Most of you probably aren’t old enough to remember that old TV show called TO TELL THE TRUTH, with Tom Poston and Kitty Carlyle and various other celebrities, who sat on a panel to judge 3 contestants who all claimed to be the same person. The panel’s job was to ask questions and guess which of the 3 contestants was who he said he was. Usually they had a very unusual secret or occupation, like being a stunt man who’d suffered 25 broken bones in his career.

       My theme here is “to tell the truth” when writing my stories. I have been told by some (mentioning no names or names of publishers) that because of today’s political correctness I should go easy on how I depict certain classes of people in my books so as not to risk “offending” someone. Sorry, but I write REAL history, and if something happened, it happened. If a certain class of people were responsible, then that’s the way it was.

       I am part Potawatomi, Irish, English and ½ Sicilian. Let’s see … the Potawatomi once attacked old Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) and killed just about every person there. The Irish drank a lot and in this country many of them ran ruthless gangs in NYC. The English ran an empire that once spanned almost all of Europe, North Africa, China, India and of course, ruled America’s original Colonies (often ruthlessly) for many years. They were arrogant tyrants and they owned slaves. The Sicilian … well … everybody knows what went on in Chicago and other places during Prohibition in the 1920’s. Does the name Mafia sound familiar?

       I have watched movies and read books and magazine articles about every one of these incidences and more that involve my own ancestry. Am I offended? OF COURSE NOT!! Why should I take offense at something my ancestors might or might not have done a hundred or two hundred years ago? So what? History is history. It wasn’t me who did those things. Were my ancestors discriminated against? You bet! The Potawatomi, the Irish, the “Red Coats,” and the Sicilians all suffered insults and forms of banishment in history. Am I offended by that? OF COURSE NOT! It happened. Why should I leave out or try to hide those facts? And that is what they are. FACTS. They aren’t my personal beliefs or practices. They are simply facts from the past. I could name dozens more about other nationalities who committed acts we would find horrifying today.

          I strive to tell the truth in my stories, ugly as that truth might sometimes be. Sorry about that, but it makes for exciting, page-turning reading. It gives readers something or someone to root for – or against. And in my stories, I always set up my characters to be believable and in a way that the readers understand the WHY of what my characters do and say. How can anyone be offended by the TRUTH? And I do extensive research to make sure I’m not exaggerating or embellishing on what really happened. If I’m not sure, I don’t use it in a book. And I try to never portray any one class of people as always the ones who were right or wrong. There is good and bad in ALL of us, no matter our race or beliefs. That’s just human nature, and it’s wrong to “brand” any one type of people as always the “bad guys” or “good guys.” I’ve even had preachers in my stories who were despicable characters, and outlaws who would stand in front of a train to save a woman’s or a child’s life. That’s life. NO ONE is all right or all wrong.

       99% of the time I use real history in my stories, real people and locations, real events. Real history means telling the Truth. And that sometimes means not being politically correct. Being politically correct can take away from the reality and excitement of a story. And very often, the TRUTH surprises my readers – like reading about Native American abuse by the soldiers and the government (and as far as the government, it’s still going on today). I get so many comments from readers wanting to know if this or that really happened, because they didn’t learn it in school.
        My characters often lie and cheat and kill. They tell it like it is, use verbiage that was common at the time. I write “cowboys and Indians,” soldiers, gold miners, prostitutes, school teachers, drunks, murderers, Irish, Chinese, the rich and the poor, outlaws and lawmen, men who deal out justice with knives and guns, slavery and those who were against it, buffalo hunters and fancy gamblers, clergy and those who won’t step foot in a church, and half-breeds. I write real politics of the time, the good and the bad, corruption and law-abiding citizens. I leave nothing out as long as it is the truth of the times. And the truth is always more entertaining than fiction. Most of all I write strong, strong women, whether Native American or Spanish or white – women to match my brave, able and strong heroes, who also might be any race. I make no excuses and follow no rules because that makes for boring, formulated stories. All I do is start out with a man or woman, no matter their ethnicity, and I write their story, a story that follows the TRUTH of the times.       

       The Truth Shall Set You Free (John 8:32). Not following writing rules or P. C. guidelines frees up a writer to just tell a story with total reality. Most of all I tell a good love story every time, and sometimes that love is shared by two different races. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes cultural difference are the theme of my love story. Culture clash creates conflict and challenges that make a story more exciting. My books have no fainting flowers and no heroes who back down from a fight. My main characters seldom have biased ideas on race, politics or religion. They are usually too bent on simply surviving the dangers of the era in which they lived, and in that era people needed each other and helped each other, no matter their differences.

       I try never to put my personal beliefs about any of the above into my stories. I simply rely on TRUTH IN HISTORY. In other words, what I write is not a reflection so much on me as it is on what really happened and what was practiced and believed during the era of my stories. I hope to never be judged by my characters and their actions and beliefs; but rather, I want to be judged on my story-telling, and my hard work regarding historical research. Sometimes I disagree with what my characters might say or believe, or their actions, but I remind myself that this is a story based on truth and not on my personal likes or dislikes. I remind myself to just tell the story and stay true to the times.

       So far, over my 36 years of writing, I have had 99% great, five-star comments about my stories – on Amazon and through reviews and letters and e-mails. Readers seem to understand that the surrounding events, actions, attitudes and history in my books is simply “the way it was,” and through it all, it’s a powerful love story between two people that shines through – two people who fight for what’s right and against what’s wrong, according to how it was during the time they lived. Real events (like the Civil War, the Indian wars, the growth of a nation) can have a very strong affect on how people behave and what they believe at the particular time of my stories.

              In a sense, writers are also reporters when it comes to including real history wrapped into the lives of our fictitious characters. We are “teaching” history to our readers. Famous TV reporter Walter Cronkite usually signed off by saying, “And that’s the way it was.” Everyone today should look this man up on the internet, along with Edward R. Murrow, who made some astounding and blatantly true remarks about the times in which he reported – mostly during WWII and the fifties. He was an extremely wise man and a totally honest reporter who expressed no bias. He simply told viewers what was really happening at the time – no personal opinions – no worries about being politically correct – no “fake news.” Read his many quotes about reporting. They slap you right in the face with truth and fact, like having cold water thrown at you. What an honest, devoted reporter he was, and he stuck to facts. One of his quotes about reporting on events from World War II – “If I’ve offended you … I’m not in the least sorry.” Why? Because he simply reported the TRUTH – and the beliefs and attitudes that existed during that horrible time in our history.

        That’s how I feel about telling my stories. “That’s the way it was” – and – “If I’ve offended you, I’m not in the least sorry.” Times change, and our beliefs and attitudes adjust with those changes. So when you read, set aside your personal feelings about what is right and wrong, just or unjust, politically correct or incorrect. Just dive into a good book and enjoy the adventure and the love story. Picture eras that are now gone forever, and give thought and credit to those who lived through those times. Most did the best they could, just like we still do today.

Coming 24 September:  CHRISTMAS IN PARADISE!

Coming 26 November!


Post a Comment