As in most of the stories in this book, the setting is a place I’m familiar with–Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I grew up there and lived there up until around 1990. I have been back on several occasions to visit friends and family. I don’t think I mention the town within this story.
For a small town, it has a very high crime rate. You can find the statistics online. It had been ranked at one point as having the highest crime rate with a population of just below 50,000 people.
That’s not the meaning behind this story, however. There is a scene within the story that talks about a persons dying words. I mention in the book about the death of John Wilkes Booth and his last words were “Useless, useless.” For a man who had grown up in a family of famous actors and he himself being one, then assassinates Abraham Lincoln in the back, his last words were unremarkable. At least not as remarkable as his theatrical leap from the balcony of Ford’s Theater after shooting the President, and holding up his blood covered knife above his head in front of a shocked crowd and yelled “Sic semper tyrannis!” and then–The South is avenged.” before fleeing the stage with a broken leg.
At the end of his life, he knew his act of vengeance had not produced the results he had expected, with the south, having just surrendered after a long fought Civil War, decimating entire families and towns, the country was tired of war and dying. And Booth did not receive adulation and a born again south rising up to take on one last attempt to maintain its independence from the north. Let me stop. This story isn’t about that either.
I could have easily used Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” as a reference instead of Booth. I think in one draft I had used the word “Rosebud” the much talked about words uttered by the tycoon Charles Foster Cane. But in a later draft I had taken it out.
But I think the one section the conversation with the detective and the first officer on the scene is important. Not only as the detective in this story but it’s important for writers and well anyone to be blunt, it’s about details and how often times it’s the smallest of details.
In life, in relationships, in writing, in investigations we tend to get lost in the process, hung on things and in doing so it’s often the little things we miss, and it’s those little details that can change outcomes and tear relationships apart, or not to be so depressing can be the thing that makes a relationship so much better.
The difference between the letter “o” and the number 0 is easy to overlook. And in this particular story, it makes a huge difference in the case. So it’s one of my favorite stories, because of this one section, the difference between an o and zero. Can you think of something you may have over looked as small as this example that may have made a difference in a relationship, a story you are working on or just in everyday life?
So, like Noel, we too, have to as writers pay attention, but not just when we are at our computer, we have to sometimes know when to stop typing and come out of the rabbit-hole and be with people who love us. The words will still be there tomorrow. So don’t let your writing get in the way of living.
Much love and respect…Chad