Step Right Up… Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, Robert Fleshner’s first novel, A Place to Hide (Orville & Wilbur Publishing), about mysterious doings under the big top, is perhaps the greatest work of fiction since War and Peace! All right, so I’m exaggerating, but it’s hard to resist: Fleshner used to be vice president of legal affairs for the Greatest Show on Earth, an extravaganza originated by “sucker born every minute” theorist P.T. Barnum. And while the Bethesda author and Tolstoy are still separated by a considerable measure, A Place to Hide scores points for its colorful depiction of life within the three rings. After nine years’ service for Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus, Fleshner, 40, left his carnival comforts to pursue a life of writing and publishing (Orville & Wilbur is his own company). That, however, doesn’t mean fond memories of the circus don’t linger. “Once, I had to write a contract for the purchase of four unicorns. The lawyer for the seller called and said all the business terms were OK, but that his client had one more, non-negotiable point. They wanted to insert a clause indicating we would agree not to use the unicorns to promote nuclear war,” laughs Fleshner, who adds that unicorns have more to do with goats than horses. “I jokingly told the lawyer it was a deal breaker. He started arguing with me, and when he began sounding desperate, I busted up. It was the crowning achievement of my legal career.” Fleshner is already at work on a second circus-related novel, which he promises will include all the fictionalized anecdotes left out of A Place to Hide. Meanwhile, Hide is available locally and also can be ordered by calling (800) 4-WILBUR.

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