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Strange enough for fiction
Sasha Blaze
There's a compellingly awful news story unfolding in Kansas City, Missouri right now--probably not awful enough to make the national news (which says something about our national standards of awfulness), but I can't get it out of my head. And what's LJ for if not to record what we're thinking about on any given Tuesday?

There have been eleven drive-by shootings and other murders in the past ten days in a particular section of KCMO, and now a young woman (age 23 or 24, depending on the source of the news) is on the run from the police. According to the chief of police, she is the prime suspect in almost all of the violence. Some of the stories I've read call this a neighborhood feud; others describe it as gang-related--but then, the two aren't mutually exclusive by any means. It does sound as if the young woman under suspicion, Shauntay Henderson, is a well-known and powerful gang leader.

And tonight, she is thought to have shaved her head and put on men's clothes in order to evade the police. Newspapers and broadcast TV are running the police's (computer-generated, these days) illustration of what she might look like, and begging her to turn herself in.

Despite the computer modeling, I can't help visualizing this story in the font used by the Times of London in the 1880s (or the Times of New York,for that matter), with a lithographed line drawing of the shaven-headed, contemptuous fugitive. There's something archetypal about the whole thing. I don't mean to gloss over the horror of this string of deaths, and of the rage that must have caused them, because it's completely and terrifyingly real on both counts. But, viewed purely as a story, this one's a humdinger.

Charles Dickens, where are you when we need you?

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Wow, it does really ring of a Dickens-type plot.
Sad, though, the world of today is such a freaking mess.

One reason I love to study popular literature (and newspapers and magazines and broadsheets and gossip rags) is that people have always felt that way--that the world is going to hell in a handbasket--and have worked hard to find/write stories that to prove it. It's about the only constant in writing, from the very beginning to now. (Well, that and the inescapable love/marriage plots.) The weapons are a lot more powerful now, but BOY, is this ever a 19th-century kind of urban story. *shaking head in appalled fascination*

As a true-crime aficionado, I hear ya. There are uncomfortable times when the horror of a story takes a back seat in my head to the more removed stance of "whoa, I need to write about this" or even just "whoa, this is some kind of archetypal nexus right here, shouldn't be happening."

*pokepoke* So, hey, write about this one someday, maybe? I don't have the chops.

I wish I could draw--I can SO see this tale as a very dark, disturbing manga with no sympathetic characters except the yeoman expendables.

I'd love to see a Margaret Atwood version of that story... or whoever wrote 'Moll Cutpurse', I can't remember but it was published by the women's press. I've got a copy on my bookshelves somewhere.

I know it's a nasty story but things like women shaving their heads and 'cross dressing' interests me a lot. There'll probably be academics talking about this story and others like it in theory classes in university Media or Sociology or History departments in 20/50/100 years.

Isn't it amazing? Here's the police photo mock-up of what they think the woman looks like now:

And I dunno, you study literature and history long enough, you get used to some nasty. ;-)

Maybe this is more Defoe's kind of story rather than Dickens's--Dickens never quite knows what to do with dangerous women. And definitely, it's Atwood's!

Atwood could make this sing.

Two strange possibilities wafted through my brain for dead-but-intriguing candidates: Dostoevsky and Shakespeare.

Maybe I need to read your Japanese verb book next time I go to bed, which will probably be a coupla days from now.

Oh, my, yes--and I think Shakespeare would have the edge over Dostoevsky, because he does women better. Now, to get Shakespeare to write as strong and complicated a woman in tragedy as he does in comedy . . .

Unfortunately, the Japanese verb book doesn't, you know, *put me to sleep*. It makes me think I should get out of bed and drill sentence patterns for an hour or two. ;-)

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