“The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds” Write Up by Jackson Wagner

In Neil Gaiman’s “The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” Horner is a private investigator looking into the murder of a renowned blackmailer named Humpty Dumpty. He’s paid to do this by Humpty’s beautiful sister. The Kings Men tried to put Humpty back together but he died. The police chief warns Horner that he’s punching above his weight class and that he should abandon the case. Humpty’s fall was marked as an accident by most. Horner continues to look for clues on Humpty’s murder and is continuously told to drop the case. Eventually he figures out that Humpty’s sister is actually the killer, because she didn’t want anyone to find out she had her nose fixed by a now deceased surgeon whom Humpty had recommended.

It’s very interesting to see how Gaiman adapted a nursery rhyme into a gritty down to earth murder mystery. We kind of rooted for this investigator, while the author also kept us glued to the story because the reader wants to see how closely the story lines up with the nursery rhyme. The brutal ending also focuses on how gritty the world is and highlights how nursery rhymes and fairy tales used to have endings that were darker than the ones children are told today.

I would definitely want to steal Gaiman’s ability to take such a surreal world and ground it thoroughly in a reality of his own making. This is a silly story told to children, urging them to not climb too high. Gaiman twists it in to a tale filled with murder and intrigue. A bumbling simpleton in the original story becomes a cunning blackmailer with animal allies.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” Write Up by Jackson Wagner

This short story puts the short in story. It does, however, manage to tell a fascinating tale which puts the spotlight on paranoia and the toll it can have. The most valuable thing I think one could take away from this tale is Poe’s economic word choice. He spends words like the last pennies in a beggar’s pocket. It leads to a concise, yet immensely satisfying read. Poe also gives the point of view of a murderer attempting to avoid capture. The reasons he gives for this evil man’s drive to slay is both fascinating and unusual. He makes a point of saying how he’s not mad and how his victim is being killed simply because of his evil eye. This leaves us thinking even after the story about the true reason for the noise he heard, as well as the drive he had for killing the old man. Was it truly about the evil eye? Or was this a metaphor for some trauma he had suffered at the man’s hand? Or was he, despite his claims, truly mad? The ending also leaves us wondering why the man’s paranoia ended with his doom. He had gotten away with the murder clean, the police were convinced of his innocence. The best of stories are the ones that leave you thinking long after you finish them. With his economic word use, and fascinating ending, Poe easily lands the “Tell Tale Heart” in this vaunted group.

“A Horseman in the Sky” Write Up by Jackson Wagner

A Horseman in the Sky” by Ambrose Bierce tells of a young man of Virginia who goes off to join the Union in the Civil War. He tells his father who is mildly disappointed and tells him if they both survive they will speak again at the end of the war. The young man has fallen asleep at his post and awakes to see a man sitting proudly on a horse. He must make the decision whether or not to shoot the man. Eventually he shoots the man’s horse. The man who sat enraptured by a horseman in the sky is the young man’s father.

This piece shows how to deliver a surprising final scene with poise and subtlety. The author leads the reader along and uses flowery language to its fullest extent. His descriptions of the unnamed father provide all the information needed and by not naming him, the reader could extend the metaphor to the Civil War as a whole. Brothers killing brothers and fathers killing sons. In this case, however, the son has killed his father, making him fall off the cliff. The author doesn’t reveal the identity of the man on the horse until the end. I’d love to emulate this author’s use of symbolism in my writing, as he does it with such aplomb and subtlety that one simply doesn’t know what is happening until it reaches the end. I find it fascinating that the author chose to have Carter shoot the horse not the father.

TALKING POINTS:

  1. Why did Carter shoot the horse?
  2. Why did Carter shoot his father?
  3. What do you think the horseman in the sky symbolizes, if anything?
  4. Discuss how a single event, Carter waking up in this case, can change everything?
  5. What do you think would’ve happened if Carter hadn’t shot his father?

“The Same Story” Write Up by Jackson Wagner

I really loved the contrasting ideas Suzanne Roberts used in “The Same Story.” I also felt like her way of describing people, even just referring to them as “miss goody two shoes” or “my on-again off-again,” gave the reader a very clear picture of who these people are in reference to her story. Without even going into in depth descriptions of what these people were like, I felt I had a good sense of them by the end of the story. She was able to portray her “on-again off-again” as a messed up individual just by describing his actions and the conversations they had together.

I also loved her pointing out the meanings of mistake and where it came from. At first I thought it was a strange and an unrelated addition to her story, flavor text, as it were. I later realized upon reading it again, that those meanings helped show how her understanding of what had happened evolved and changed. I would like to implement her use of outside information similar to her mistake idea in my own writing as I felt it really added a level of depth to the story. She also worked it in smoothly, to where it didn’t feel like it had been abruptly thrown in.

I also really liked how she portrayed the other woman and how she left it unclear as to which one she was. I personally think she was the goody-two shoes, however, she left it vague enough to where the reader can come to his own conclusion. This overarching question had me thinking throughout the entire story and is something I would really like to mimic in my own writing, especially in more serious pieces, as I felt it gave the reader something to take away from the story and to think more on. This, in my mind, ensures that the story told is not lost in the ether of the reader’s poor memory.

This story also helped me realize that creative non-fiction can include a great deal of the writer’s train of thought. This makes it much easier to write about personal stories, as you’re able to add your own take on the experience, thus adding depth to an otherwise mediocre story.