The letter said the collection of short stories, Tabloid Hunters, which he had sent them was interesting to them, but not in the form it had been presented. The book sought to use the 'discontinuous narrative' - a style pioneered by Frank Moorhouse - that loosely linked characters and events. Two of the stories had done well in national competitions.
An interview followed in which I was invited to recast the material, perhaps in the more recognisable style of a novel - no commission, no advance, no promise of publication. I was working on a play at the time, so it went straight to the bottom of the to-do pile, where it has stayed.
The collection was doomed: it had been knocked back as 'too commercial' by one publisher; it was a 'difficult genre' for another; a third 'reluctantly' decided it was not for them.
It is a buyers' market and nothing stings as much as a near miss: watch any striker whose attempt at goal bounces off the sticks. Like a striker, you sometimes wonder if you could have played that part of your game differently.
Certainly, I have thought if I entered the writing game by another route - say, by reading English at Sydney University instead of working as a hack on a tabloid newspaper - things would not be as they are. But such thoughts are illusory.
Tony was a great friend as an agent, and lunch with him was an adventure. But, as Helene Hanff says in Underfoot In Show Business, 'If they take you out to lunch, they can't sell your book'. A shame really, because they were great lunches.