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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Getting it right


Something that I find quite irritating is reading a book or newspaper or a report on the internet and finding a glaring error in the "facts." It is the author's responsibility to make sure that all of the content is accurate. And just because they write fiction, it doesn't let them off the hook.

I can recall reading a book for review that had a scene describing a guy "slamming a fresh clip of thirty-eight specials into his gun." Well, the thirty-eight special is a cartridge that was developed for a revolver where ammunition is loaded into a rotating magazine known as a cylinder. A "clip" is a removable magazine that is used in semi-automatic pistols. Although there have been some hybrid pistols chambered for the thirty-eight special, they are extremely rare. It was obvious that the author hadn't done enough research on handguns. It was an advance reading copy so I figured I would let him know so that he could correct his mistake prior to publication. The guy took offense to my comments and refused to make any changes. After the book was published he got hammered with mail from people telling him about his error.

I can recall reading another book written by a respected historian telling the tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the ore freighter that sunk with all hands during a November gale on Lake Superior. The author described the underwater photos of the ship saying that "the wooden lifeboats, still lashed to the deck had been crushed." On a visit to Sault Ste. Marie that summer I had occasion to view the lifeboats from the Fitzgerald. They had been recovered and sat on the deck of the museum ship, the Valley Camp. I actually photographed one of the lifeboats with the Edmund Fitzgerald identification stenciled on the bow. The lifeboats were made of steel, not wood.

When a writer makes a careless mistake like that, it makes me think that they didn't take the time and trouble to do their research. I lose faith in their credibility and begin to wonder how much of the story is factual and how much is made up.

When an author writes a mystery story, even if it's fiction I'd think that they ought to know that their readers will be a fairly knowledgeable crowd. They should at least get the gun stuff right. You can be sure that they'll hear about it if they get sloppy. Every firearms manufacturer in the world has a website and all of those websites have a section that contains technical information. All necessary information for all guns is available on the internet. There are no excuses.



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