"Chain Reaction" and "On the Beach"

I wrote "Chain Reaction" years before it was published in Espionage, and I don't think I've ever worked harder to sell a story than I worked to sell this one. Originally, I think, the mastermind turns out to be a precocious teenager. When the mystery magazines wouldn't go for that, I turned the character into a bored housewife and tried the women's magazines and then an alien bent on world conquest and tried the science-fiction magazines before finally settling on a Russian spy and clicking with Espionage publisher/editor Jackie Lewis.

This "First Edition" was in fact not a first edition at all, but a redesign of the magazine by the staff of Penthouse. (Jackie's' big brother was Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione.)

For some reason, Jackie decided to include two of my stories in this issue: "Chain Reaction" was published under my own name, but she asked me to come up with a pseudonym for "On the Beach." I rearranged the letters in "Josh Pachter" and the story appeared as by "Chas. J. Thorpe."

On p. 12 of the issue, an "Intelligencers" section gives biographical information about the authors:

"Josh Pachter, now Special Projects Editor at ESPIONAGE, has been a published writer since the age of 16, and is a frequent contributor to ESPIONAGE. Our congratulations on the recent birth of his first child Rebecca."

"Chas. J. Thorpe, although published several dozen times in the short-story field under a pseudonym, appears in this issue of ESPIONAGE using his real name for the first time. In addition to writing fiction, he is the sales manager for a medical reference laboratory service in Louisiana."

(FWIW, about ten years earlier I had actually worked briefly as the sales manager for a medical reference laboratory service in Louisiana, the only non-teaching full-time job I have ever held.)

In the next (and final) issue of Espionage, a letter to the editor from reader Joseph Chart singled out both of my stories for praise. Not even Jackie ever noticed what you get when you rearrange the letters in "Joseph Chart"....

A while later, I got a call from her, informing me that an agent had contacted her and was interested in representing me. Since I knew all the magazine editors personally, I couldn't think of much of anything for Mitchell Rose to do. Serendipitously, though, Alliance Entertainment, a movie production company in Canada, got in touch with me the same damn week — why do these "small world" things always seem to happen to me? — and I let Mitch negotiate a deal with them for an option on the film rights to "Chain Reaction." Alliance renewed the option several times, and even had me develop a treatment some years later, but the movie never did get made.

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