Saturday, October 01, 2005

The path to 'Small Town News'

I would imagine some of you are tired of hearing about "Small Town News," but to be honest with you, it has been the center of my writing life for the past few weeks. Since this is my first novel that has been published, I have been trying my best to make sure it meets with some success. I have spent some time working on the Small Town News website, a link for which is located on the right-hand side of this page and trying to publicize it in a low-key way since it is only available from the publisher for the next few weeks.
I have been surprised by how fast the word has spread about the novel. Last night, I had people approach me at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on 15th, and at Hastings asking me about my book. Sadly, I didn't recognize the people who were asking me. I hope that is not a sign of advancing age.
I wrote my first book-length manuscript (calling it a novel would be charitable, when I was 14 years old, a freshman at East Newton High School. It was 289 pages long and was titled "A Song For Susan." I no longer have any copies of that work, only a cover page that somehow survived over the past 35 years. The only thing I remember about it is that it was terrible.
During my teen years, I wrote four more book-length manuscripts, none of which were memorable and had absolutely no success marketing them because they simply were not marketable. Since I was a terrible typist and did not have much patience or a good enough typewriter to work with, my friend Barbara McNeely did my typing for me, for very little pay.
Sadly, Barbara, a student at Missouri Southern State College at the time, was stabbed to death in September 1977 behind Northpark Mall after returning from an errand she ran for her employer, J. C. Penney. The man who killed her was found not guilty by reason of insanity, spent a few short years in a mental hospital and then was released into society without a word to anyone, thanks to the culpability of the Missouri State Health Department and the state attorney general at the time, Bill Webster.
Not having Barbara around took a lot of the joy out of everything for her friends for a long time, and since I have always been a person who takes an extra long time getting over anything, it was nearly a couple of years after her death before I started writing again.
The year was 1979 and by this time, I was the editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald and living in Lockwood. After covering night time events, I returned to the Luminary-Herald office on Main Street in Lockwood and sat in the front area, pounding out a novel, "Sudden Death" on an old Underwood manual typewriter. Some of the characters in "Small Town News" were originally created for "Sudden Death," which revolved around the murder of a high school team's star quarterback just before the state football playoffs. I had no luck marketing it, which is probably just as well. Though it was better than "A Song for Susan" and the other book-length manuscripts I wrote while I was in my teens, it still lacked something. A few days after I finished writing "Sudden Death," Boone Newspapers shut down the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald.
After that, it was 23 years before I started writing again. I suppose I should qualify that. I have always been writing. I estimated that during my newspaper days, I wrote more than 20,000 articles, averaging more than 1,000 a year. But even though I had left fiction behind, it was always in the back of my mind.
I have spent a lot of years thinking that I let Barbara McNeely and the other people who had faith in me as a writer down, so yes, I will be writing quite a bit about the book on this blog, but I will try not to neglect the items that regular readers have grown used to.
Thank you for your patience.


Anonymous said...

I remember the Barbara McNeely murder. My teen-age sisters were scared to go to the mall unescorted for years afterward. It was a terrible, terrible tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Iwill never forget my dear friend ,Barbara McNeely, such a wonderful person, enjoyed many yrs. of fellowship with her at Granby United Methodist Church, will never forget how she loved to make No-Bake Cookies when it was her time for refreshments at Methodist Youth Fellowship, no one can say anything but kindness towards Barbara, she was always pleasant and upbeat, never talking down to anyone. She will never be forgotten.

Saved2Share said...

I remember sweet Barbara McNeely at Granby United Methodist Church and I can remember the tragic shock wave that spread through my mind and our youth group as news of her death came to our attention. She was a jewel and a godly young woman.

Victor Boll