(On October 23, I received the following email from a fan of The Solitary Tales. A big fan. I asked if I could share this because–well, it’s not every day an author gets a note like this. I love The Solitary Tales and hope and dream of doing more with Chris Buckley. BE WARNED: SPOILERS AHEAD!)
Two years. That’s how long it’s been. A lot happens in two years. Children finish high school and start adult lives in the military or in college. A few pounds (a very conservative guess) get tacked on. Summers come and summers go. Christmas presents are wrapped, opened, new ones wrapped and opened again. Much laughter, a few tears.
A lot happens.
But one thing over these two years I have not been able to do is file away or suppress my time in Solitary, NC.
Two years ago today, I had watched my Detroit Lions lose another game. It would be a bright season, but that day they were the same old Lions. As that hopeless October Sunday game began to wind down, I turned off the television, sat down in my family room and resumed reading SOLITARY.
I found myself about 60% through, and I only expected to finish a little bit more, perhaps read through the upcoming Thanksgiving events. But then, and I should have expected it, the joy of Chris’s holiday with Jocelyn became overshadowed by the kidnapping of Chris’ mom. The plot continued to take more twists and the excitement and suspense further tightened. Characters in even more danger. My thumb began to beat the next page button on my Kindle faster and faster, unable to keep up with my reading eyes and absorbing mind.
Here comes Chris. The gods of everything goes wrong had gotten away this entire book with unnecessary roughness and blatant piling on. He’s running through the woods. He knows where to find the girl he loves, the girl he swore he’d protect. He’s going to grab the brutal evil and horror of this town by the throat once and for all. Save Jocelyn and the day. Sail into the sunset hand in hand. Here was the introduction to the story I’d already read and didn’t understand at first, but now being read in clarity with the body of the book behind me. Chrystal clear and the suspense overwhelming. I sat up in my seat.
He’s almost there. Yes!
He’s found the confidence he needs. Yes!
He has the gun and will use it again. YES!
He’s at the edge of the woods and sees the clearing. C’MON CHRIS, YOU’VE GOT THIS!!
He sees her! YES, YES, YES!!!!
I leaned forward, now hunched over my Kindle like a starved animal protecting a morsel of food.
– turn the page –
“She’s beautiful” is now “She’s gone.”
A loud groan bled into a long sigh that expired with the last bit of air in my lungs. My muscles went slack and I fell back into the couch, encountering your gamble in story-telling I was not prepared for. Not one bit. I had become the victim of your pen and it was stuck right through my heart.
I finished the rest of SOLITARY defeated, heart and soul beaten. Every bit of emotion spent. Well, every emotion but anger.
I turned off the Kindle, swallowed hard on the lump in my throat, and just sat there, resigned and unable to move while the last bit of sun from that unusually warm fall day beamed over my shoulder into the family room. Sounds of kids playing football in their backyard came in through the open window. A dog barked down the street as angry with someone for walking across his yard as I was with you. My dog barked his support to both of us at the open front door.
I did not realize that my mind had just taken a hi-definition snapshot of everything in that moment in time, a memory usually reserved for assassinations and space shuttle disasters for those “where were you when” conversations.
I finally got up and walked to the kitchen and set the Kindle down while uttering seven words under my breath that I did not know I would be eating in just a few days, “No more of that series for me.”
But what about those characters? Uh-uh.
Those mysteries? No way.
But what happens next? I don’t care, my heart can’t take anymore.
The rest of Sunday’s foul mood bled into Monday. Rihanna’s song “We Found Love” was in constant rotation on the radio at that time and each time it played that day I was reminded of Chris and Jocelyn. Fall colors seen on my commute sent my mind running through the woods of North Carolina with a demon dog nipping at its heels. The traffic reporter mentioned the wait time for crossing the Tunnel into Canada and his next words echoed, “Christopher, come to me,” then cackling laughter.
Apparently, the pen that had pierced my heart in SOLITARY had gone clean through and nailed me to the rest of this tale.
I broke my promise and downloaded and finished GRAVESTONE. Soon after, SOMETHING I CAN NEVER HAVE eased my wait for TEMPTATION which was further comforted by your gracious gift of an advanced reader copy of it. HURT got pushed back for baseball but its release eventually arrived, and the series was finally, mercifully completed.
During that time, I took notes and hi-lighted what I thought were clues and even kept a calendar of the events hoping to piece those clues together. I hung on every podcast interview and review on Fiction Addict (which I found googling SOLITARY) looking for answers or bridges connecting what I’d found. (And believe me, I couldn’t help but give consideration to Josh’s idea regarding penguins lol!) I googled about flowers. I followed your status updates and blog, tried to solve your riddles on Facebook, voted on potential covers for HURT, made a video even. Now it’s over. Now I could have my life back.
Or so I thought.
Here I am, two years later, remembering the vivid details of my experience with SOLITARY, and reminiscing about this story concepted over a basket of nachos and salsa. The second anniversary of finishing the beginning of what inarguably became the most taught, suspenseful, mind-grabbing, heart-wrenching, mysterious, loveable character driven tale I’ve ever encountered, but the first anniversary without another part of its story, its mysteries, or its characters on the known horizon to look forward to.
I’ve already mentioned to you in previous correspondence my hope that a sequel is eventually considered by a publisher, a movie deal comes along, that more B Sides find their way to my Kindle. I also look forward to more blog posts like you’ve done that offer additional snapshots into the Solitary Tales world. Tell Chris, Poe, Kelsey, and Newt (and Jocelyn if you’re ever channeling the spirit world), that I miss them and hope to see them again real soon.
But the real reason for this note is to offer the testimony of what your story did to this reader and a thanks again on this second anniversary for telling The Solitary Tales. It was the biggest and best thrill ride I’ve been on in my soon to be 50 years.
Best wishes and God bless you and your family Travis, and your writing.
P.S. I have since forgiven you for what happened to Jocelyn 🙂