I'm on page 157 (the beginning of chapter 11) of Walter Kirn's 252-page nonfiction book titled "Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade." I purchased the book long before I knew that Kirn was coming to this year's Get Lit! celebration, and obviously before I knew that he was going to participate in a literary conversation with Spokane-based author/columnist Shawn Vestal.
That conversation, by the way, will take place at 7 tonight at Riverside Place (formerly the Spokane Masonic Temple), 1110 W. Riverside Ave. Tickets are $15.
So far, "Murder Will Out" is fascinating, not just as a look at a murderous imposter but as an example of confessional writing. What's important to Kirn, who lives — according to his book — in Livingston, Mont., is not just his subject but his own experience leading up to his meeting, his getting to know, his gradual distrust of and eventual feelings of betrayal by his subject.
One of my favorite passages, though, has nothing to do with murder. It involves moment that, Kirn concludes, "sent a tremor through my life." It occurs when Kirn believes that he has run over his 1-year-old son, Charlie. Kirn had been sitting in his pickup, talking to a friend, unaware that Charlie had crawled in front of the vehicle. And he became aware of that fact only when his friend called out the boy's name, by which time Kirn had already driven over where the boy had been sitting.
"The truck rolled on, a good ten feet — momentum. I stopped it as time elongated and yawned and I became a speck or cinder drifting in a nauseating gray void. I shifted into Park. I climbed down from the cab. Life had just ended for me, so I was calm. I hurried, because one must, but I was calm. With forty more years to absorb the ghastly image already taking shape in my mind's eye, adrenaline and panic were irrelevant."
I'm tempted to leave things there, and tell you to go pick up a copy to see what happens. But that would be mean. Kirn continues:
"He was sitting upright under the license plate, halfway between the rear tires. My perfect boy. The pickup's jacked-up, four-wheel-drive suspension had allowed the chassis to pass right over him. It made no sense. The overlay of horror — the scene that should have been — persisted in my vision as I reached for him. Angels. Providence. Only they made sense. In the realm of logic and causality, I'd killed my child, but love had vanquished physics and here he was in my arms, against my chest, with nothing but a pink patch on his forehead where the truck's differential had scraped the skin."
The discussion between Kirn and Vestal, no slouch of a writer himself, should be fascinating. It will follow each writer's reading from his own respective work. Click here for ticket information.