Excerpt from Dr. No by Percival Everett, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dr. No

A Novel

by Percival Everett

Dr. No by Percival Everett X
Dr. No by Percival Everett
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    Nov 2022, 232 pages

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"What do you mean by Bond villain?"

Sill held a spoon like a cigarette. "You know, the sort of perpetrator of evil deeds that might cause the prime minister to dispatch a double-naught spy to thwart me. You know, evil for evil's sake."

"A sort of modernist villain," I said.

"Precisely."

I stared and stirred my tea. I didn't want to look at him, but I did, realizing, as he came into focus, that he was certifiable. But jolly. He was a pleasant-looking fellow, slightly racially ambiguous, an equine face and tightly curled hair. He was a slight man. "You look too nice to be a villain," I said.

"Thank you," he said. "Appearances are only that."

"Have you ever performed an evil deed?"

"Like what?"

"Have you ever killed anyone?" I asked. "Bond villains kill indiscriminately." I was speaking out of my ass. I didn't know the first thing about Bond villains.

"Some do, some don't." Sill poked the air with his spoon. "Have you ever seen Goldfinger?"

"I think so. Let's say no."

"Goldfinger robs Fort Knox."

"Where they keep the gold," I said.

"Where they keep the gold." John Sill looked around, measuring everyone in the room. "Do you know what's actually in the vault of Fort Knox?"

"I don't."

He leaned forward, actually resting his chin on the palm of his hand, like a lover or at least like someone who had known me for more than a quarter hour, and said, "Nothing."

"You mean there is no gold there."

"I mean there is nothing there."

"Nothing," I said.

"Precisely that. I am not telling you that there is no gold there. I'm telling you that there is nothing there. What you have been looking for."

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Still, I was convinced he meant that the vault was empty.

"I'm telling you that the vault is not empty." As if reading my mind.

"And?"

"You, my friend, are going to help me steal it. I've done my research. You know more about nothing than anyone. How much power must there be for anyone who can possess nothing."

"Listen, I'm flattered," I said, "but—"

He silenced me by lifting his hand from mine and holding it ominously in the air between us. "You won't have to do a damn thing. All I want from you is an ongoing consult. Answers to a few questions. For example, when I open the vault, and I will, how will I know that nothing is there? It's a big vault. If it is full of nothing, then how will I move it? How does one transport such a thing? Does it need to be refrigerated at minus 273 degrees Celsius?"

"You're serious," I said. "Which is not so different from 'you're crazy.'"

"I am that," John Sill said. Another glance around and he pushed a yellow slip of paper toward me.

It was a check. A check with many zeros before the meaningless decimal point. It was a cashier's check issued by the Bank of America.

"This is real," I stated, but it was really a question.

Sill nodded. "All you have to do is advise me, answer my questions about nothing and not with some off-the- cuff shit that you 9 save for graduate students and panels. I can get that shit from anyone. I can get that from any number of books. I want your pure, honest confusion."

"Anything else?"

"Of course, this is to remain confidential. I mean, really confidential, really, really confidential." He caught my eyes with his and for a flashing second he looked like the Bond villain he aspired to be. He scared me for that briefest moment. "Okay? Wink, wink, Bob's your uncle."

"Understood."

"So, you on board?"

"This is for me?" I shook the check as if to see if the writing might fall off.

"That's your name on it."

Indeed it was. Spelled correctly and everything. All in black ink. What else could I say, but "Okay."


I left the coffee shop $3 million heavier and also with the belief that, although crazy, John Sill might have been correct about the military possession of nothing. There was a credible faction of the military complex that believed as I did that nothing was the solution to everything. Where my notion of solution was heuristic, the generals' notion was gladiatorial, bellicose, not nice. None of us knew just what nothing was, but its possibilities were boundless; that much was a logical necessity and therefore true. I recalled being approached some years earlier by two generals from the army whose names I might have heard but certainly didn't remember. I did remember that they looked alarmingly similar, though one was a woman and the other a man. They knocked on my office door, timidly, it seemed, for warmongers.

Excerpted from Dr. No by Percival Everett. Copyright © 2022 by Percival Everett. Excerpted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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