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The Mouths of Babes

So my eight-year-old son tells me he has a great title for my next book.

"What is it?" I ask him.

"The Dead."

Now is probably not the time to tell him about the James Joyce story — you know, the one with Gretta Conroy and the late Michael Furey and the snow falling faintly upon all the living and the dead, etc. But it probably is time to wonder if my son will grow up to be a homicidal maniac.But it probably is time to wonder if my son will grow up to be a homicidal maniac.

Don't get me wrong. He's a sweet kid, a gentle kid. He's never been in a serious fight with anyone. He's about as far from an alpha boy as you'll find. But he does have an interest in mayhem.

One might even call it a pronounced inclination. Whenever a Netflix movie arrives in the mail, Seth has one and only one question: "Is there killing in it?" The correct answer is always: "Yes." His biggest dream is someday to watch Bride of Chucky. He demands to know how many corpses I've inserted into each of my books, and when he first saw the cover of The Pale Blue Eye, he asked, wistfully, if the daubs of red were real blood. I explained to him this would hardly be practical, given that tens of thousands of copies were already in circulation. The look of disappointment in his eyes was quickly replaced by calculation, and it seemed to me he was envisioning some macabre sweatshop, where young men and women could be set to work spattering book after book with the contents of their own veins.

Yes, my son creeps me out sometimes, but how can I blame him? I myself have a long and ever-growing track record of creepiness.I myself have a long and ever-growing track record of creepiness. I reap what I sow.

In The Pale Blue Eye, young men's hearts are carved from their bodies. In Mr. Timothy, immigrant girls are branded and shut away in coffins. In the opening sections of my new book, The Black Tower, a man's fingernails are painstakingly separated from his fingers. All in all, I'm an amiable guy, but I can't deny that I'm in the business of hurting people — for entertainment. Crime writing is itself a crime, and I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that my only punishment is having a morbid kid.

÷ ÷ ÷

Louis Bayard is the author of the national bestseller The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy, a New York Times Notable book. A staff writer for Salon.com, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Nerve.com, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Pale Blue Eye (P.S.)
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  2. Mr. Timothy (P.S.) Used Trade Paper $3.50
  3. Dubliners (Modern Library) Used Trade Paper $11.00
  4. The Black Tower
    Used Hardcover $7.95

Louis Bayard is the author of The Black Tower

One Response to "The Mouths of Babes"

    Brockman September 3rd, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Look on the bright side: maybe he'll grow up to be Joe Hill.

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