In David Bell’s newest mystery, “Kill All Your Darlings,” Connor Nye’s life is rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, the college professor, who is still mourning the death of his wife and son five years earlier, knows he might not make tenure unless he publishes something quick. Lost in grief, it’s an impossible task.
But fate seems to toss him a life line. Madeline, one of his best students, disappeared suddenly two years ago after spending the night drinking and chatting with Connor and other students at a local bar. Connor doesn’t remember much about how the night ended; he was too inebriated. But he does remember Madeline’s manuscript, an amazingly written thriller about a murder.
When Madeline doesn’t reappear and it seems more likely that Connor may lose his job, he submits her work as his own. It seems safe enough. No one has heard from her in two years, she didn’t use a computer to write her manuscript, and he is the only one with a copy.
After celebrating the book’s publication at a get-together where he’s showered with praise, and believing that his life is finally back on track, Connor arrives home to find he has an uninvited guest.
Madeline has returned and she wants Connor to pay for stealing her manuscript. He doesn’t have the money she wants; it’s already gone to pay bills.
To make matters worse, Madeline isn’t the only unexpected visitor at the Nye home.
A police detective arrives the next morning as Connor is on his way to class. She questions Connor about his book and how the descriptions of the murder match exactly with the facts police have been withholding. Now, Connor not only risks losing his job and his reputation, he also appears to be a suspect in an unsolved murder. He grapples with whether to tell the truth or not, and decides not to.
“The cover-up is always worse than crime,” says David Bell, a professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he directs the MFA program. “Politicians never learn that — a lot of people don’t.”
The phrase “kill all your darlings” most likely originated with Nobel Prize Laureate William Faulkner, who said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Or in other words, kill any characters, even the ones you love, that don’t move the story forward. The characters that do remain in Bell’s book include a licentious department head who preys on young, vulnerable female students. It’s a subject that Bell also explores in his book.
“Since the Me Too movement, though we’ve become aware of all these situations, it still happens,” he said, noting that what the existing power structures will do to keep these situations quiet is for the school’s sake not the students’.
David Bell virtual event
What: Parnassus Books will host author David Bell for a discussion of his book “Kill All Your Darlings,” with May Cobb, author of “The Hunting Wives.”
How to join in: Visit Parnassus Books Facebook page: www.facebook.com/parnassusbooks1/ and click on the Events page.
Cost: The event is free.
FYI: After the live talk has ended, a video will be archived on the Parnassus Books Facebook page under Videos and available for watching.