The Making of Fatal Death

After all the bad weather, bad luck, and bad food, there was only one thing left for the publishers and producers of the next big adventure blockbuster to do: Kill the writer.

Mar 1, 2000
Outside Magazine

April 17, 2000
Dear Bud:
I'm sorry you had to read about the sale of the magazine in the trades, especially so close to your Annapurna trip. I had a feeling that it would precipitate precisely the kind of message you left on my voice mail. Bud, DON'T WORRY! The OneWorldTech brass want nothing more than for us to continue to be the best damned monthly for meteorological journalism around. As for changing the magazine's name from Cirrus to Thunderhead, that was as much my idea as theirs. And it's a good one, I think. I hope you will agree; there's no moral virtue in being moribund, Bud, and that's what we were. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been sold in the first place. Our editorial autonomy will not be broached. I can personally vouch for the fact that OneWorldTech values our integrity; I have the stock options to prove it.

Oh, it's ironic, to be sure, but that's all it is, Bud—ironic, not a tragedy. We will have less than nothing to do with either the munitions or the poultry-processing arms of the corporation. But now we'll be able to harness OWT's tremendous synergistic power and reach as big an audience as possible. You want a book deal, you want to reach one billion Chinese television viewers, you want to be on Charlie Rose? (For Pete's sake, I can get Charlie Rose to come and clean my house!) All of this is as good as done now that we've joined the OWT family. How does the possibility of a movie tie-in or a Broadway musical adaptation sound to you, Bud? I thought so...

Love to Susan and the girls,

P.S. On the subject of distressing reactions, I'm still doing damage control in the wake of Irene's hysterical group e-mail. Irene was a wonderful assistant, but frankly, her characterizing an early retirement—with a sizable package, I might add—as "being taken out to the woodpile by Big Brother" is an insult to the legions who have been downsized by OneWorldTech without so much as a fare-thee-well. Anyway, the voice you'll hear when you call is Sean, my new assistant, sent from the Head Office to ease the transition.


April 27, 2000

I got the satellite thingy today. It's amazing to think that I'll be able to write to you from 23,000 feet. The Luddite in me is a little worried that daily e-mail dispatches to the new Web site might dilute the final story, but it's a cunning little machine, I won't lie. This seduction-by-hardware is a little embarrassing in light of my previous jokes about "ScumWorldTech." Although I'm still a little confused about the Broadway adaptation of a 3,500-word article on cloud formations and ozone depletion in the Himalayas. But what do I know, right? I haven't seen a play since they did Godspell at my church in 1974, and that source material sure didn't scream musical, I guess.

I'll check in from Kathmandu.


May 12, 2000
Dear Bud:

I'll keep it short as I'm on my way out the door to Gstaad of all places for a ten-day company retreat. I've been summoned by the elder Mr. Simon himself. (Yikes! Have you ever seen him? He's a little raisin of a man—four feet tall, I'd say—with an Amazon for a wife who's younger than the chicken stock in my freezer. Apparently he never travels anywhere without a transplant-ready human kidney on ice. Whose, I wonder? But now I'm telling tales out of school.)

Sean tells me you're upset with our Web site teaser. I don't see how our little tribute to you could be read as tantamount to "faking your death." The grave shown is clearly unmarked and the photo is uncaptioned. Are we to have our readers believe that no one has ever died on Annapurna? I think you're being way too hard on yourself. You're not only one of the hardest-working and most talented journalists around, you're also one of the bravest. And I think our readers should know the often dangerous lengths you go to. C'mon, Bud, you've witnessed storms far more perfect and been up into much thinner air than some people I don't need to mention. Why not take some credit? But if it distresses you, I'll have Sean reconfigure the link.

Now go. Write me a fabulous piece and come back safe. I mean that.


06/02/00 12:32 a.m.
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]


Greetings from base camp! We begin the first leg of our climb in six hours. There seems to have been a bit of a mix-up, though. Instead of the expected team of eight Sherpas, we only have two. Rirkrit, the interpreter, assures me they're the same age, but I'd say one of them is no older than 11 and the other one seems to be his grand-father. I'm loath to make either of them carry anything. Also re: our provisions. The cans of milk, soup, and potted beef have yet to arrive, although, oddly, we seem to have three cases of capers in brine. Kind of a garnish, don't you think? Not a problem yet because we're all going to fend for ourselves from our personal supplies until the discharge from cook's left eye clears up. Can Sean have some real food airlifted from Kathmandu to the first station? It's kind of key. We should be there by 2100h tomorrow.

Weird coincidence at the airport. Ran into an OWT Media Division camera crew. I introduced myself but they got very cagey when they heard my name and really closemouthed about what they were here for, like I would scoop them or something. They know we're all on the same team, right?



06/07/00 8:48 a.m
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]


The digital photos look so beautiful on the site! As you said in your last e-mail, the hunger might be interfering with your writing, but it sure doesn't seem to have affected your peerless eye. In the meantime, I bet you're getting really ripped. I envy you. I'm still trying to get rid of the extra ten pounds I gained at the retreat. I have no willpower at all. Luckily enough, I met the Duvaliers' trainer in Gstaad, and he's putting me through my paces. He was joking with Imelda Marcos's dentist that maybe I should just have my jaw wired.

Have no fear. As soon as Sean returns (that boy sure loves a sample sale), I'll have him try to arrange some supplies.

In the meantime, it might interest you to know that there is some serious buzz and heat going around about your trip. The book project's up and running; I just got off the phone with OWT Legal and they're hashing out the deal right now. I also saw mock-ups today for a possible feature-length cartoon. It's just in the preliminary stages, but Danny DeVito may well do the voice of the misunderstood Yeti, and they've given you the funniest sidekick: a smart-aleck snowmonkey named Slush who tells the filthiest jokes in perfect Brooklynese. Hilarious!



06/12/00 3:23 p.m.
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]


Things fairly desperate. Still waiting for airlift. Much of the OneWorldTech gear has proven woefully ineffective. Initial misgivings about those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tents 100 percent correct, unfortunately. Strange, but our communications equipment continues to work perfectly. Our younger Sherpa is now sleeping 13 hours a day. Also, while opening one of the last cans of capers, the older one cut his hand open and NOTHING CAME OUT!

I'm confused. What's that OWT camera crew filming on the next ridge? They certainly seem to be engrossed in whatever it is, because no one's responded to the flares I've repeatedly sent up. And while it's always been a dream of mine to be a guest on Nightline, even if only by satellite phone hookup, I'm still wondering why Ted Koppel wished me "at the very least, peace of mind" at the end of last night's segment.

Progressively less funny, Michael.

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