As of 8:24 PM, last Thursday, I reached THE END on the first draft of Beaumont #26, Den of Iniquity. I’m now deep in the editing process, but that’s another story. What finishing the manuscript really means is that, as of now, over the course of the last 40 years, I’ve written 67 books. That’s a lot of books.
Unfortunately, every once in a while, one of my stories or a detail in one of them hits a reader’s personal hot spot. Any number of people let me have it because J.P. and Joanna “had an affair” in Partner in Crime. Really? What book did they read? In the aftermath of a stressful moment—a life-or-death moment—they had an instant of mutual attraction, but trust me, nothing happened between them! That moment came and went. Period!
In Downfall it’s the balloons! At the very end of the book, during the course of Joanna’s mother’s and stepfather’s funeral at a fictional High Lonesome Ranch a barrage of fictional balloons were released into a fictional blue sky. Any number of people have written to read me the riot act about releasing those fictional balloons, even though no fictional animals were harmed in the process.
So recently when I received two emails in the same week with Downfall in the subject line, I expected the second one, from someone named Edd, would be yet another complaint about the balloons. It wasn’t. Instead it was something entirely different, and here’s a small excerpt:
I lost my parents long ago. Years apart, by natural causes. As the oldest of the relatives at the funerals, and the only one in uniform, I was expected to be, and was, the rock that held everybody else together. Uniforms are like baseball in (A League of Their Own) “There’s no crying,” and I didn’t allow myself to.
As I said earlier, my mother was a major fan of Roy Rogers. In the late fifties or early sixties, when television finally made it to town, we of course watched Roy and the gang, and sang along with “Happy Trails” like everyone else. It became a watchword. Going to school = “Happy Trails”, going to bed = “Happy Trails”, and so forth.
This is where my lengthy spiel comes to the end. As I read Joanna’s last words from the eulogy at her parent’s service, I lost it and had to put the book down for quite a while as I finally got to have that long cry that I had denied myself for so many years, as I said “Happy Trails” one more time and honored my loving parents, George and Eleanor.
If that didn’t give you goosebumps, you’re probably not paying attention. Next week, I’ll post about what I wrote back to him, but in the meantime I need to return to editing. I put in twelve solid hours on that job yesterday, and I’ll probably do the same today.
At the moment, however, it occurs to me that when all those folks who were so focused on the balloons were reading about George and Eleanor’s funeral, they may have missed the whole point of that loving gesture.
Edd Kande didn’t.
He got it.