cover 47
Margaret made a public announcement
of the IPO in late May.

She would be a multimillionaire by the end of July.

I was missing José. For two years I had been revising three of my books for publication in his name. Now I felt left out of the loop.

Margaret hired new employees to perform the other duties I had assumed when the need arose: designing covers, working with agents, monitoring budgets, setting deadlines. I didn’t even have an office in her new complex in midtown.

She was traveling with her investment banker,
schmoozing prospective stockholders, illuminating
them on her vision for the firm, driving up the day
one stock price.

I assumed Howard was along on most of the trips.

I had nothing else to do but plot their demise.

Read more »

Barry Smith’s new novel Only Milo continues this week as the title antihero broods over his alter ego’s success and visits the dark side for a solution to his problem.


Only Milo cover
Margaret was glowing.
I don’t think she noticed.
No mention of Milo.

When the next segment began, the first novel was

Set outside Mexico City. Young police officer hero in a rural village terrorized by a serial killing priest. Innocent children, including the police officer as a young boy, initially received love and comfort from the priest, protection from a world of poverty, hunger and fright.

Sexual molestation.

Serial killings.

Long, hushed pause.

As a boy, José had sought solace from a harsh and
unfair world. The church was his sanctuary, the
priest his surrogate father, the weekly homilies the
inspiration for his poetry, his fiction, his life.
Sexually molested by his priest.
Writing about the abuse. Catharsis.
Finally moving forward.

Long, hushed pause.

Oprah was concerned.

Read more »

Last week in Barry Smith’s new novel Only Milo, Milo started publishing his own manuscripts under Mexican author José Calderon’s name. As our story continues, José’s advent is an epiphany for all concerned, since he sees something mutually advantageous in the arrangement….


Only Milo cover12
“Milo, mi amigo, you are a genius!”

I started to breathe again.

He grabbed my face with both hands and planted a
kiss on my forehead.

I guess he assumed I knew who he was.

“You made my book far better than the original. What
can I do to thank you?”

Another kiss.

That would not have been my first choice.

We ate birthday cake to celebrate.

It wasn’t bad.

I told José it might be best if he didn’t mention
to Margaret that my “translation” was only loosely
based on the original.

Señorita Margaret told me she is running out of
books to sell and will be making more. Many more. In
Mexico, we sold less than three hundred copies.

“I have no intention of rocking the canoe.”

He was actually quite endearing.

We both had a second piece of cake.

José asked about the story line for the second novel.

Under normal circumstances it would have seemed an
odd question, coming from the book’s author.

I told him about my JFK assassination conspiracy
theory novel, set in Mexico City during the summer
of 1963. Did he know who Lee Harvey Oswald was?

“I wasn’t sure how well my second book would translate.”

We didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

I told him the story needed a great deal of revising
and updating, given it was my first novel and it had
been written about forty years ago. I told him I
had been going to the library to review the Warren
Commission Report and had been sifting through
hundreds of Internet sites for information.

He asked if he could help. He seemed eager, in a
puppy sort of way.

I decided it was only appropriate, given it was his

Until now, José had never been out of Mexico.

His life in Mexico City had been hard. His father
left home before he was three. His mother was a
drunken whore. He was raised by his grandmother.
Writing had been his only escape.

He considered his small apartment in Brooklyn a
palace. Indoor plumbing, clean water, and a shower
were luxuries to José. As was the computer that sat
unused on his desk.

He didn’t like any of the Mexican food he could find
near his apartment. He said it was too greasy and he
had trouble keeping it down.

I rarely saw him eat.

Margaret told José they needed to make arrangements
for his third novel.

The rights she inherited only included translation
rights for novels one and two. With the runaway
success of the first translation, she was eager to
purchase the rights to his third novel.

“I was quite sick in Mexico City,” he told her. “It
still needs a lot of work.”

She said she would prefer to publish it directly in
English if he thought that was possible.

“I will get Milo to help you.”

José was always sick.

He looked like he still lived in the slums of Mexico
City. No matter how hard Margaret and I tried to
fatten him up and bring color to his face, he looked
worn out and malnourished. He reminded me of the
lead character from that foreign film, Il Postino,
the actor who died the day after filming ended. José
always appeared to be at death’s door.

He told me things had not gone well in Mexico after
he finished his two novels, which had both been
written before he turned twenty-five. He had been
driving a cab and waiting tables for most of the
intervening years. The income had barely provided
for necessities.

And he had not written a word in more than five years.

“When I was a boy, I was sexually abused by my

It was said completely out of context. We were
watching a “Seinfeld” rerun.

José said it was the reason my “translation” was so
powerful for him.

“It was as if you wrote the book I was unable to
write, mi amigo.”

He began to weep.

Margaret needed a new office.

Her converted warehouse in Brooklyn was no longer
suitable. José’s success led to the initial Howard
Rush breakthrough, and that opened the floodgates.

It seemed as though everything she touched turned to

Her investment banker began discussing a real
expansion, an IPO. Strike while the iron was hot.
Sell millions of shares to the adoring public.
Margaret would become a multimillionaire in his

She needed a plush new office. Upscale. Something to
entice the public to purchase millions of shares in
her firm.

And she needed to have José finish his third novel.

Margaret had no idea José had not even begun his
third novel.

She assumed he was having marathon writing sessions
in his apartment, pounding out another masterpiece,
while I was finishing my translation of novel number

In reality, he had become hooked on afternoon soap
operas and “Seinfeld” reruns.

There were days he went to the library with me, but
rarely more than once or twice a week, and it was
primarily out of boredom and loneliness.

He really wasn’t much help. I got more research and
revising done on those days when he stayed in his
apartment. Once again, the translation was entirely
my work, not his.

He was closing in on year six of his writer’s block.

Margaret loved it.

“It’s far better than his first novel, Milo. I can
see his growth as a writer. It must have been quite
satisfying for you to see how his work evolved. His
voice is becoming stronger and more confident.

“It deserves a major ad campaign.

“Do you know how his third novel is coming along? He
seems very secretive about it. I hope that’s a good

What could I say?

I thought José would enjoy the circus.

Barnum and Bailey at Madison Square Garden.

He was thrilled by the elephants. He was shocked by
the fire eaters. He was enthralled by the skill of
the trapeze artists.

He loved the clowns.

It was the only time I saw him laugh.

I went to Margaret’s apartment to watch “Oprah.”

She lived in Brooklyn, but at the opposite end of
the city from my roach-infested slum. It was my first

Her apartment had a 42-inch flat-screen high definition

And drapes.

And no SPAM.

Oprah could hardly wait to have José appear on her
show, but Margaret carefully controlled the timing.
His first “translation” sold more than 200,000 copies.

A phenomenon.

With the second translation complete, Margaret had
planned a Thanksgiving week release. She made Oprah
wait until early November, and she insisted José be
the only guest.

Christmas season. 400,000 copies.

Another phenomenon?

Faded jeans, blue denim shirt, rumpled corduroy
jacket, dirty gray socks, two-day-old beard, tousled
hair, no makeup. Downtrodden, third-world existence,
risen from poverty, bright-eyed, soft spoken.

The sympathetic young Mexican novelist.

Christmas season. 400,000 copies. Second print run
in March.

When he walked on stage, it looked as though he
might collapse before reaching his seat. Nervous,
fidgety, eyes at his feet, deathly gray complexion,
hollow cheeks, greasy hair, oversized ears.

And then he smiled.

Christmas season. 400,000 copies. Third print run in

His speech was slow and halting, but his face began
to exude confidence. Raised in rural Mexico, absent
father, drunken mother, steady grandmother, no

First trip to America. Many people to thank.

Grandmother. Only constant in his life. Solid as a

Mexican publisher. First true amigo. Suicide.
Long, hushed pause.

He squirmed uncomfortably. He turned away from
Oprah. He looked directly into the camera.

Margaret, Margaret, Margaret.

Guardian angel, protector, savior, goddess.

Successful first novel, best time of his life, bright

Margaret, Margaret, Margaret.

Guardian angel, protector, savior, goddess, genius.

Humbled by his success, beyond his comprehension,
how could he thank her?

His eyes began to tear.

Christmas season.

400,000 copies.

Final print run in September.

Paperback rights.

Movie rights.

New Spanish translation.

Cut to commercial.


To be continued …next week!
Only Milo, winner of the 2010 IPPY Gold Medal for Popular Fiction, is published by Inkwater Press (© 2009).

Last week, as you recall, our eponymous antihero decided to pass off his own unpublished manuscripts as translations of an unknown Mexican writer’s work. Now Part One of Barry Smith’s new novel Only Milo continues apace as consequences come home to roost.

At the end of the summer I submitted my translation
to Margaret.

Only Milo coverI waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“Brilliant, Milo,” she said. “I had a very good
feeling about young Mr. Calderon.”

She decided to print 20,000 copies. She usually
printed no more than 2,500.

She begged.

She borrowed.

She maxed out four credit cards.

She invested in a major ad campaign.

She gambled the future of her business on “young Mr.

I had little time to work on my own novel.

José’s translation had priority. There were proofs,
there were revisions, there were production delays.
Margaret kept reminding me it had to stay true to
the original.

I told her not to worry.

There was artwork, there was jacket design, there
was promotion.

I was feeling closer to Margaret.

I was nearing sixty-three and was successful for the
first time in my life. My creative juices were flowing.
I felt like I was just out of college, starting my
career in publishing.

And I already had twelve novels “in the can.”

Maybe Margaret was not such a reach.

His second novel was no better than the first.

Margaret appreciated my initial effort so much she
asked me to “work my magic” again.

Little did she know.

This one was even more difficult to figure out. It
had something to do with a rising star in Mexican
politics who had skeletons in his closet. As a young
political activist, he’d killed two of his co-workers
in a fit of rage, as far as I could figure out. The
current political machine was putting him forward for
the presidency but then discovered his murky past.
Something important probably happened at that point,
but I lost interest. I never read the final hundred

This book would never work for an American audience.
What did they know about Mexican politics?

I had lived in southern New Mexico for twenty years.

I couldn’t name one Mexican politician.

I couldn’t name one Mexican political party.

I couldn’t tell you whose face was on a Mexican peso.

Was there a face on a Mexican peso?

Margaret was nervous.

Everything she owned was on the line. The future of
her business rested with my translation of a young
unknown Mexican author. She was in debt to the max,
hoping José’s book would be the one.

She had not even met José Calderon.

He was too sick to travel from his home in Mexico
City. First it was a bout with diverticulitis, then

But she had faith in his words, in his story, in his

In my words, in my story, in my voice.

She pushed, she prodded, she promoted.

She gave interviews, she bought ad space, she created
a buzz.

The first 20,000 copies sold in sixty days.

She ordered a second print run of 100,000.

Her future was assured.

In college, I was obsessed with the JFK

I was probably one of the few people in the world
who read the entire Warren Commission Report. Twice.
Conspiracy theories were my real obsession. Had the
Internet existed in the mid-sixties, I never would
have left my dorm room.

On a lark, I took a fiction-writing class. Since the
only thing rattling around my head at that point
involved JFK conspiracy theories, I wrote a story
about a fictional theory set in Mexico City while Lee
Harvey Oswald visited there during the summer of 1963.
It eventually evolved into my first novel.

I decided José’s second “translation” would simply
be my conspiracy theory novel.

It was already set in Mexico City.

In my book, Oswald killed two co-workers in a fit of
rage that summer. Corrupt elements in the Mexican
government, those supporting Cuba’s Castro, jumped
at the chance to use Oswald for their own purposes.
They offered Oswald amnesty if he would cooperate
with them in their plans to assassinate President
Kennedy when he visited Dallas in the fall. They
would use Oswald’s knowledge of Dallas to assist
them in developing their plot, use his insights to
make it perfect. They would make him feel like a big
man, a keystone in the planning process, the most
important member of the team.

They would let him rot in a Mexican prison if he did
not cooperate, never to see his family again.

Oswald never knew the real plan. The plot was already
in place. All they needed was a patsy to serve as a
fall guy.

The lone, crazed assassin.

This story would sell much better than José’s drivel
about Mexican politics.

Since it was my first novel, I knew it would need
significant revisions. It would give me a chance
to turn back the clock more than forty years as I
revised my earlier work.

The Baby Boomer Generation would eat it up.
And this time I had access to the Internet.

Meanwhile, Margaret was building an empire.

José’s first translation had three print runs. This
encouraged her to take another big gamble.
She had published the first two novels of a young
author named Howard Rush, both written while he was
a graduate student. They were small works, but based
on her previous standing as a minor, independent
press, very successful.

He had recently finished his third novel, a much
larger work that followed a fictional American family
(loosely based on the Kennedy clan) through their
trials and tribulations during the twentieth century.
Margaret thought it was worthy of a large initial
print run and a Madison Avenue-type ad campaign.

The success of José’s book gave her the resources to

The Howard Rush novel was a runaway bestseller. As
were his next, and his next.

She was featured in a piece in The New York Times
Book Review. Bright young authors and their agents
began flocking to her door, the ancient, weatherbeaten
door on her converted warehouse in Brooklyn
where her publishing firm was housed.

She was becoming a rock star in the publishing

The second translation took much longer than the first.
Research was needed to make it sound and feel
authentic. After all, José grew up in the Mexico
City area, so I could not make mistakes about
important places, dates, or historical events. I
spent hours and hours poring through Internet sites
on the subject.

Have you ever Googled “JFK assassination conspiracy

I no longer owned a copy of the Warren Commission
Report, so I spent many afternoons in the local
branch of the New York City Public Library reviewing
it, especially those parts concerning Oswald’s time
in Mexico City.

Upon returning to my apartment one afternoon, my front
door was ajar. I had lost my only key, so I never
locked the door while I was out. Sometimes lonely
neighbors stopped by while I was gone and waited for
my return. Two days earlier, the widow at the end of
the hall had left a birthday cake in my apartment.
It wasn’t even my birthday.


I entered slowly and could see the ankles and feet
of someone sitting in a chair around the corner from
my front entrance.

“A priest?” asked a male voice with a thick Spanish

I stopped in my tracks.

The shoes and ankles disappeared. I could hear
the man rising from the chair. I tried to locate a

“A serial-killing priest?”

It didn’t sound like his happy voice.

As he came around the corner, I recognized the face
from the dust cover.

A knife?

A gun?

A baseball bat?

What was José Calderon’s weapon of choice?

And who would discover my rotting, bludgeoned body?

My landlord?

My next door neighbor?

That loony widow when she brought me another birthday

To be continued …!

Only Milo, winner of the 2010 IPPY Gold Medal for Popular Fiction, is published by Inkwater Press (© 2009).

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