Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Philosophical Detective Novel Excerpt

I shared this excerpt in the comments to a post over here, so I figured I might as well put it up on my own blog. So I have. Posted it. Here. On my blog.

In the garden, sitting on one of several wooden folding chairs beneath an apple tree, Mr Taylor smoked a pipe and worried. On his knee a small book was balanced. Taylor had allegedly come down to read and to let his wife lie quietly in the dark of their room. He probably should’ve been with her in case it was more than an ordinary headache but Taylor was afraid of that possibility even if he didn’t quite know it. Leonora was having a nap and he was sitting in the shade with a book, that was all.

The book was a publication of the University of Chicago Press and had been written by a colleague of Taylor’s eldest son. Taylor’s son had given it to him so that Taylor would have “something interesting to read on vacation,” according to the inscription on the title page. Taylor’s eldest son liked to read on his vacations rather than to relax and admire the local sights and color. Sometimes Taylor thought his eldest son was a bit too stiff for his own good. He also wasn’t entirely sure that the book wasn’t a joke. It was called
Kierkegaard at Large, and was a hundred and ten pages of dense, mostly incomprehensible philosophy printed in very small, dark type. Taylor could make nothing of it except that the author possibly was claiming that God was a bit of a scamp, getting up to all sorts of harebrained naughtiness that mankind mistook for either plagues or miracles, depending on the outcome. What any of it had to do with the Danish philosopher of the book’s title was well beyond Taylor. It gave him a headache, put him in a foul mood and failed to help Taylor take his mind off his wife.

He thought about going inside the hotel and inquiring after a glass of lemonade, but when he’d come down from his room Taylor had found the staff in a tizzy, running from room to room with grim expressions and babbling inarticulate nonsense at him. Apparently there had been some sort of fracas in the garage. One of the other guests, he took it, had been injured. Taylor would keep that news from his wife. They had so little time left, he and Leonora, and he’d spoil as few moments of it as he could with bad news. There was already bad news enough for the rest of her days.

How ironic it is, Taylor thought. All your life you tell yourself that you’ve got plenty of time and when you approach the end you see that no matter how plentiful your time was, it was never enough. Likely that’s all been observed before, Taylor thought. Poets and writers, he was sure, had been repeating that bit of wisdom for centuries. Poetry had never been one of Taylor’s comforts and so these revelations were all new and startling. He didn’t much enjoy it.


  1. I identify with Taylor and Leonora immediately. I'm hoping she beats it. (Brain tumor?)I have to say that every time you post an excerpt of your writing, I'm hooked.

  2. Charlie: Well spotted! I am very fond of the Taylors; they're a sweet old couple. Don't go throwing spoilers at folks, though! And I will warn you that the book takes place in 1935; there were not a lot of effective treatment options back then.

  3. This is beautiful, Scott. I like that even in this little scene you hint at another scene, the one in the garage, which I assume you aren't going to go into. It really makes the world seem big. This is also touching: he’d spoil as few moments of it as he could with bad news

  4. Davin Barnacle: Thanks! I do actually talk about the scene in the garage, but Mr Taylor has a complete misunderstanding of what's happened there. His sons get a little more mention, too. There's a lot more to this particular scene and then of course later on there's his wife's matching scene. She may get one more before the end of the book; I haven't figured that part out yet.