Where do I even begin with this one?
As a writer, this is one of my favourite stories. Not for the content or the writing style… but for the journey.
In about 2013 I set out to write a story inspired simply by the phrase: “for as long as I can’t remember.” I had never heard the phrase before, I had just thought of it one day and figured it’d make a fun amnesia story.
I randomly picked the year 1905 because I wanted to do an older story. I decided to have these two brothers, Harry and Mack (Mackenzie after my own middle name), travel across the US starting from the West Coast. I figured they’d end up in New York and eventually get stopped by the detective that was chasing them: Devante.
And they did… I just couldn’t really figure out why or how but I knew they’d get stopped in New York. I wanted Harry to die and have Mack go to jail for murder. This would allow the narrator to write in his journal a frustrated memoir about how Harry will always be remembered as a criminal for as long as he couldn’t remember.
And then I started digging around in what happened in 1905 and discovered the tragic event that breathed life into this story. The very first elevated train derailment in recorded North American history. It happened on September 11th, 1905. This was obviously really intriguing due to the date. I kept digging and digging and found that 13 people died. But one of them couldn’t be identified. Harry?
For some reason, the motorman, Paul Kelly, decided to take a turn going three times the speed he should. We don’t know why. Perhaps because Devante paid him? And when the crash was through, Kelly ran off! Why? Perhaps because he had intentionally done this. They found Kelly two years later.
The tragic event filled all the gaps in my story. Did you know I had benched it for a long time because I couldn’t figure things out? This event made it all make sense. You’d almost guess I had known about the event before I began conceiving the story!
It took a long, long time to find all the names of those who perished in the crash. And I was thrilled when I did because I wanted to dedicate the story to them.
James Cooper: The Painter was originally James Conners: The Painter. I changed the name to Cooper after learning about a mid-forties man on the train who was beheaded. His name was James Cooper and he was a Painter. I’m not making this up! It seemed only right to rename my murder mystery character to James Cooper as the change was so subtle and meant a lot to me.
To read For As Long As I Can’t Remember, click HERE