Leon Czolgosz is my new nemesis. He’s dead, but he ruined my book. No, really. The guy totally destroyed the opening pages of Such a Tease.
Now, these days, not a whole lot of people remember the name of Leon Czolgosz. I didn’t. But I’ll never forget him now (although I may never remember how to spell his name).
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Who is he?
Only the guy who shot President McKinley. Why am I annoyed with him over a hundred years later? The idiot did this thing on September 6, 1901. You know, four days after Such a Tease opened? Yeah. Couldn’t he have done it on say… January 6, 1901? Even January 6, 1902, would have served my purposes.
Look, I’m not as callous as I appear. Truly. But if President McKinley had to die, did his murderer have to do it when it would completely mess up my book?
How did it RUIN my book you ask?
I’ll tell you. I left it out—the whole assassination thing. There I was, fixing a wedding date for one of the characters when a thought occurred to me. She could be married on Flag Day—if Flag Day was a thing then. I didn’t think it was. I really thought Wilson was responsible for that—you know, creating holidays in between his notes to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany or something like that. But I hoped. Somehow—just maybe. I mean we had Labor Day from Cleveland, why not Flag Day from McKinley. But noooooo. He didn’t. What did he do?
He got shot. Four days after my book opened. And did my fingers do the Hemmingway “bleed” all over the page in empathetic unison with old McKinley? Nope.
Not only did this Leon Czolgosz (no, really. It’s spelled correctly) shoot the president on September 6th, but he didn’t do a good job of it! Look, I think I’ve established that I didn’t want President McKinley killed. But if the guy with the unpronounceable last name had to do it, couldn’t he have done a good job of it? Couldn’t he have shot the president in the head? McKinley suffered for eight days before he died. Eight days! They thought he was getting better and then gangrene (some think pancreatitis–from where the bullet went through that handy little organ) killed him.
It would have been a mercy had Leon just shot McKinley in the head or the heart. Why the abdomen? Cruel, if you ask me.
Even for an anarchist.
And it made adding the whole affair to my book even more problematic. No, really! Think about it. I couldn’t have the newspapers announce the death of President McKinley on September 7th and then have a few mentions of the bank being affected or something. No… no… now I had to have a headline event, give false hope, and then add the death on top of it all.
Look, I do an obscene amount of research for my books. No, really. Keen was slang in 1901. Woohoo! Look up “peachy keen”? Yeah. Can’t use it. 1950s. The telephone? Can Madeline expect to use one in a burgeoning city in 1901? Considering there were over 850,000 telephones in use, yes. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a photographer who works for a local paper might have a telephone in order to receive calls requesting him to come photograph some big event—like the Mayor’s speech on the death of President McKinley, perchance?
Somehow, I almost missed one of the biggest events in US history. Research saved the book—and ruined my timeline. All at the same time. Gotta love history. Or not.
And Leon Czolgosz? Yeah. Thanks for nothing.
Time to Celebrate!
(Now that is incongruous!)
If you’d like to watch the book trailer, here it is!