Creative Non-Fiction. That is the category that River of January will market under. I am comfortable writing in that genre because of the latitude I have in stringing together the story. I don’t know exactly who said what to whom, through all those years, except for the letters that have been left for my keeping. And those letters concern limited stretches of time. So the story outcome is a combination of actual episodes and creative glue to keep the story cohesive
This approach has worked well . . .until now. The major difference for writing in book two (yes, there is a second volume) are Chum’s logbooks. The ramifications of possessing some twenty-odd logbooks, is that I know exactly where he was, and when he arrived and departed. That exactness poses a problem for the creative side of composition. Let me explain.
I placed my protagonists in Virginia at Thanksgiving, 1936. But Chum’s logbook doesn’t put them there until the next month–Christmas of 1936. I had to ask myself, ‘How anal is this process?’ And the answer was, Creative Non-Fiction. I can place them loosely where I need them to keep the flow of the narrative moving. But those damn logbooks really like to argue with me, demanding things that they are.
His literal trail is fascinating to read. Chum carefully noted each flight he flew, the equipment, passengers, time in the air, where and when he landed. He or should I say I can account for his whereabouts from the time he boarded his first aircraft in 1928. The war years offer a particularly revealing journal of wartime aviation. Added to his own notations are his official Navy orders, which are neatly attached together in a vertical file.
In so many ways Chum’s logbooks provide a connect-the-dots composition of his adult life. Where he landed on any given day, where he was when big events took place around the globe, where he was the day I was born. His notations provide a fine straightedge where his life took measure.
By the way there are mysteries in those logs. He and his crew had some hush-hush missions during the war, and the logbook reflects that security. For destinations he scribbled in some cryptic nonsense. The only reason that I know the nature of those flights was because he told me later in taped interviews. Thank Goodness for that.
There are some pretty cool names of places that I’d never heard of before. Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania, Havre de Grace, Maryland, Fitler, Mississippi–FITLER! And the war years mention islands beyond my geographic knowledge; Espirito Santo, Suva, and Numea.
I guess we would all benefit from a life logbook tracing where we have been, how long we stayed and when we left. A picture would assuredly materialize, accounting a good deal for who we are now.