Several years ago, as I watched the burgeoning self-publishing market grow in both popularity and quality, I came up with a brilliant idea: what if I created a small press so convincing, nobody realized it was 100% fake? What if I made a charming, professional-looking website, created book covers for nonexistent novels, and then buried my own, actual writing within it? Operating under the theory that as long as a con looks convincing, the mark won’t look too deeply at it, I invested in a domain name, whipped up a nice-looking web design, and then got to work on the artifice of the actual company.
I decided the company, Idle Valley Press (named for the elite town Raymond Chandler modeled on the San Fernando Valley in The Long Goodbye), would be based in Lafayette, Indiana, founded by bitter Purdue grads looking to make their mark. Their first decision was to purchase the entire back catalog of an obscure, long out-of-print author named Greenfield McKenna. Who is Greenfield McKenna? Somebody I made up, inspired by the words I hear when Lafayette native Axl Rose squeals “Down in the gutter” in “Back Off Bitch.”
The focus of Idle Valley Press was satirical novels—social satire, political satire, literary satire—to coincide with my own satirical agenda and the fact that I found very few small presses that would publish humor novels. In that spirit, McKenna was a Beat poet who had a sense of humor and was ostracized by his San Francisco community because of it. I’m pretty sure the founders of Idle Valley Press only liked him ironically, but their strategy of reprinting his old books paid off and gave them enough seed money to take on new projects.
Over the course of five years, they developed a reliable stable of writers. In my ideal life, I would continue to perpetuate this company’s existence and write all the books I made up and ascribed to these fictitious writers. I didn’t spend much time or energy on spewing out these ideas, but I kinda started to fall in love with them, especially when I started writing the excerpts.