You might as well write fiction because nobody’s gonna believe the truth.

You might as well write fiction.

Nobody believes the truth.

Why?

The truth often reads more like fiction than fiction does.

Just listen to the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive of the things, which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over tis great city gently remove the roofs, and peep in at all the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross purposes, the wonderful chain of events, it would make all fiction with the conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.

There are stories taking place in real life that are too strange and bizarre to be believed, yet they are part of the historical fabric that makes up the comings and goings of the world at large.

Take Edgar Allan Poe, for example. He wrote a novel that fulfills every tenet of the author’s literary connection with horror. He called it The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and it told the odd tale of four shipwreck survivors who drifted on the open sea in a lifeboat for many days without food.

Desperate, they made a pact among themselves.

They would draw straws.

The loser would die.

The loser would make several meals.

A cabin boy drew the wrong straw.

His name in fiction was Richard Parker.

The tale was chilling.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe always claimed that the novel was based on a true story.

He was right.

But there was one problem.

The true story had not taken place yet.

It was forty-six years later before the Mignonette went down in ocean waters.

Four men survived.

Four men and lifeboat.

The days passed, and they made a fateful decision.

They would draw straws.

The loser would die.

They would eat the loser.

The cabin boy drew the wrong straw.

His name, ironically enough in truth, was Richard Parker.

The stars do align strangely sometimes.

Try this coincidence on for size.

Wilmer lived the gentleman life of a farmer on the road between two major cities while the storm clouds of Civil War were boiling overhead.

To the North lay Washington, D. C.

That was where the Yankees had their capital.

To the South, the road led to Richmond.

It was controlled by Johnny Reb.

And Wilmer?

All he wanted to do was farm.

The McLean House where Lee surrendered to end the Civil War.
The McLean House where Lee surrendered to end the Civil War.

Bull Run was the battle that triggered the war, and it erupted along the road that ran right past Wilmer’s farmstead. The Confederates even confiscated his home and turned it into their headquarters.

Wilmer tried to hang around.

But the shots of war were coming too fast, too deadly, and too often.

Bullets were slowly tearing his house apart.

So, being of sound mind and body, Wilmer packed up and headed farther back into Virginia where, once again, he could find peace and a measure of solitude.

The sounds of war faded, then stopped altogether. He was beyond their reach.

But four years later, the Yankees of Ulysses S. Grant and the Johnny Rebs commanded by Robert E. Lee once again came to Wilmer’s farm.

Wilmer McLean watched Lee surrender his sword.

He watched the Confederates lay down their rifles.

He watched them ride away from the McLean House on the edge of Appomattox.

He watched a terrible war come to an end.

And he later remarked, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”

Try making somebody believe that in a novel.

Too contrite they would say.

We don’t believe in such coincidences, they would say.

But none of us can escape them.

Who would ever believe the fate facing Henry Ziegland? His was an trite old story, love, love grown stale, hearts breaking, suicide, and vengeance. It was a story as old as time itself.

He broke up with his girlfriend.

Torn with grief, she committed suicide.

Angered and bent on revenge, her brother hunted down his sister’s old lover and shot him.

He was convinced that Ziegland lay dead, and, stricken with grief, the brother shoved the barrel of his pistol against his head and pulled the trigger.

This time, death arrived as it was supposed to.

The brother’s first shot had grazed Ziegland’s face and lodged in a tree. It would his mark of good fortune, Years later, for whatever reason, Ziegland decided to cut the tree down.

Maybe it had died.

Maybe he was still haunted by the bullet lodged in the trunk.

The tree, however, was too large for one man with an axe, so Ziegland decided to blow it up with a few sticks of dynamite.

The explosion dislodged the bullet.

The bullet struck Ziegland in the head.

He died where he fell.

Maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right. Maybe life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent. The writers of fiction would never dare to put these stories on paper. Fear is the reason. Fear of ridicule and humiliation.

Golgotha-New

Please click the book cover to read more about my books on Amazon. They are packed with truth. That’s the part hard to believe.

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  • jack43

    This is why I write historical fiction, am fascinated by it. It’s an attempt to make the truth believable.

    BTW, lifeboat cannibalism was known as “The Custom of the Sea” and was even legally acknowledged and socially acceptable so long as the victim was chosen by a game of chance. If there was any question of “cheating”, the winners were subject to punishment. And that’s a fact…

    • Caleb Pirtle

      That’s a great addendum, Jack. I should have known that a man of the sea would have put the strange episode in its proper context. I can depend on you. I know nothing about the sea. I wear life jackets to take a shower. They say oil and water don’t mix. I don’t mix with it either.

  • willruff

    Great quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

    Exactly why I majored in history, Caleb. I love fiction but I’ve never come across a fictional tale that wasn’t overshadowed by real events.

    For instance: Indiana Jones is supposedly in part based on the career of Heinrich Schliemann. Nobody believed that the Iliad might’ve had some basis in fact, or even that Troy was a real city, but Heinrich Schliemann spent his life trying to prove it, eventually finding Hissarlik, Mycenae, and Tiryns.

    He’s a foot note in the history books because he made a lot of errors, but the story is still fascinating and he certainly reinvigorated the public’s interest in Homer.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Welcome home, Will Ruff. We’ve missed you. Email me at caleb@calebandlindapirtle.com and let us know how you’re doing and what you’re up to. I appreciate your comments regarding the validity of fact over fiction. I believe a book on Schliemann and his quest would be more fascinating than a novel. If one has already been written, I will try to track it down.

      • willruff

        Love the new look!

        Also – Lost and Found: Heinrich Schliemann and the Gold That Got Away – tells a pretty comprehensive story.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          The great thing about the new look is that it’s on a wireframe, whatever that is, so Stephen and I can do all of the changes and revisions and additions ourselves. Makes a huge difference, which you would appreciate. I will look for Lost and Found. I may even find a way to slip Schliemann into my next novel. As you know, novels, if they have any value at all, contain huge amounts of research and and honest-to-goodness facts.

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