Before I launch into this post, I would like to begin with a development from my last one about being nervous at a reading. I had another book reading last night in Bristol and wasn’t so nervous and it paid off. There was more enquiry about my book and as a result, I sold all three of the books I brought with me. There is a humorous twist to the evening. The venue, Hydra Books, had double booked the evening with another event. Therefore, I ended up reading parts of “He Was Weird” to the Bristol branch of the Socialist Workers Party. I read the part I always read but I also read the radio advert for a law firm and that greatly amused the comrades. They gave me their newspaper and suggested I get in touch with their office as they might be interested in reviewing it. So overall, a successful night. One other success was that I met a man who has met one of my personal heroes, Jello Biafra, a great night indeed.
Nearly a year has passed since the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. My heart still goes out for all of those who were gunned down on the day and their families who are still picking up the pieces and trying to figure out why this happened.
When I first heard the news, I was still writing the final chapters of “He Was Weird.” Although I had long since written the chapter where Mark had gone in shot up his school, the events still gave me temporary writer’s block, which lasted for over a week. For some reason, I felt it somehow wrong to finish my book so close to a similar tragic event. Even when I did get back to writing, it took a while before I got back into full swing and it wasn’t until February when I finished the entire story.
As I read and learn more about the event, I can say for sure that this was one school shooting were I can’t say “This could have been me.” I never ever would have dreamed as an adult going into a school and mowing down so many innocent children in cold blood. Still, I wonder if Adam Lanza and I were alike in one aspect. Reports have said that Lanza had a fascination with school shootings and this has left me asking myself if I have the same. In the two years it took me to write, I have read reports of school shootings and four other novels dealing with the subject though my motivation with the latter was more down to my fear of being accused of plagiarism. Still, that little gremlin perched on my shoulder is whispering that I might be. I do my best to ignore him.
Unfortunately, despite all the talk of gun control and making schools safer, more school shootings have occurred since Sandy Hook. The recent one in a middle school in Nevada where a pupil shot a teacher dead and wounded two other pupils before killing himself has me going back to my original thought of “It could have been me.” I am grateful that I never had any access to guns back when I was between 10-13 and that mass school shootings were unheard of. Otherwise, it very easily could have been me.
I wrote “He Was Weird” to close the door on a past that had continued to haunt me every now and again for the past forty years. Mark’s revenge was something I would have loved to do then but I’m glad that I am only able to write about it. I hope that “He Was Weird” will open debate on the subject and the causes of school shootings: guns, bullying, schools and law enforcement being inefficient in dealing with it and attitudes of parents and other adults. I don’t want any more tragedies, but I am afraid that more will continue to happen. To paraphrase my hero, There will always be some vacant stranger who is raised on guns, raised on hate, has a condition like Asperger’s Syndrome or DAMP and most people don’t or won’t understand it, perceive the stranger to be weird and bully him or her because of it, experience ineffective management of the bullying by schools, be made to feel a failure because of more successful siblings, relatives or friends. Someone like that will always find a way to be pop star for a day and we will tune in and watch every time.
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