No Atonement Kabuki

    Oh man! Did I have a great time writing the three stories comprising Cool Brass, or what?

    When I wrote for newspapers my first immediate chief was an editor who loved quoting Red Smith’s dictum. The late Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times sportswriter likened our craft to “opening a vein.”


    Any writing ever requiring that kind of effort, hammer and chisel better be involved. Otherwise just tell the story. Declare it complete. Cash the check. Happy trails.

    While this gig is nowhere that good, the results satisfy me more. Of course now I’m aiming at higher sensibilities. Yours.

    Marianne Messing, a presence though not present throughout Reveries, arrives front and center across Cool Brass. She motivates. She compels. She ensnares.

    Indulging himself in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn during “Marianne, A Friend From Germany,” reporter Caleb Abercrombie makes her acquaintance by chance. Theirs is a fateful meeting. Emerging from that moment an entwined friendship stretching over two decades.

    Marianne Messing is not a mantrap. As revealed, she is determined. How she and Abercrombie alloyed, essentially why she’s so solicitous of her American, comes to light in “Sin? Yes. Guilt? No.”

    Raw when Abercrombie meets the 19-year-old mä dchen Marianne, she’s a strident though directionless seeker. Directionless. Not aimless nor clueless. A young woman toiling in what society considers an unsavory avocation. She has goals but bereft of a trailblazer can’t take the proper steps. Abercrombie’s timely appearance propels her.

    Both eventually stride to Boston. There, owing in large measure to Abercrombie’s digging, Marianne collects a criminally overdue debt. One which accrued in a long vanished Germany.

    The two stories sandwiching “Sin? Yes. Guilt? No,” “Marianne, A Friend From Germany” and “Twisty” take turns painting today’s 41-year-old German. Sometimes the paint splashes.

    In the first and third episodes she and her “savior” demonstrate how they’ve grown, compromised and entered accommodation over the years. Through select sequences, “Marianne, A Friend From Germany” and “Twisty” address segments of the intervening 22 years.

    Or in William Faulkner speak, how lingering past actions forcefully steer the present.

    In “Twisty” Marianne has gotten what she wanted. Turns out it wasn’t her truest desire. Always a bad bargain. As in most not-so-bads, second-bests and pretty-nears settled for, the ardor faded. Regrets replaced those early delights of having.

    And regret leads to changing behavior.

    Along the course in “Twisty” female dissatisfaction manifests in particularly harsh resolutions. Given the respective conditions or circumstances, the participants’ fluctuating demeanors and easily smudged parameters, each gender may differ deciding on whether what’s meted just or merely further examples of female cold-bloodedness.

    Marianne’s husband plays significant roles throughout the bookend stories. Ahmet Olgun is a German national of Turkish heritage. In her eyes he became an exotic. Blinded by stars and fireworks, Marianne failed treating him like a man. From their initial hot attraction they’ve cooled into marital distance. A fair question should be were they ever truly in love or simply victims of mad infatuation with “the other”?

    Hey! Despite the unbridled sex these things just aren’t smut!

    Long delayed recompense drives “Sin? Yes. Guilt? No.” Far-fetched as it seems today, more a result of our short attention spans, easily erased memories, and having skipped into some new all-enveloping outrage, the financial machinations within the story are factually based. Back in the 1990s were it not for a sharp-eyed, morally strong Swiss bank employee blowing the whistle, his and other ethically challenged institutions might’ve continued their unabated looting of dormant accounts until now.

    Hmmm. Sharp-eyed. Morally strong. An ethically-challenged institution. Alerting the proper authorities. Is there a topic in today’s news that these subjects could also touch upon? I wonder …

    Returning to the prurient, regarding the Reeperbahn scenes in “Marianne, A Friend From Germany,” let’s say I believe daubs of verisimilitude enhance fiction. Doesn’t that sort of thing improve the telling by lending it a spot or two of truth?