I went to the “Death, Murder and Mayhem” symposium at the Embassy Suites downtown this past week, thinking I might pick up some writing ideas. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I still enjoyed it. Most people there were academia and grad students presenting papers, but there were a few writers in the crowd. Many of the presentations had to do with various murders in the past, cowboy times up to Charlie Starkweather and beyond. Several speakers talked about how the media can affect investigations and trials. A couple “old timers” from 1950’s TV talked about how Charlie Starkweather was filmed in his cell and how the media described him as a punk with a limp, etc. They said the media would never get away with that now. One reporter talked about how, in the ’50’s, some reporters were even allowed to interrogate prisoners.
Several speakers talked about the land and how it adds to the hopeless feeling people bent on murder and mayhem may have. A couple mystery writers said the land is a character itself in their books. One keynote speaker titled her talk “They Would See Nothing” which is a quote from Mari Sandoz about the Sandhills. Sandoz described people who saw the Sandhills as a vast wasteland as “those who would see nothing.” They don’t see the beauty but only look for ways of profiting from the land. Many in pioneer days thought the Sandhills had nothing to offer.
Sean Doolittle was one of the mystery writers who spoke. I am currently reading one of his books called “Rain Dogs” that takes place near Valentine along the Niobrara. Another writer was Alex Kava who has written many best sellers set in Nebraska. I have never been able to get through her books because they are pretty gruesome. I have her “Perfect Evil” and another one, but I get too emotionally involved to read very far. It may have to do with being familiar with the places she writes about. “The Perfect Evil” is based on the John Joubert murders of the two paperboys in the early ’80’s and that is too close to home for me to read. (I never let my boys have paper routes because of that case.)
Anyway, I hope there is no mayhem in your lives and that you are all getting ready for the class reunion. Please send your pictures, old and recent, to me. You can just scan them and e-mail them or you can send them in the mail. Have a good week!