There once was a writer ignorant of history, /
For whom dates and names were a mystery. /
Did it happen there? /
Did anyone really care? /
It let him tell the story so simplistically.
There once was a writer ignorant of history, /
For whom dates and names were a mystery. /
Did it happen there? /
Did anyone really care? /
It let him tell the story so simplistically.
Have you wanted to attend Killer Nashville, but like a down-on-his-luck gumshoe finding it hard to crack the case that will save your, client, your reputation, and save you from the bill collectors?
Well, here’s a clue, maybe two that could crack the case wide open. You might just qualify for either the Jimmy Loftin Memorial Scholarship or the Lisa Jackson Scholarship. Both scholarships are aimed at helping those who have a desire to attend, but don’t have the lucre to lay down. Both scholarships are based on financial need.
The Jimmy Loftin Memorial Scholarship is in honor of Jimmy Loftin, who “was murdered in the prime of his youth,” according to the Killer Nashville web site. Jimmy family has several writers and an uncle who has been a long-time supporter of the Killer Nashville. Killer Nashville also accepts donations to this scholarship.
Before she was an internationally known, bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. The author of 85 novels, Lisa was also the 2014 Guest of Honor at Killer Nashville. She has been a big supporter of the conference and wanted to help those who are struggling with the bills while struggling with the writing.
Guidelines for the scholarships is as follows:
–write an essay that illustrates your financial need and why you want to attend the Killer Nashville Writer’s Conference.
–Entries should be 500 words long, double spaced, and in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier with at least 1-inch margins.
–Attach entries to the online form found at https://killernashville.com/killer-nashville-scholarships/
–The deadline is July 1, 2017.
The Killer Nashville Conference is August 24 – 27, 2017 in Franklin Tennessee. Details at https://killernashville.com/.
[Writer’s note: What began as a writing prompt — photo and first paragraph — has become at least the start of a story. I will endeavor to add short sections to it, at lest as long as there is some interest. It might be a little rough in parts, but that’s because it is coming “hot off the press,” which could be part of the fun of it. In the meantime, you are free to jump off from any part of this story thus far and write your own version. Click Holly’s Corner below to get Parts 1 – 13. And yes, I know it has been a while since the previous entry. I have been “nibbling away” at the story, but didn’t realize so many month’s had passed. Blame surgery for that. But the story does continue.]
by David E. Booker
Despite my hopes otherwise, the address did not take me to the swanky part of town, or even swankier part of the county, where the swanky of the swanky lived avoiding paying city property taxes as they came into the city each day for work.
Yeah, I have a bit of a mad on about that. I think they should be charged a toll fee every day they travel into the city. Just to keep them honest.
Where I was was a section of town that may have once been swanky, but had seen its swank tank somewhere in the late 1960s and was slowly making its way back up to respectability. You could find a descent house for a descent price and you could find some flop houses where the modern-day bohemians and college students lived, sometimes side by side in a 1920s bungalow cut into a rental duplex of sorts. Rumor had that on this street not one, but two state legislators had rental property that they blamed the renters for the rundown conditions. The local newspaper, in a modest fit of bravery, had written an expose about it, and it wasn’t only the politicians’ tongues that could fork. The whine and cheesy circuit I called it. They were cheesy enough to go on radio and TV and whine that they were the victims, that the newspaper didn’t print their sides of the story, that the city codes department was out to get them because of the way they had voted on certain bills, that their renters were less than honorable, behind on their rents, and a whole host of other moral and legal deficiencies. By the time they were done, I had to wonder why they hadn’t done a background check in the first place.
It’s a shame when good renters go bad.
Yet all the while they spoke, the politicians had that condescending smirk as if they had just farted in public and weren’t about to apologize.
And still the people vote them back into office.
“I hope we never find out what we are truly made of,” I said to no in particular, because I don’t think we would like it much. To say we were made of the stuff of stars seemed to be condescending to the universe. Maybe we were more of the universe’s fart.
I pulled the car over to the crumbling curb, parked it, and got out. By way of greeting, a frying pan flew out the open window by the front door and landed in the front yard in among the leaves and dying grass. Fortunately, it was not cast iron.
A man stumbled through the front screen door, almost as if he’d been pushed or thrown. When he turned around and saw me, he did his best to straighten up and walk soberly toward me, a beer bottle in his left hand. At least he was drinking out of glass.
“Rachel’s husband, Mick.” He extended a hand. I took it. His grip was firm and his gaze appeared to be clear. He nodded toward the house. “She’s a bit miffed that I called you and that I took away her bottle.”
He shrugged. “Often enough, I guess.”
He sounded more pleasant in person than on the phone. Some people are that way, and some people have a reason. I wasn’t sure which in his case. He reached down and picked up the skillet. “Thank god for Teflon. I’d hate for this to be the iron one she says makes the best of just about everything, except a marriage.”
Mick had gray in his hair and few leathery folds in his face that indicated heavy exposure to the outside. It gave him a cowboy-outdoorsman look that was no unattractive on him.
“She’ll calm down in a bit, but if she comes outside, it might get a bit spiteful.”
He spoke in a way that was at odds with surroundings. In a 19th Century English novel, he could have been a member of the nobility who had fallen a bit on hard times.
“I’m not sure why you wanted me to come here,” I said.
He reached out, took my by the elbow and led me a few more steps away from the house. “I don’t know what has gotten into my wife. But since that troublemaker Tricia came by, things have taken a turn for the worst.”
“Sounds like a job for a psychologist,” I said.
“What I want you to do is find this recipe. The real recipe. And find out why it is so damn important.”
“Maybe there’s nothing to find out,” I said. “Maybe it is only important because the other sister thinks it’s important and what sister A believes to be important makes it important to sister B.”
“Then I need to know that, too.” Mick glanced back at the house and then leaned a little closer to me. “Look, living with Rach has not always been a soufflé. Or maybe it has and it’s been a soufflé that’s fallen.”
“I don’t cook much, so I wouldn’t know a soufflé from a samovar.”
Mick chuckled. “But you know was a samovar is.”
“Only because an ex once threw one at me. I remember it fondly as the samovar savoir-faire.”
“You’re just full of yourself, aren’t you,” Mick said.
I shrugged. “I do what I can in the land of philistines.”
“I don’t know that I like you much,” Mick said.
“You’re the one who called me and demanded I come out here. I know the road back and I’m not afraid to use it.”
The front door banged open and out stumbled Rachel. She looked none too happy to see me. She took one step forward, paused as if she had something profound or pithy to hurl at me in the hopes that the sheer brilliance of it would strike deaf, dumb, and blind. The bile that suddenly spewed forth from him mouth was not a pleasant site.
Rachel then took a step back, wobbled for a moment, then collapsed, face first, into the slurry,
“And a harpy hell-oh to you, dick-tech-tive. Come to like my froshting.”
I could see Mick’s ears turning red around the edges.
“My own dick here says I a lust.”
“That’s enough, honey,” Mick said, stepping toward her.
A car whipped around the corner, the rear end fishtailing. It took me a moment to realize the car was heading toward us, taking aim, but not with the car, but with a rifle barrel sticking out the rear window. I took a quick step and dived toward the happy couple, but was only able to tackle Mick, who stumbled to the ground as two bullets scorched the air near my ear.
I won’t say time slowed down or stood still, but there was an ethereal flow to it. Maybe it was the adrenaline spewing into my bloodstream or that when I landed, the wind was temporarily knocked out of me, but all sight and sound compressed to a small point and almost disappeared. Then it all flooded back in, first as a jumble, and then as distinct entities jangling together before integrating again. It was then I heard screaming and for a moment thought it was I who was shot, then Mick, and then quickly I turned and saw Rachel lying on the ground, her head twitching and blood seeping out of her chest.
The screaming was from a neighbor, who first rushed toward us in quick small steps, then turned and rushed away in quick small steps, wailing and moaning and gnashing her teeth all the while.
I stumbled over, bent over, and placed my fingers against her neck. There was a cold, blank, hard stare in her eyes as if at the moment of death she was saying, “Fuck you all to hell. I’m not going and you can’t make me.”
Death, unfortunately, never listens, or if it does, it listens only long enough to laugh at your folly and does as it will.
Literary detective Heather Wolfe reveals how her passion for manuscripts helped unravel mystery of who the bard really was
By Robert McCrum
Deep in the Folger Library, in Washington DC, Heather Wolfe says that studying Shakespeare makes an ideal preparation for the onset of Trump’s America. You can see her point: Shakespeare would have revelled in the mad excesses, the sinister vanities and the pervasive stench of cronyism and corruption surrounding the president-elect as America makes the painful transition from Barack Obama.
Dr Wolfe is a willowy, bright-eyed manuscript scholar, a paleographer specialising in Elizabethan England who in certain moods of candour might put you in mind of Portia or perhaps Cordelia. She’s also a Shakespeare detective who, last year, made the career-defining discovery that is going to transform our understanding of Shakespeare’s biography. In the simplest terms, Wolfe delivered the coup de grace to the wild-eyed army of conspiracy theorists, including Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, who contest the authenticity, even the existence, of the playwright known to contemporaries as Master Will Shakespeare.
Wolfe is an accidental sleuth. Her scholar’s passion is as much for old manuscripts as for the obscurities surrounding our national poet. Project Dustbunny, for example, one of her initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, has made some extraordinary discoveries based on microscopic fragments of hair and skin accumulated in the crevices and gutters of 17th-century books.
DNA forensics aside, Wolfe’s role as a curator at the Folger is to bring her expertise to bear on the tantalising mass of documents that survives from the late 16th century. And yet, despite a heap of legal, commercial and matrimonial evidence, Shakespeare the man continues to slip through scholars’ fingers. Four centuries after his death, apart from a handful of crabbed signatures, there is not one manuscript, letter or diary we can definitively attribute to the poet, sponsoring the pervasive air of mystery that surrounds his genius. Indeed, the most intimate surviving Shakespeare document remains that notorious will, in which he bequeathed his wife his “second best bed”.
Before Wolfe arrived on the scene, all that scholars could be certain about was that a man named Shaxpere, Shaxberd or Shakespear was born in Stratford in 1564, and that he was an actor whose name is printed in the collected edition of his work published in 1623. We also know that he married Anne Hathaway, and died in 1616, according to legend, on his birthday, St George’s Day. The so-called “Stratfordian” case for Shakespeare rested on these, and a few other facts, but basically, that was it.
Into this vacuum, a bizarre fraternity, including Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin and Sigmund Freud, have projected a “Shakespeare” written by a more obviously accomplished writer: Edward de Vere (the 17th earl of Oxford), Sir Francis Bacon and the playwright Christopher Marlowe, to name the leading contenders in a field that includes Sir Walter Raleigh, and even Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen herself.
In the absence of reliable data, a mountain of speculation has morphed into the weirdest fantasy, notably the 2011 film, Anonymous. Wolfe has no time for this. Speaking exclusively for the first time to the Observer, she says: “Without the evidence for other contenders, it’s hard for me to engage with this line of inquiry.”
Wolfe’s appetite for manuscript corroboration has led her into many dusty corners of the Elizabethan archives. It was this research instinct that first led her to reopen the file on the coat of arms granted to Shakespeare’s father, the small-town glover, in 1596.
John Shakespeare, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was ambitious to rise in the world. He was certainly not the first Englishman keen to put his origins as a provincial tradesman behind him. Among his contemporaries in Stratford, he was a figure of fun for his social climbing. English class snobbery has a long pedigree. His son, who would continue the quest for official recognition after his father’s death, also attracted metropolitan disdain as “an upstart crow beautified with our feathers”. In 1601, after his father’s death, Shakespeare the upstart returned to the college of arms to renew the family application for a coat of arms. He had made a small fortune in the theatre, and was buying property in and around Stratford. Now he set out to consolidate his reputation as a “Gentleman”. Under the rules that governed life at the court of Elizabeth I, only the Queen’s heralds could grant this wish.
A much-reproduced sketch for a coat of arms crystallised Shakespeare’s hopes for legitimacy in the antique jargon of heraldry: “Gould, on a Bend Sables, a Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Crest, a falcon, his winges displayed Argent, supporting a Speare Gould …” The needy applicant also attached a motto: Non Sanz Droit (“Not Without Right”). All this, and much more, is buried in the archives of the college of arms in London.
Wolfe’s fascination with Shakespeare’s quest for a family crest grew out of her immersion in the manners and customs of late Elizabethan England, in particular the College of Heralds. These court officials were required to administer the complex rituals governing the lives of the knights, barons and earls surrounding Queen Elizabeth.
An adjunct to the court, the College of Heralds was not exempt from its own secret feuds. In 1602, the internecine rivalry between Sir William Dethick, the Garter King of Arms, and another herald, Ralph Brooke, burst into the open when Brooke released a list of 23 “mean persons” whose applications for crests (he claimed) had been wrongfully preferred by Dethick. When “Shakespeare the Player” found himself on this list, his campaign for social advancement seemed in jeopardy. A bitter row broke out at court between two factions. Shakespeare himself became an object of ridicule. Another rival, Ben Jonson, in his satire Every Man out of his Humour, poked fun at him as a rustic buffoon who pays £30 for a ridiculous coat of arms with the humiliating motto “Not Without Mustard”.
It’s at this point in the story that Wolfe discovered “the smoking gun”. In the Brooke-Dethick feud, it becomes clear that “Shakespeare, Gent. from Stratford” and “Shakespeare the Player” are the same man. In other words, “the man from Stratford” is indeed the playwright. Crucially, in the long-running “authorship” debate, this has been a fiercely contested point. But Wolfe’s research nails any lingering ambiguity in which the Shakespeare deniers can take refuge.
Wolfe is circumspect about making extravagant claims. Speaking carefully, she says that her manuscript discoveries fill in gaps, illuminating Shakespeare’s character. “They point to someone actively involved in defining and defending his legacy in 1602, shortly after his father’s death.”
For Wolfe, it’s Shakespeare the man who breaks cover here. “He’s defending his legacy not only as a playwright but, most importantly to him, as a gentleman.” The derogatory references to arms belonging to “Shakespeare ye player”, she says, show that “he’s playing the same game as everyone else in the period, purchasing land in Stratford to support his case to ‘ancient’ gentility, rather than through his astonishing professional success”.
James Shapiro, bestselling author of 1599, who is persuaded by Wolfe’s discoveries, compares her to “a Sherlock Holmes of the archives”. Shapiro says that Wolfe “has had the intellectual independence to see what others have overlooked, the skills to make sense of what she has stumbled upon and the modesty not to trumpet the larger implications of those finds. But make no mistake: they are enormously consequential.”
For Shapiro, Wolfe’s work suggests future breakthroughs. “I doubt that these are the last archival treasures she will unearth. Her recent finds sharpen our sense of Shakespeare’s dogged pursuit of upward mobility. And it is one more nail in the coffin of those who can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that the glover’s son from Stratford was also the successful man of the theatre who left us so many extraordinary plays.”
Wolfe says she looks forward to “poking about” in the archives, and is convinced that Shakespeare’s identity no longer needs re-confirmation. “There is such a wealth of evidence out there that he’s the playwright.” She adds: “I’m sure there’s more untapped material waiting to be uncovered. Additional finds will certainly help us understand his life – as much as we can understand anyone’s life from 400 years ago.”