I was reading, rereading, editing, and re-editing The Falcon – the second volume of the Hanlin series – when something finally hit me, something that I think I was dimly aware of while editing The Ceremony of Innocence but never quite put my finger on.
I was cutting out an inordinate number of references to chairs. And sitting comfortably. And many, many variations on the theme. Seems my original drafts were chock full of . . . well, comfy chairs. No stools, benches, slabs, tree trunks, nothing uncomfortable, just a whole lot of chairs and people sitting comfortably.
Why I was so unconsciously fixated on providing quality, comfortable seating for William Hanlin and friends is no mystery. I started the books in something known as pre-trial detention in Connecticut. This is an euphemism – get arrested in Connecticut and be unable to post bond and you are dumped into county jail. Detention is what the Breakfast Club endured for a Saturday morning, jail is … well, jail – overcrowded, reeking, filthy in ways you don’t want to think about . . . and there are no chairs.
Like the coffee in Glengarry Glen Ross, chairs in the Connecticut prison system are for closers. Closers are the guys who plead out. Take a deal. Go to ‘real’ prison . . . and sit in a chair.
And, it’s not just chairs, plead and suddenly be bestowed with a dozen or more privileges inmates get that detainees don’t. Think Queen for a Day and an endless parade of gifts.
That that’s not right and reeks of coercion and all kinds of fairly troubling Constitutional, er, complications is obvious and a subject for Federal Civil Right suits, investigative reporting, and This Book Ain’t for Reading.
For now, I’ve excised superfluous mentions of chairs and sitting comfortably, the books read better for it and in the process I’ve also managed to excise some memories along with them. Good editing all the way around.