A Word of Caution: What are Political Correctness and Cancel Culture Doing to Fiction?
Dead Beckoning, my historical novel based on an 1895 cold case murder in Atlanta, is due to be released this fall.
In the front of the book, sandwiched between the Cast of Characters and the Introduction, is a Word of Caution:
In a work of historical fiction, there is often tension between fidelity to the time period and the risk of
Dead Beckoning Teaser
The blockbuster story of a cold case from the annals of Atlanta history. The year was 1895. On a rain-soaked Friday as dawn was breaking, a single gunshot pierced the early morning air. A prominent downtown businessman lay writhing on the sidewalk.
He was an ambitious man, a proud husband and father.
I recently read an article in Psyche, the digital magazine from Aeon, titled How to think like a detective. The article caught my attention because, as a writer of true crime and crime fiction, I understand the importance of employing the skills of an investigator in my writing. Otherwise, my characters and stories would not ring true.
The Psyche article was written by Ivar Fahsing, a detective chief superintendent and associate professor at the Norwegian Police University College. Fahsing has spent his career endeavoring to understand the qualities possessed by successful investigators.
Fahsing points out that a criminal investigation is…
Last year, I wrote a piece called The Prince of Paradox and the Light-Beam Rider in which I discussed the power of awe and wonder. One of the two key players in this piece is Albert Einstein, the preeminent scientist who understood that “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Now comes a wonderful article in Nautilus, Our Most Effective Weapon is Imagination, by Guido Tonelli, particle physicist, professor of general physics at the University of Pisa, and a visiting scientist at CERN. The article’s…
My wife and I have been watching the documentary on Ernest Hemingway by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
Hemingway did his best work very early in the morning. While I would never purport to compare myself to one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, I have shared in the past that I, too, prefer to write well before sunup. Such is the case as I write this piece on a Friday morning in May.
My wife and I are huge fans of CBS Sunday Morning. It’s been our weekly morning ritual for years. I love the variety of stories, ranging from human interest to current events — a refreshing alternative to the barrage of political news invading from all fronts. My love of the show goes all the way back to the days of Charles Kuralt (I know that dates me).
The Sunday before Christmas 2020, a segment aired about Etsy in the time of COVID. One of the artisans featured is a guy named Matthew Cummings, a Knoxville-based glassblowing artist and beer…
Michael Cunningham is an American novelist and screenwriter best known for his 1998 Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Hours. The December 23, 2020 issue of The New York Times ran a wonderful essay by Cunningham, Virginia Woolf’s Literary Revolution, about Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway.
Given my thirty-year fascination with, and devotion to, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group in general, I was eager to read Cunningham’s piece. He didn’t let me down.
I could go on and on about the many reasons I love Virginia Woolf’s body of work, and I highly recommend Cunningham’s piece. However, I would like to focus here…
“Never allow the integrity of your own way of seeing things and saying things to be swamped by the influence of a master, however great.” George P. Lathrop
George Parsons Lathrop. Ever heard of him? Probably not. Most people haven’t. But everybody’s heard of his father-in law. In fact, countless high school and college students in this country still read the man’s writing every year, and have so for over a century.
You see, in 1871, at the age of twenty, George Lathrop married a woman three months his senior named Rose Hawthorne, the youngest child of Nathaniel. Yes, that Hawthorne…
Okay. I admit it. The abiding controversy surrounding Lolita notwithstanding, I’m a huge fan of Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov.
Of his considerable body of work, perhaps my favorite novel is Pale Fire. The story centers on John Shade, a reclusive poet who writes a 999-line poem about his life and speculation of what will befall him when he ultimately leaves this earth. The novel includes extensive commentary by his crazy neighbor, Charles Kinbote, who encourages him to write about his, Kinbote’s, own homeland, the kingdom of Zembla. Lest I
give away too much of the story, I’ll refrain from telling more, but…
I don’t begin a piece, whether a short story or a novel, with some lofty notion of an ideal plotline that takes the reader through an exposition, a crescendo and a climax, a resolution and a denouement. Some authors write this way, and I respect them for it.
My approach is a little different, inspired by the ancient Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection.
My characters, with all their flaws and imperfections, their tics and eccentricities, their peccadillos and peculiarities — they are the agents who tell me what to write, in what direction the story must…