I’m sitting in Chicago, Illinois as I write this, and I assume it comes as no shock to anyone reading that our recent past governor has been impeached. What has come as a shock has been the ex governor’s response to his impeachment. Rather than retreat behind the locked front door of his house, he’s thrust himself onto the national stage, giving radio interviews and signing up for a celebrity reality show. His antics have been somewhat bizarre and clown-like. As writers we could learn from watching the scenario as it plays out. How many of us would have written the deposed, soon-to-be- indicted governor as reality show contestant? One writer who might have thought of that angle is the wonderful Carl Hiaasen, who lives in Florida, where the politics can often rival Chicago’s on the bizarre meter.
This came to mind one night as I was listening to Augie Aleksy, the owner of Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in Forest Park, read from a Sherlock Holmes story. He described Holmes, as he sat in a chair in his room firing a gun into the opposite wall, forming the letters “VR” (initials of the then queen, Victoria Regina) in bullet holes. I sat up straighter. Sherlock Holmes, the intellectual violin player and brilliant but maladjusted detective hammering bullets into his own bedroom wall? The image didn’t fit with my view of Holmes. Sure, I knew about the seven percent solution of cocaine he injected at odd times, but the image of Holmes leaning back in a chair and shooting the wall, bits of plaster spraying and the noise echoing in the room, brought to mind a dark genius, too dangerous to be near and whose anger ran very, very deep. There was none of the cool logic of the world class detective.
I had the same reaction that a student might have had upon discovering that their mild- mannered professor was actually Indiana Jones. I ran to the collected works of Conan Doyle and read for myself. Not only did Holmes fire into his wall, but he’d rammed a knife through his unanswered correspondence, affixing it in the center of his mantelpiece. This last image made me laugh. It spoke volumes about how Holmes viewed the intrusion of the outside world.
Reading this classic tale of an unforgettable literary character helped me view my own characters in a new light. I’m working on my third novel now. You can believe they will do the unexpected.
Running from the Devil
EAT SOMETHING WEIRD TODAY
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