Monday, February 6, 2012

The Shipwrecks of Time

The damage of the loss is less than feared.  About 7 kilowords have walked with Jesus, and some of that required a bit of noodling to pin down dates and things.  The noodles will need re-researching, a bothersome necessity when setting a story in the past.  Wonderfully, there is a site where I can find temperatures for Milwaukee for any of the years involved, release dates of movies, dates when certain songs were popular, and so on.  The years 1965-67 were pivot years.  Freeways were not everywhere; channels still signed off late at night.  Camp was camp.  Meatless Fridays went away, and altars were reversed.  Cities burned in the summers, and the US sent combat troops to stiffen the ARVN.  The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother took their vows on the Feast of St. Clare in the same month that the new passenger railroad station opened.  The Milwaukee Youth Council began picketing the Eagles Club and the next year led marches across the bridge in support of open housing.  The Klan set off two bombs and the following summer, in 1967, Milwaukee exploded. 

It makes for a perfect cover.

That is why I set the tale in those years, rather than in 1969-1971, when I lived there.  Not much happened in those years; the pivot had turned.  The Incomparable Marge, however, did live there (and for a time in an apartment building that would much much later house Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal).  She marched across the bridge with Fr. Groppi, awoke one day to find a tank at the end of her block, and had a close call breaking the curfew. 

Meanwhile at the (fictitious) Institute for Historical Research, Wilma Masterson is preparing concordances of the Matter of Britain and the Matter of France, and has been startled to find one character -- Ogier the Dane -- appearing with both Arthur and Charlemagne, and later with Hugh Capet.  Francis Xavier Delacorte, her colleague, has been assigned Professor Henkle's favorite topic: the lost manuscripts of the Middle Ages.  One of them in particular, the Peruzzi Manuscript, is said to be cursed.  Everyone who has ever found it has died. 

Carole asked him about the European trip, and what cities he would be visiting.  “I always wanted to travel,” she said, “and not just from Texas to Wisconsin.”  She told him that according to Nelson Crowe the research could be dangerous and begged him to take care.   
Frank laughed.  “The danger lies in being bored to death.  I’ll be talking to curators and researchers, not capos.”   
“Isn’t there one book, that everyone who reads it dies?”   
He laughed.  “Did Nelson tell you that?  That’s just one of those legends that crop up about lost books and lost gold mines and lost cities.  Nelson is taking it too seriously.  No, wait.  That can’t be right.  Nelson never takes anything too seriously.  He’s just running with the gag.”   
“Wasn’t there a Vittorio Gibretti who was looking for your Peruzzi Manuscript, and he died young.”   
“He was run over by a car in Brussels.”   
“And Coos van deVries…”   
“That was back in the 1860s!  He fell from a Rhine steamer and drowned.  Look, Carole, if you cast a wide enough net you will always pull in a number of suspicious deaths.  Remember the ‘curse’ of King Tut’s tomb?  We don’t like coincidences, so we make up stories to ‘explain’ them.”   
Carole leaned into him closer.  “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”   
“I’ll button up my overcoat/When the wind is free.”   
She didn’t understand the line, but then for the next hour or so she did not have to. 


  1. That's the kind of lost manuscript I can get behind. Currrrrrsed.

    Maybe you should do a little Poor Souls/poor sf writer intercession exchange with Poul Anderson, given that you're also writing about the Dane? Sounds like help from beyond would come in handy.

    It always astonishes me how boring most of the stuff is, in those "lost history" thrillers, when usually normal history is pretty exciting. And they never deal with the groups who really would kill you for doing historical research, probably because they're afraid they'd get killed for writing pseudo-historical thrillers also.

  2. Oh, and I'm glad to find out what the Father Groppi thing is. That deceased blogger lady who was the official anchoress for the Milwaukee diocese used to mention that, and I always wondered.

    Hm. Maybe you should do some intercession exchange with her. I think she knew pretty much everybody in Milwaukee.

    1. Karen Marie Knapp (may she rest in peace) is who I meant. You may remember her excellent blog, "From the Anchor Hold." Her family have kept it online, I'm pleased to see.

    2. Mr.Flynn,

      Apologies, but I can't seem to find a way to personally e-mail you this question:

      With the political brouhaha over Catholics and contraception, we've heard many pundits cite the statistics of Catholics using contraceptives, and most infamous number being 98% of all American Catholics. Though I don't doubt the numbers are high, that 98% sounds a bit too high to be believable whatever the theological concerns.

      Since you have done wonderful posts about manipulating statistics and seem to have a good head on your shoulders: what is the truth behind this stat being thrown around?

      Thank You

    3. I have no idea. I would ask first the source of the factoid.

      However, it is also irrelevant, and for two reasons:

      1. Like the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to meet current popular opinion. If the media have discovered that many Catholics sin, they have discovered nothing that has not been known for two millennia.

      2. And it is contrary to the Constitution of the United States. As Jefferson put it, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical." No one is compelling the 98% to spend their money. In fact the regulation forbids individuals for paying for contraceptives out of pocket!


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