clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thank You All

I want to thank you all for your reading and comments over the last year.

My little blog has served me well as a training ground for an e-hermit.

I'm not a social media guy.

I miss the days when the gutters of New York ran with blood and journalists had their apartments dynamited in Chicago. Today, I have piles of teddy bears along the road where a woman flipped her SUV while she was texting.

My world view is a darker perspective. I'm not noir. I'm the nightly news without the happy cat-in-a-dumpster story.

The perp walk. Shot while evading arrest (nineteen times). Fell down an elevator shaft onto some bullets. Accidental drowning in a dry bathtub. Mistook rat poison for sugar.They've got plenty, they'll never miss one. Rattlesnake in the mailbox. Error in the pricing system. Hit and run. Bastard had it commin'.

When you see the neighbor put in a new rose bed and at the end of the lane there's a poster for a lost dog stapled to the telephone pole, you know what I'd be thinking.

The evil that men do is constant and all around you. I'm going to open your eyes. That's my mission when I come back.

It isn't that I don't trust my fellow man. (I don't). It isn't that I don't think his heart is full of love (it isn't). It isn't that I see a priest and don't think about him buggering little boys (I do).

It's that I find the game-above-the-game more interesting.The lie - polite and clean - makes it all the worse. better the died in the wool natural born killer than a senator in a suit.

Joker said it: all it takes is a little push and gravity takes over from there.

You have a public fight with your sister. the next day she's found dead in her home hit on the head with a poker from the fireplace. It's quick. It's clean. They're no prints.

The cops talk to you. You're a little bit flattered.

You're a little bit glad because the bitch had it commin'.

I know you.

This blog will go away in the next month. When it comes back, it will be a darker perspective of those daily events that make us the beasts we are.  We'll talk about what the shadow knew.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Books ? What do you mean Books?

I think perhaps the topic of "books" is not an interest we share.

Perhaps an attempt at another topic while we are trying things.

Perhaps ... mayhem.

They're digging for Jimmy Hoffa. The story has it he was hit with a shovel and buried alive.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll share a fictionalized version of that incident. I'm not as jaded as you think and I suspect burial alive is not something that vice and racket guys are very comfortable doing, either.

What does that look like, putting a body in a hole in a barn? Hmm. I think we'll have to see a little of this on the page.

Monday, June 17, 2013


It isn't fiction, Major Crisp's story of the armoured war in North Africa has all the hallmarks of great fiction.

It's hot here today. Unusually so.

I couldn't help but think of the smell of North Africa in June for no good reason at all.

If you want riveting narrative, Major Crisp has it. If you want to identify and humanize characters, he does it. If you need suspense, thrills, and first person accounts of mayhem and chaos, he has it. If you want fear - well. It's there too.

Of all the space yarns I've read, none of them has had the immersion of this tale. I have no knowledge of war on the surface of the desert in unreliable chunks of steel better suited to making bread than housing troops. I don't know anything at all about this world of the book yet I'm there with the troops hoping that the column of German armor passes us by. If I could write science fiction that was as immersive, I'd never want for readers.

I am descending to the cave of the cool for a little reading tonight. It's warm in the library and while that is a good thing, it doesn't suit me right now.

I'm moving for whim. I should have charaters do a little of that, too. Many of mine are nearly statues.

I hope you're reading. Try a fabulous tale of North Africa and the horror of armor. Being the "big gun" makes you the "big target."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Normal Families Eat Toast for Breakfast.

At left, Anna. Lovely Anna.

I consumed Anna wholesale during a semester when I had three lit classes. It was the book I waited until bed to read. It was engrossing.

It was my first Tolstoy. There will never be another first Tolstoy for me and that readers is a damn shame.

My heart was young and my illusions not yet driven out of me. The immersion that I felt at reading after Anna and Count Vronsky and Frou Frou (Vronsky's horse) was wonderful.

I even loved the intricacies of Levin's problems in running the estate (land poor - cash flow is a beast when you run a plantation).

It was if I too was in the summer and the meadow was high and lush and anything - even things forbidden by convention - were possible. When the book was in winter, I felt the winter as the cold clarity of the first sharp breezes taking you by surprise in late October.

I have a line in a story which I use as the title of this post. It is a terrible homage to Tolstoy and Anna but one nonetheless. Normal people eat toast and drink coffee in the morning. I once married a girl that drank diet coke for breakfast. That turned in the twisted way you'd expect given the normalcy of toast and coffee.

I like toast. It is a wonderful item when done well. I love when the toasted part is good and the outside of thick bread is crisp and dark gold while the inside is warm and not yet dry. I love the way butter sits on toast at first working out a compromise I can hear the dialog: "Come on, get on with it. The dutch brown parts are fine. Just slather them a bit and move on. It'll be fine." I think toast has a Jackie Gleason sort of quality. When it is good, it is surprisingly good. When it is bad, it's still toast and that isn't too far from the mark.

I'm writing - a little about normal people and their toast. Well, I'm writing more about not normal people (not normal to you, dear reader unless you live near Valentine, Nebraska and see your neighbors regularly at least once a month).

Now, if your banker slept with your wife then his bank called the note on your loan, do you think you might shoot him?  Everybody would know, wouldn't they.

Suppose no one thought it out of line - even your brother the sheriff. How do you think the murder would be perceived? "He had it commin'?" or "Law and order first?"

Yes, I'm inclined to go with "he had it commin" which means the shooting cannot be the major line of conflict. Oh, it's a contributor - sure. A big one. It cannot however be the most significant piece. What is?

I think in this case it has to involve family. I think it has to involve a betrayal of a personal code of conduct held by the protagonist himself. I think he has to cross the line - and shooting the banker probably isn't that line.

I hope you're writing. If you could use a summer read as you work on that tan (having become the wildly successful best-seller engine you are ) please consider Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

She's all that and more. Bad girls sometimes are bad because they are not quite right. Remember that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dogging It

At left, the foxhound. I have a foxhound.

He's a bit of therapy for me because he needs exercise. There's no way to endure when he doesn't get it. They're a smart, stubborn breed and living with one is a negotiated settlement.

They will also howl.

Mine is wonderful. However, I know the value of a good set of legs and long walks at a brisk pace. Amazing how that works well for writing, too.

My point? My neighbor has a teenage daughter and she has a moppish excuse for a dog of no real description. It is a yipee little thing with a voice that carries like Mariah Cary. No, I didn't mean that in a good way.

So, after a little more than a week of the little dog being shoved to the deck in the late evening where it yips constantly for an hour, I and the foxhound go next door and offer to take it for a walk.

 My intention is innocent - the dog needs some socialization and if I have to walk fuzz-butt, then walking mopsey-flopsy will be fine too. The foxhound loves everything (but foxes) and a good stretch will be good for mopsey.

The neighbor girl has even done afternoon dog-duty for a beagle (the beloved beagle Roxy, my sainted friend and a notorious piss-hound. Oh, I loved her. I also became an expert at carpet care because when the beagle felt slighted, she'd piss.)

So, the foxhound and I go over and have a brief conversation. I offer to take mopsey on a good evening walk with fuzz-butt. She says she's trying to get mopsey to stop barking (apparently by yelling at the dog while holding a cell phone - at least that what she does when I'm there.). She says she'll talk to her mom. Fine, I say. It's becoming a problem. The neighborhood is quiet but for mopsey and I'd be glad to just do a little walk with Louie and all will get better.

Of course, I only know the names of this one family's names next door (mom and daughter, still can't remember dad and certainly don't know anyone's last names). I've been here five years. We're not a chummy bunch in my neck of the woods. We wave a little (some not at all) and keep to ourselves. Nice that way. No brownies at the door when you move in ... no potlucks or communal 4th of July fests. No. Just shut your mouth, mind your own business. Nice that way. Lower body count.

Anyway, I thought about the whole resettlement program. In the late unpleasantness, some high value folks ended up in sunshine and beachside. These were the sort of folks whose defection brought efforts to a halt on the other side for years while they grew a few more very smart people to take the place of just one guy. Sometimes his family got out too. Often, not. You'd like to think the resettlement bit was all bunnies and roses. It wasn't. Sometimes the only thing you got to take with you when you left the front lines was your soul. Sometimes, you didn't keep that either.

I'm thinking of the resettlement community and how that must go with a yappy dog. Murder is murder. What is it to have a senior field agent - someone who maybe serviced a hundred stringers on our side and who probably held the Order of Lenin - neighbor who comes over and asks to walk your wife's yappy dog to make it happy and shut-up.


"The dog, it wants to be out. It wants to walk. I want to walk. It seems a good fit," Victor said spreading his arms a little. "I bring dog back after walk in the evening."

"Thanks - but I'll see Suzie keeps it inside. I'm sorry it bothered you." I smiled and hoped Victor would accept this.

"Is no problem for me, now. I take dog for walk, everything alright," he said. It was then he smiled. It looked painful. "I thought about this a lot. Walking the dog is best option - for everyone. I thought about it a lot."

"It'll be fine. Good to meet you. Sorry," I said. I closed the door an inch hoping he'd understand.

"No - ," he said as the palm of his hand reached for the middle of the door. It was like a ham opened up and sprouted fingers against it - thick sausage fingers like a hockey glove. In Florida. In September.

"Did I use the right words? I want to take dog for a walk every night so we don't have any problems with bark bark all evening," he said. He was still smiling. I had the image of Muffit being crushed between his knees right there in front of me as he smiled. I didn't know where in my psyche the image  came from. Certainly not from the 5:30 Gin-and-Tonic at the club part.

"It'll be fine. I'm sorry. We'll keep the dog inside."

"I want to be sure. You understand?" he asked. The smile was gone. "I want to be sure."

"Okay. Good-night," I said. The door wouldn't move.

"I like dogs," he said. " I don't like bark. You understand I want to help you with the dog? I offer to help. I said I would walk dog. I said help."

"Yes," I said. "Not needed. We'll take care of it."

He looked at me while I pushed again once, twice on the door. I pushed again hard. He just stood with one hand on the middle like a bridge abutment or a flying buttress on Notre Dame in Paris.  Maybe they had those where he came from. New Jersey?

Who knew when these folks were coming from. They would stop when they ran into each other on the street but no one saw their lips move or heard what they said. Sometimes they just looked at each other from opposite sides of the street then walked on.

I was getting a haircut and one of these new people was waiting and reading a magazine. Another walked in and just stood by the door and stared at him. The one waiting put down the magazine and walked out just as a chair opened up. He must have been in there at least thirty-minutes waiting on a Thursday afternoon and then just walked out because another new guy walked in and looked at him.

Harry Donason had been in real estate in Ft. Wayne. He asked asked a bit at the state commissioner's office - or said he was going to - and then Harry was gone. His house sold without so much as a sign. He owed the club sixty-two dollars in bar fees and never paid. No forwarding address, either.

"I am sure now, too," he said. The door flew closed as his arm relaxed. I collided with the door frame.

I leaned against it. I rubbed my shoulder. It was time to consider California. The beach here was too crowded in the winter. Suzie's cousin was in California. Maybe the real estate commissioner would buy my house. I looked at Daisy wagging her tail.

Maybe we'd sell it once we got to California.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Tonight, Tom Sawyer.

I am painting the decks.

Oh, how I think of Twain with a four inch brush in my hand.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Twist and Turn

Here at left, a fine piece of classic science fiction by a master.

Some of us have been accused of being space cadets from time to time. I always like that accusation.

Here in this book I remember reading and thinking that the author was lost about half-way through. I think he was. I think he was in a "walk around the room pulling at his hair and thinking of becoming a barber" type of lost moments.

He toughed it out and so do we. I remember now thinking that the space business was far more exciting and interesting than the time on the planet. Why did he put the planet in play?

It is occasionally fun to see the masters had a little trouble handling a plot that got away, also.

I have a similar problem in a story I didn't reflect on adequately until tonight. I too have a fun and exciting environment full of interesting people and devices. Then, 1/3 of the way into the story I lock the protagonist in a room with a desk and another character for ... an interview. It's several thousand words of dialogue that are meaningful to me. They are not however the content promised after the first couple thousand words. I think they fail the "meaningful" test to anyone not completely in love with the protagonist.

Bad author. No coffee.

I need to rectify this issue. If I want the interview to transpire, let's make it a walking tour as the other character is "much too busy" to be tied to a desk. Indeed, he's far too busy and mysterious to be conventional so let's not make him an IBM blue suit.

You can learn for masters if you think about what they did when they were in trouble. You have to find their trouble, and you have to think. Neither task comes easily.

I learned something from Space Cadet thirty-five years ago. I learned something from it last winter when I devoured it on a plane.

I learned something from it tonight.

I hope you're learning. I know you are writing.

"He once wrote an adverb, just to see what it felt like."

Read widely, my friends.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Farm Country Bad

Swedish farm country can be rough. There are cows to milk, eggs to gather, hay to pitch, and brutal murder to solve.

Henning Mankell created the Wallander character (featured on PBS by Kenneth Branagh) as a near alcoholic detective dragging so much self-loathing and regret around as to require a safari train of porters to help.

I liked this first book in the series for the issues of Displaced Persons in Sweden and the brutality of the countryside murder. Right in the front of the book Mankell hits us. Sweden. Summerfest, blonde girls. Oh, and murder.

Wallander as a character becomes tiresome after a bit. Self-doubt and loathing only get you so far and the brightest star in this guy's heaven shines a little dim. I feel I need more variance in the characters I read for pleasure. All Wallander is missing is circular bruises on his temple in the morning from pressing his service automatic against the skin too hard.

I'm starting a new series of stories myself tonight. I outlined one at Bear River and have figured out how several things I've worked on will fit together for this series of stories. I don't think there is a novel among them; but, it could be a collection when I am farther along. It is a good drill and I'm going to work on these for the next 120 days (with the exception of a story entitled "Wabakimi" which I will stop and polish sometime in July).

Is it inspiration? Probably not. It is a partial solution. A workaround - as it were. It is a Wallender solution. At its best, it isn't bad. That's about where this one is found.

Try a little Swedish mayhem. There is more afoot than Ikea and meatballs. Ohhhh, I do love a good murder in the countryside. Makes me feel like it is old home week.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What Else Can It Be Today : 1984

At left, my favorite George and some of today's most germane required reading.


Oh, there are indeed rough men who are prepared to visit violence upon others in the night - even though George did not utter those particular words.

What is clear is that we are ready to be shot now that our minds are clear.

I have to run. I'm late directing missiles onto airstrip one by use of coded radio signals.

Double Plus Good.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away.. 

Excerpted from the Poem "Antigonish" by Hugh Mearns. 

It's the obligatory rhyme of the clandestine service. It's taught to children.  Did father teach it to you? Do you know what father did? 


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Breadcrumbs, Squadron Leader, and Confidence

I recommend Ron Carlson's fine example text at left. A worn-out copy should be in the library of everyone looking to craft a short story without writing to an outline.

At the conference I just attended, nearly everyone in my session wrote without an outline. I guess I too wrote for a good twenty years without outlines. Of course, that got me a great pile of unfinished stories - sometimes because I was too lazy to finish or because I had written myself into a wall.

Professor Carlson's text at left provides a solid tactical approach to the sort of inventory-based writing (seat-of-the-pants) we've all done at one time or another. The fresh drafts come from this sort of writing.

It's good to turn to some familiar things for a grounding when confidence lags. For me, it is a fine tinned tobacco called Squadron Leader. I knew a fellow whose woodshop and library smelled of this. It wasn't his brand; but, his library smelled of it anyway.

When I have a bowl, I'm taken right back to those days when literature held a special fascination before any of the machinations and devices seemed jaded. I loved discovering every turn and trick. That sort of memory device brings us back to a place where we were comfortable and comfort is very very close to confidence. You can walk to one from the other late at night with no worry.

I'm plotting. I have a trio of stories - two stories and a novella, actually. I'm going to start with these and before I am done with the drafts and re-writes, I bet I have a couple more stories and another novella. The characters are intermixed and the settings are geographically the same.

I'm not sure I ready to live with six months of novel right now so I'm going to work on this collection of bits. I just decided to attack this project today. It seemed like a good time.

Look what the familiar and a little confidence will do.

I hope your coherence returns if it ever left. Mine needed a little roadmap to find its way back to a substantial project. The signpost was confidence.

I hope you're writing. Give Ron Carlson a read.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Write Like Shit

It is time, ladies and gentlemen. Raise your insecure left hand, and repeat after me:

I < state your name> write like shit. I wander. I cast about for description. I modify. I confuse my plot with my conflict. I obscure my character's emotions and motivations. My pacing is off. My infinitives are too often split. I'll find any excuse not to write on my declared project. I love the sound of deadlines as they go wooshing by - especially those I've made to keep myself on track.

Lower your hands. [ The last bit is courtesy Douglas Adams but I think he'd approve ]. Welcome to the self-loathing edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group courtesy CAPT Alex and the ninja army. You can find them all here.

Now, you didn't know June was self-loathing month? Well, it is.

The year is half over and you still suck at writing. Your project is behind. Your family now thinks being a writer means talking to yourself, looking for your writing sweatshirt, "going for coffee," and spending time on the couch watching men whose high school had the world's worst guidance counselors catch crab. Again. 

I have a secret. We all write like shit. Oh, Mr. Irving and Mr. McCarthy who are regular commentators here on this blog are not. They're good writers. They have time to surf the net, comment on my witty blog posts, and watch guys catching crab. The rest of us all suck. Yes, we suck. 

We chose to tell stories and even when we've sold a few books (not me) we still suck or we'd be posing for our Nobel portrait.  I'm posing for mine nude, by the way. A Watery Tart inspired me. There - you've got that to look forward to.

The secret secret? We might suck at our drafts but we can be brilliant at editing. Yes - few writer's can craft well from the original ink. We can all however edit like the Moses. Editing can fix many of our most glaring problems.

Oh - before you doubt Moses as an editor know there originally were twenty-seven commandments, eight practices to be avoided, and thirteen "strong suggestions." The original author had promise but displayed a bit of an inflated sense of literary ego that spilled onto the tablet.

Case in point. I have a story I like. It reads like shit. I edited out all adverbs, all witty little writer bits where the narrator says something and waits for applause [ cue Ralphie's Christmas theme scene from _A Christmas Story_. ] , and all the adjectives. All.

Then, I put the story away. I came back. I read it cold. I thought - what the hell? Where did the conflict go? Who is this guy telling the story - is this a music video? Make the narrator a character, have him want something. Maybe he's the instigator? Dress the line. Tuck in that shirt tail. Suck in that plot.

I almost had a story when the edits were done. Almost. Total elapsed time in the first pass clean-up on the first post-adjective-adverb-removal? Thirty minutes. Yes. I shit you not. What was needed was crystal to me without all of "me" in the way. That's style man - you threw out style ! I hear you all the way over here.

Bullshit. I threw out clutter. I am the author. I speak directly to the reader when I give a character a name. Otherwise, the story tells itself or I got in the way.

Get the junk out of the way. Read the story clean without any make-up and boom : the weak parts scream at you. It is , after all, a bloody story.

First, the tale has to stand on its own. That's conflict. Then, the desires and thwarted desires of all the characters (everyone wants all the time) must show. That's plot. Sharpen the dialogue. Cut the exposition. Employ narrative summary where the dialogue is droning. Do we need to take the car ride with the protagonist where she watches the tress go by on the side of the road? Really?

How about the antagonist? Don't have one? Oh, the conflict is man vs himself?  Buy some party invites. Let's get an antagonist in the story. Call it dog-piling. Your antagonists have haunted you your entire life. Let your character have a little of that fun, too.

Any scenes when the protagonist is alone? Why? No - really. Why? I thought so. Put someone in or get the protagonist out.

We're getting there.

We might write like shit but bad writers can become wondrous editors. THAT should be the goal.

You at a party:

 My writing - oh, my drafts are pretty bad. My should see my edits. Wait - you do see my edits! Check the NYT bestseller list. Shamus in Heat is #6 this week.  

Tell the story. Admit it is crap. Get over it. Edit like a god. The story is in there. The editing will help bring it out.

After the sixth or seventh, your unedited draft may no longer be crap. By then though, you'll not be insecure.

Go get 'em. There is shit to edit.

Here's some help:

Keep writing. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Conference Experience

This is it, ladies and gentlemen. In the nutshell, at left is the conference experience.

Ice cream from a continuous churn industrial machine.

Oh - it's ice cream. Yes - it's tasty. It isn't the product you expect (Aunt Phyllis' homemade churned by a fleet of willing cousins) but you're still pretty happy when a bowl of it finds its way to your table. There is also the post-conference guilt (for those of to whom ice cream is on the "forbidden food" list yet new trousers are in order, ice cream brings guilt. You slender marathoners reading this...imagine. Use it as a fictive device).

Bear River is lovely. The setting is delightful. Please allow me one dusk-setting image of the lake.

Hardly justice. You'll have to take my word for the beauty of the water at sundown. As it is the water of Hemingway's boyhood, Walloon Lake has a special place for me now.

My workshop was fine. I learned several things. I experienced validation of some of my technique and sources. I was surprised in revisiting a couple of things. It was a good surprise.

I was in a workshop with very nice people. Very nice. Yes - you understand. They were nice.

I'm not nice. Rape, murder, extortion, emotional exploitation, molestation, abandonment, unfaithful partners and uncaring deities. These are the themes and flavors of my characters and their worlds.

Hard-boiled? Not at all. I'd love to be but I can't hold hard-boiled for more than a dozen paragraphs.

I prefer the Sunday service church bulletin style of writing where the bad stuff just sneaks in along with the litany of attendees to Thursday's potluck (Harriet Bowles is listed individually instead of Mr. and Mrs.  and we know that Jim Bowles didn't accompany her because he was in bed with Patti Miller. We ALL know it now thanks to Lizzy Miller getting a little tipsy Saturday night and calling her sister a slut-cunt at the Paradise Cafe and Dance Hall because Lizzy had a crush on Jim Bowles since high school. That, and Jenny Martin talking about the Lizzy incident while in the parking lot with all the lady smokers before service while the kids are in Sunday school).

My partners weren't literary murderers who have their characters vomit bile after their first killing. Oh, it's a bit of a shocker ... your first. It is an adrenaline thing. Sane people often get violently unwell. Hell, trained killers from Paris Island often get violently unwell. Crazy bastards are unmoved emotionally. Watch those guys. That, or give 'em your extra ammo.

Joker: How can you kill innocent women and children? 
Door Gunner: Easy. You just don't lead 'em as much.
   _Apocalypse Now_ 

SO, I'm in a room for twelve hours with nice people. 

You should consider this consequence if you attend a fiction workshop.

Now, confessional. I didn't read. I didn't read one word. Say it. I know you're thinking it. I'm thinking it.  CHICKENSHIT.

We had two full assignments. My workshop was a little soft that way. So ... two assignments in twelve hours of sessions.

The first overnight assignment and reading was an outline. It was a good drill for planners (me) and hell for the pantsers (many of whom had never heard the term).  We went around with volunteers reading some of their outlines for input on mechanics of the short-story plot. I'm not making this up.

Story, story, story. We have a college professor DUI event in which she escapes any consequences. We have  a Mark and Mindy young 20's break-up story (no one in bed with anyone's sister). We have a funny piece about a delusional mother at a wedding whose ends up estranged from the daughter-bride whose pet name she transfers to the daughter's dog dropped on her doorstep before the wedding. They are all delightful stories with merit and concern and technique and craft. Lovely.

I have a failing rancher dry-gulch his banker who bedded the rancher's wife ruining everyone's lives (wife now fled). When rancher returns home in the middle of the night, he clarifies for his younger female cousin the end of the ranch (money - not murder consequence here)  in a dark-stairway exchange. She then she makes herself available of which he obliges himself thus sinking a little lower into the depths of  ill-considered actions only to end in the office of the county sheriff (brother) held for the murder and confronted with the fact the cousin whose care could have been his last illusion of propriety confessed to the sheriff-brother that our murderer had in-fact bedded her and so - she left for parts unknown. In the end, it's a conversation by two brothers on the fine-kettle-of-fish this shit soup has become...

Now, that didn't seem like the sort of thing I wanted to share - so I didn't.

It got worse.

Now, we had for a second assignment : a scene. Mine became a 1900 word chapter-in-a-single-scene.

Blah Blah Blah. Around we go. Story Story Story including a lovely tale about a small dog and vicious pigs chasing him in a pasture. Lovely tale, actually. I liked the craft elements in it I could recognize and I think the writer did a fine job. Workman-like, even.

I have a story in which a genocidal dictator and a psychopathic head of the secret policy joke in front of the representative from The Hague here for extradition transfer under charges of crimes against humanity (which I can almost say with a straight face myself).   Naturally, my protagonist (who is not significant to the discussion here)  buys the dictator's way to freedom from the secret police chief while managing to insult the polite socialist from Canada serving as the representative for the Tribunal in The Hague.

Genocidal humor is not entirely appropriate in certain circles, literary or not. This was one of those circles.

Now, if I write a story about the sodomizing of infants in a hospital by a male nurse upset at the wage rate his newly approved union contract, that would be a story which would have a limited social appeal. I wouldn't expect it to be in polite discussion for a Pushcart.  I certainly wouldn't expect my few "influence readers" would push it to their friends saying "oh, you have to read THIS!"

That same flavor was the conference for me.

Should I have shared ? Sure. Should have.

Could my colleagues embrace my rougher topics of betrayal ? Sure. They're all serious writers.

I didn't. I felt out of place and out of type. My instinct was to plow ahead and blind the priest. I did the opposite because from my experience, following my first instinct is a bad thing to do.

Next time, a conference with murderers. Lots of them. Crime writers. My kind of people.