First Chapter: On Top of the World (Until the Bell Chimes) by David Lamb

on-top-of-the-world Title: ON TOP OF THE WORLD (UNTIL THE BELL CHIMES)
Author: David Lamb
Publisher: Woolly Mammoth Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary Romance/Multicultural/Humor/Satire

2016 BEST FICTION-Pacific Book Awards. FROM THE FUNNY AND NATURALLY BRILLIANT DAVID LAMB, award-winning playwright of the New York Times celebrated play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, comes a modern spin on Dickens’ classic tale that perfectly combines humor and romance in a story re-imagined for our digital, consumerist age.  This version of Scrooge and Belle is familiar, yet unlike any you’ve come across before. Scrooge, or rather Scrooje, is music’s biggest superstar, with one hundred million albums sold, fifteen million devoted YouTube subscribers, two and a half million Facebook likes, and twenty-five million fanatical Twitter followers known as Scroojites. Belle, is a legal shark who gulps down her opposition voraciously and whose beauty and stunning figure causes traffic accidents as she zips through the sidewalks of Manhattan stylishly adorned and taking no prisoners.   They never imagined being music’s most powerful couple, but that’s exactly what happened when Belle fell head over heels and gave the Coke-bottle glasses wearing, plaid and stripe attired, scrawny, biggest nerd on her college campus the ultimate makeover, turning him into a fashion impresario whose style sets trends from Milan to NY Fashion Week and who can be seen courtside at the NBA Finals sporting a perfectly-fitted cashmere suit.   Then it happens. Belle realizes too late that she’s created a chart-topping monster as Scrooje’s ego explodes and he starts acting a fool.   Now, it’s been three years since they ve spoken. But tonight at Hollywood s biggest red carpet event, with the whole world watching, they’ll be given a second chance.   Will Scrooje listen to the ghostly-advice of Marley, his best friend since the fourth grade, who at the time of his untimely drowning at his Brazilian poolside birthday bash was as big a star as Scrooje? Will Scrooje finally do right by his number one artist, Cratchit, a genius comedian, who Scrooje invariably rip offs every chance he gets?   And with twenty-five million viewers tuned in will Scrooje finally shed his ego, jeopardize his image and declare his love for Belle, the one he betrayed and let slip away?   Second chances don’t often come around. Will Belle even give him a chance?   Mixing heart, soul, bling and romance in a fresh, original satire about race, class and celebrity worship Lamb establishes himself as one of the most talented and amazing writers today. And leaves no doubt that the Pacific Book Awards chose wisely when they selected On Top Of The World as the year’s Best Fiction.

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First Chapter:

Life’s a Beach; I’m just playing in the sand. I had to thank Lil Wayne for that one. It was my motto. I had it inscribed on the door of my office underneath my crown.

Why did I have a crown?

Because I’m musical royalty. That’s why I’d insisted the government carve my face on Mt. Rushmore. People said I was crazy spending $5 million suing to make it happen. But hey, a king must get his due.

Look, I know the Revolution of 1776 liberated America from the grip of kings. But I was a new kind of king, one who’d created an empire no poor boy had any business ever dreaming of. Yes, Fitty netted $100 million when Coca-Cola gobbled up Vitaminwater, whoop-de-damn-do. And yes, Jigga sold Rocawear to Iconix for $204 million, big damn deal. Peanuts. I had my eyes on the man Forbes proclaimed the richest human being who ever walked the earth—my own handsome ancestor (and one day, DNA tests will prove this), Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali whose face adorns history’s most famous map, the Catalan Atlas, where he’s pictured seated regally and holding a big-ass gold nugget. The man Forbes estimated to be worth $400 billion.

Now, this wasn’t to say my wealth was in Mansa Musa’s neighborhood (truth be told, I was still trying to reach Diddy’s financial zip code), but no one could deny what I’d achieved. Musical royalty; forty million albums sold; a $100 million concert tour; the hottest-selling clothing lines; and my sneaker sales were on the road to making Air Jordan’s look like chump change.

This was my destiny.

From the moment of my birth, I was enamored with my own distinction. How do you think I was so motivated to beat those millions of others racing for the prize? I guess the blame for what some deride as my massive ego goes to the boisterous celebrations sweeping the country the year I was born. Two hundred and some odd years after the Thirteen Colonies declared independence; I happily broke free from nine months of solitary confinement in my mother’s belly. It was 1984, and once I escaped, I couldn’t wait to get the party started. From the first slap on my bare behind to my first scream that soon followed, I absorbed America’s Olympic celebrations like a sponge. I decided right then and there I wanted my name to live forever.

Okay, so that sounds a little much, but just imagine if you’d grown up a little Black boy named after a Charles Dickens’ character. Your ego might be a little warped, too.

So please, before you judge, hear the whole story. Before I was headlining concerts, people had no idea how to pronounce my name; and even today, most believe it’s my nom de plume, completely unaware that it’s my family’s legacy, the result of an overseer’s bitter attempt at vengeance. How else could I end up with a name like “Scrooʝe?”

Yes, today Dickens is one of the world’s most beloved writers. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1840s, a young Charles Dickens decided to, as the English say, “take a trip across the pond” to see what life was like in America.

When he published his travel memoir, American Notes, nine months later, the excrement hit the fan.

Dickens had unmasked the brutality of what the good folks of the South called “the peculiar institution,” thereby helping spur Britain’s expansion of abolition with the passing of the Indian Slavery Act of 1843, and pissing off slaveholders that Dickens had opened his big fat mouth in the first place.

As fate would have it, in this overheated atmosphere, my great-great-great-grandfather was born on a plantation run by Virginia’s cruelest overseer. Who, according to the family history my grandma passed down to me, was so angry when he learned Dickens had printed one of his runaway slave ads in American Notes, that his face turned red as an apple while he cursed like a sailor. He then promptly ordered “ten Nigras whipped” because Dickens had the gall not to recognize how kind such a fine gentlemen as himself was to the slaves. Not one to take insults lightly, the overseer started a petition to have Dickens’ books banned from the States then tried to sue him for libel. A year and a half later, after having failed on both fronts, he vowed to extract his revenge by naming the next slave born on the plantation after Ebenezer Scrooge. And just to be sure to pour a little extra salt on the wound, he decided to change the order of the names because as he said, “Nigras get everything ass backwards.”

So that was how my great-great-great-grandfather came to be named Scrooge Ebenezer.

Miraculously, despite enduring indescribable brutality on the plantation, Scrooge Ebenezer ultimately triumphed. During Reconstruction, he became one of the first Black congressmen. Since that time, all of his male descendants have been named “Scrooge.” As the decades passed and times changed, my father decided to give the spelling some Ebonics flair.

Now you have to understand, my father (in his youth) had been the embodiment of cool, so much so that he’d once run a marathon at high noon in August in Arizona—without so much as breaking a sweat, all while delivering up-to-the-minute analysis of the race as he ran. Naturally, a man whose magnetism was so strong that college debutantes patiently waited in line to ask to be his high school prom date, wanted to bestow some of his overflowing charisma on his firstborn son. So when Dad came up with his Ebonics-inspired translation, he proudly proclaimed: “Now if that ain’t cool, I don’t know what is.”

Unfortunately for me, it was the first time in my father’s life his cool barometer was off. All of the fallout from Dad’s ill-timed miscalculation fell upon my scrawny shoulders (or more accurately, upon my young ears). On a daily basis, my classmates took unbridled delight in twisting my name into unflattering caricatures.

“Screwed-yuh,” was at the top of the list, but there were plenty of others. “Screw-gee poop” and “Scrooʝenezer” were popular. But “Ebonsneezer” was the hardest to shake because it had a revival every allergy season when I would have sneezing fits so loud and powerful, I felt like I could blow the windows off their hinges. Even my teachers, who weren’t trying to make fun of me, struggled with the pronunciation, mangling my name so many times I lost track. I would cringe every time Mr. Manigold came to my name when he checked attendance. “Scroogie Ebon-eye-zer” was the closest he ever came to getting it right, and that was only after a half-dozen other mess-ups.

As a little boy, I’d lie awake wondering why my father couldn’t have just kept the original spelling. I promised myself that if it were my destiny to be named after a Victorian character then one day the whole world would know my name.

I kept my promise.

Wish my pops were here to see what I’ve done. Sometimes onstage—even with twenty-two thousand people screaming my name—I’d feel all alone and retreat inside the music, letting the rhythmic bass lines invade my soul until I was one with it. Then everything would stop, and I could sense my heart pulsating on the downbeat. I’d close my eyes and imagine I was three years old again, laughing as my father spun me in the air, telling me I could achieve anything.

And it felt beautiful.