If writing is the heads on the coin of my life, purposeful reading has to be tails. Some of my significant reasons for reading are:
• To learn my craft
• To keep up with children’s and young adult literature
• To see and understand people and cultures that are not my own
• To see models of good writing – and why other writing does not work, at least for me
• To be informed about issues
• To question my own opinions
• To be inspired
Truthfully, I enjoy all of these much like I enjoy a good pot roast with potatoes and carrots. But now and then one needs a bit of dessert.
On a recent spring day with a gentle breeze and my porch swing beckoning, I spent the afternoon with Justice for Sara by Erica Spindler – a bit of key lime pie, if you will. Katherine McCall returns to her hometown after ten years away to find her sister’s killer and to clear her own name in the minds of the public, although she had been acquitted for the murder. I thought the book was every bit as good and of as little value as that pie.
Ironically, the next book in my stack was Until You Are Dead Dead Dead by Jim Bradshaw and Danielle Miller, a nonfiction book published by University Press of Mississippi. Properly outraged by the murder of six members of the Earll family in 1902 in Louisiana, community opinion supported what appears in hindsight to have been a rushed judgment on insufficient evidence by a jury, selected because they believed in capital punishment, who may have had their minds made up before the case went to trial. Protesting his innocence until the end, Ed Batson was hanged on August 14, 1903. Looking back, people have called it a classical case of circumstantial evidence or a case of mistaken identity. Some have sung the ballad of more than thirty-five verses that arose from the story.
It seems I ate dessert first, but both books have me thinking of the unreliability of public opinion, especially in the midst of justifiable outrage, and of our continuing need for real justice – not just for the fictional Sara. Fallible decisions are hard to take back after the hanging is done.