My good friend Abner Violette, a retired NASA electrical engineer (literally a rocket scientist) and owner of five radio stations throughout Nebraska and Colorado, is the most intelligent person I've ever met. He can talk with facility on just about any subject, from physics to falafel to the Foo Fighters. He is a Christian (though you'd never know it), an admirer of Robert Goddard and Wernher von Braun, and a firm believer in ghosts.
We've gone many times, to the delight of my young (Catholic) son, fully equipped with pyrometers and EMF meters and digital voice recorders and cameras to explore old buildings at night in pursuit of phantoms. Our trips are always fruitful — EMF spikes, batteries mysteriously draining, cameras shutting off by themselves, photographs with orbs, recordings of voices that aren't ours ("I see you grin!"), videos of flying what-nots, candle flames flaring up on request. Abner is not only a spook magnet but a great part of the serendipity of my book. After one of the people who I list as a prime suspect hastily left town and then sold his house, Abner bought the place. Talk about a haunted house!
Abner's fascination with the paranormal has had a tremendous influence on me. All my life I never realized you could have a conversation with a ghost. One evening, after my wife and son had gone out for a walk, I decided to have a talk with my neighbor, who I believe was murdered. I had gotten to know and admire him by listening to people talk about him. He seemed a wonderful person with much to give. I wanted to know if what I was writing about him was accurate and fair and if there was anything he'd like to add to the account. While you're at it, I told him, I could use a title. All the other titles I'd come up with, Conclusion by Sunset, Where the Rivers Run Sand, The Dead in Strange Houses, were no good. A moment later I heard the front door open and close. I thought it was my wife and son back from their walk, so I went out to greet them. No one was there. A few minutes later I had the title: Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.
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