Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus, by John Hegenberger (2:16)

Today we see that description readers can trust is twice as important in a crime story.

What I gleaned about the stories: It’s hard to solve crimes when everyone is either overly dramatic or obsessed with describing commonplace things.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Disordered image

Analysis: The opening line of the first story is: I hung a left and bounced into the lot of Bailey’s Quality Cars as the policeman jumped to his feet, waving his hands like a burning blind man. While my unconscious threw up the possible oddity of the narrator turning left and bouncing into the parking area in the time a policeman took to stand up, that didn’t throw me out. However, the image of a burning blind man was powerful enough that it eclipsed everything else; my mind immediately locked onto that as the key fact, then questioned why it hadn’t come first; if the policeman was that frantic, why the lugubrious recitation of driving first?

After a moment, I realised the author probably just meant he waved enthusiastically; but by then my mental image had become fuddled, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Why state the obvious?

Analysis: The second story opens with the protagonist walking toward a government building. After a paragraph of mellow internal dialogue, they approach it one step at a time. This threw me: the normal way to walk up steps is one at a time. Had the protagonist taken them two steps at a time, then it would have conveyed a moment of consideration followed by decisive action; had the protagonist considered the building in, for example, a fearful fashion, then one step at a time would have sustained the sense of hesitation; but the narration to that point had created a sense that the protagonist quite liked the building, so there wasn’t any immediate reason why the way they walked up the steps mattered.

Reading on, the narrator explained that the building still inspired a need to approach slowly; which made sense of the image. However, I’d already been confused by the description so that was too late to save my immersion, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Incorrect description

Analysis: The protagonist of the third story is talked into taking his girlfriend’s son to a convention. He narrates that the child is wearing a homemade headdress of some character called, Rorschach. The Rorschach that immediately sprang to my mind was the one from Watchmen, who wears a full-face mask with a blot pattern on it and a trilby hat. Whereas, headdress made me think of some type of ceremonial band around the forehead such as a warbonnet, garland, or crown. So, my parsing flickered between two images: was this a different Rorschach, or was the word wrong?

Either way, the description didn’t seem reliable enough for a crime story, so I pulled the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.


A Man With One Of Those Faces, by Caimh McDonnell (40:00)
Enchanting the King, by E.D. Walker (4:21)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.