The book had come out under the imprint of Alistair Taylor. Alistair is a colourful figure, for many years a bold and innovative publisher, a pioneer in New Zealand's late 20th century wine boom, but someone whose career had by this time, like Jeff Lebowski's, slowed down a little.
His phone number was on the copyright page of the book, so I rang him, told him I'd just read Be Very Afraid and enjoyed it, and wondered if by any chance the film rights were available. Alistair thought long and hard and told me that my timing might well have been perfect, that the current option - there had been huge interest - may well have lapsed. He went away and came back with good news. The option had expired! The rights were available! It was my lucky day.
We arranged to meet at his office which was above a Chinese restaurant in the Great South Road. I climbed the stairway into a - sorry, but it's the only way to describe it - Dickensian scene. Dark and chaotic, with shafts of dusty light, and shelves and boxes full of books. As true as the day is long there was a figure sitting on a high stool at the top of the stairs writing numbers in columns in a large book. I asked this ledgers clerk (had to be) for Alistair, and he called out "Alistair! Someone!" without looking up.
Alistair came out. He was utterly charming. We wasted a good hour talking about everything but Be Very Afraid. I was soon sore from laughing. Eventually he brought the meeting to order. He absolutely agreed there was a film in Dave's story, but warned me that Henderson was a prickly bastard, and it would probably be better if he handled negotiations on my behalf. I said sure.
Two weeks passed. I rang Alistair. Henderson was being impossible. But Alistair felt he was making headway. He suggested another week. I waited two. Still no news. By now bored and restless I rang Directory Service and asked for the number of Dave Henderson in Christchurch, address unknown. There were several. I rang the first one. A voice I would come to know well over the next few years answered with a sharp 'Yuh!' as though I'd interrupted him in the middle of something important, which I probably had. He was always working. When, a few years later, the cowardly Michael Cullen, who succeeded Bill Birch as Minister of Finance, described Dave, under parliamentary privilege, as being the organiser of the sex industry in Christchurch, Dave's partner Christina said he was so busy he hardly had time to organise the sex industry in his own house.