Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry by David Carlson, illustrations by Landis Blair

This reads like a memoir and it is nonfiction, but it took me a while to figure out how the authors were related to the story--The main character, Charlie, is a friend of the author's, and told him this crazy story about his father, and Mr. Carlson ran with it and did a lot of research to find out the truth behind it all.

Charlie's mother died and he had to move in with his father in Chicago. His grandmother had always told him is father was no good but, aside from being blind, his father actually seemed like a pretty good guy. It was a little time-consuming for Charlie to have to read to his father the types manuscripts of his stories for proofreading, but in all, so not bad, that Charlie started to wonder why his mother took him and left so suddenly, and why his grandmother hated his father so much. When Charlie gets into trouble after hanging out with some hoodlums, his father finally breaks down and tells him why he really wants Charlie to straighten up his life--he doesn't want Charlie to go through what he did, when he served several years in prison for armed robbery.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of this story. When Matt, Charlie's Dad, went to prison as a newly-blind teenager, he had special housing. And the other prisoner at Statesville Prison in special housing, and therefore his cellmate, was Nathan Leopold. Of Leopold & Loeb. Of the murderers who tried to commit the perfect crime! (It was one of the many "crimes of the century" in the 20th century and worth looking up if you don't know about it. They explain enough that you don't need to know for reading the book, but it's still fascinating.) Leopold initially wasn't at all happy with having to babysit Matt, but eventually, he took it upon himself to educate Matt. By assigning him to read The Divine Comedy by Dante.

Are you still not intrigued? You are hopeless and I give up. For those of you who are intrigued, the illustrations really lend weight to the story, the stark pen and ink images giving a real sense of the bleakness of prison and also help with understanding Matt's blindness. It is a riveting story which I read in one day, and will stay with me for a while to come.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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