More than 5,225,000 pageviews from 160 countries


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On What Little We Know

Let's says some rich man with a sharp mind spent fifty years acquiring college degrees in dozens of academic disciplines. In terms of accumulated knowledge, what would that add up to? Not much. There is too much to know. Regardless of the extend of our formal education and life experience, while some end up less ignorant that others, we all die relatively ignorant. Nevertheless, the world is full of people who think they know everything. I like to believe that these fools, when they kick the bucket, end up in a hell where for eternity they keep flunking the same test.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On A Poet He Likes

Cleetious "Hillbilly"  Barns, when asked about his poetry said, "If it don't rhyme, it ain't worth a dime, and sure ain't mine." That's about as low-brow as you can get. He's one of my favorites.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, February 26, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Being An Invisible Person

While I can appreciate the beauty of a well-designed, well kept automobile, I am not a real car person. The last thing I want is a chariot that turns heads. The car I drive, although not exactly a rattletrap, is sixteen years old, dirty, and as ordinary as a telephone pole. On the road, my sedan is virtually invisible, and as its driver, so am I. That's me, the invisible man driving his invisible car around West Virginia, the invisible state. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Faking Creativity

I like to think of myself as a creative person. But a lot of people who think of themselves as creative are not. There are days when I worry that I'm one of those people. You know, a fake pretending to be something I am not. Thinking you are creative is self-anointing. There is no such thing as a certificate of creativity. Deep down I suspect that I am an imposter, but probably a good one. Maybe I'm just a creative fake.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Novelist's Curse

At my advanced age, I still seek approval of my writing. Among my many weaknesses of character, this one bothers me a lot. I fear I will never outlive this vanity. I struggle hopelessly to make my writing good enough to compensate for my failings as a person. No novel can be good enough to alter the character of its creator. I believe that many novelists are flawed, vain people, and while this is our curse, it keeps us writing.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On A Gal Named Nola

In my mid-twenties, I had a five-year relationship with a woman from Weirton, West Virginia named Nola Contendre. Nola possessed a volatile, hair-trigger temper and an inclination toward physical violence. I think she inherited her bellicosity from her father, a moonshiner and cockfighting promoter who was considered the godfather of the local hillbilly Mafia. Three days after I ended the on-and-off-again affair, Nola walked into a ginmill in town called Custer's Last Shot. I was drinking with a large woman I barely knew but was nonetheless deeply in love with. Nola strode into the joint accompanied by a six-inch barrel, blue steel, Model 10 Smith & Wesson six-shot revolver with one of those beautifully carved walnut handles. Although this was an impressive weapon, it was a bit too heavy for Nola to properly control. As she struggled to remove the S & W from her handbag, she squeezed one off into her big toe. To Nola's credit, the wounded woman was still able to free the handgun and fire a second shot in my direction. The bulled whizzed passed my ear into a Johnny Cash poster (it got him in the guitar) hanging on the wall outside the men's room. The bullet sailed into the pissery where it killed a 60-year-old urinal. By then, a half dozen drunks had managed to get poor Nola to the floor where they separated her from the would-be murder weapon. A year later, and here the story gets sad, a guard at the state pen found Nola hanging dead in her cell. All said, she was one hell of a gal. I like women, but as a matter of survival, I never married.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His High School "Don Juan"

We had a kid in high school that all the girls liked. He was small, didn't play sports, and didn't own a car. But that didn't matter to his female admirers. They even invited him to their sleepovers. We'd ask this guy, what in hell is your secret? He would just smile and walk away. Maybe that was it--he didn't kiss and tell. We were so jealous of the guy we called "Don Juan". At our 50th high school reunion, I asked one of Don Juan's old girlfriends what she and the others had seen in him. She said this: "He was nice, smart, and funny. We enjoyed his company. He did our hair and painted our nails. He was always well-dressed, and even smelled good. If he hadn't been gay, I would have married him." While I was glad to have solved this 50-year-old mystery, I felt like an idiot. Then I felt bad when I learned  he had died in 1993 of AIDS. What is it about high school that makes those four years of your life so memorable?

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Trying To Teach Writing

One of my college writing students, pursuant to a composition assignment, wrote the following sentence: "In the desert that day there wasn't a drop of wind." When I asked the student if, on second thought, he found something wrong with that sentence, he asked, "Did I misspell desert?" I figured what the hell, the kid can spell. For that reason, it didn't make a drop of sense to flunk him. Perhaps there is nothing more ridiculous than trying to teach someone to write. If they can, they can. If they can't, they can't. Eventually, I learned to settle for good spelling.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Great Grandfather

I was sixteen when my father solemnly informed me that my great grandfather, Fenton Knowles, had died in 1890 from a town marshal's bullet not far from the Huntington, West Virginia bank he had just robbed. It took great effort on my part to disguise my delight in this revelation. Finally, a relative I could look up to.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Pubic School Education

During my thirteen years in public education (I spent two years in seventh grade), I was at best an average student. I didn't apply myself because I resented being told what I had to learn. I preferred to pursue my own interests such as writing and reading fiction. I didn't care what the inside of a frog looked like, how to say "girl" in Latin, or knowing the 1948 gross national product of Spain. When I got to college, I learned a lot of useless stuff under the false belief that an impressive college transcript would somehow accrue to my benefit. As they say, live and learn.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Knowing Thy Self

I don't think too deeply about myself, you know, who I really am and so forth. I'm with Robert Penn Warren who once said, "Deep down, I'm shallow." I believe that if you think too deeply about yourself, explore those depths, you might not like what you find. In that regard, I'm a committed surface thinker. I'm what you could call an introspection coward. What little I do know about myself, I don't like, and  have no intention to inquire further. I'll let others speculate on who I am. While I don't know why anyone would care, if some psychological busybody does figure me out, I don't want to be privy to that analysis. I prefer to live as an unsolvable mystery. In terms of psychological self-analysis, I'm content residing in a locked room with the blinds down and the lights off. I keep my mind occupied on important things such as staying on good terms with my cat and writing one-thousand words a day. Because I'm a stranger to myself, I've never suffered from writer's block.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Using Flashbacks In A Novel

I'm not a fan of the flashback. As a reader, I find a story riddled with flashbacks confusing and annoying. If you get the urge to insert a flashback into your fiction, stop writing and take a nap. If you still insist on putting a flashback into your story after you get up, go ahead and do it. But if it doesn't work, and on publication you are criticized for this decision, flashback to when you made this mistake, then never to it again.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Using His Computer

I use my computer on the most basic level. I have no idea how it works or what I'm doing to operate it. I'm like the trained chicken in the psychology lab pushing the right buttons for a little corn. When the corn runs out the chicken keeps pecking. When my computer goes down I keep typing. The computer age has made me feel stupid, and helpless. As a result, I've developed some empathy for that poor chicken.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Health Care Worker Pinky Placebo

Pinky Placebo, a self-described "Sex Therapist," helped her "patients" out of her room at the DeLux Hotel in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia. Placebo once told me that her best "patients" were local politicians, cops, men of the cloth, and traveling salesmen. Her worst, she said, were lawyers who wanted to negotiate deals and get off light.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Last Writer's Conference

At a writer's conference in Pittsburgh, the master of ceremony introduced our featured speaker as a "beloved TV personality." The "TV personality" was greeted by wildly enthusiastic applause. I'm thinking, who in the hell is this guy, and why would he allow himself to be identified as a "TV personality? And why was this creature of the boob-tube speaking to a room full of novelists? After the celebrity's vacuous speech, a canned promo for some upcoming TV show, half the writers in the room lined up for his autograph. That was my last writer's conference. What was the point?

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, February 5, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Mystery Of Human Behavior

As a kid growing up in West Virginia, I had a better understanding of human behavior than after I graduated from college with a degree in psychology. My so-called higher education taught me that I have no idea what makes people tick. None. Moreover, before you can know the "meaning of life," you have to know why people do the things they do. I don't even know what motivates the characters in my novels. Why some people--writers, eggheads, and so-called intellectuals--believe they understand the motives and causes of human action is the biggest mystery of all.  Some things are just unknowable.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Daydreaming

I'm a daydreamer, have been for as long as I can remember. When people ask me where I get my ideas for my novels, I tell them I don't know, they just come to me. Truth is, I get my ideas from daydreaming. My most intense daydreaming comes when I'm bored. During my four years in college, the most boring years of my life, I daydreamed a lot of good things. My best thoughts came in class while I pretended to listen to my professors. So what did I get out of college besides my diploma? I ended up with book titles, snatches of dialogue, character names, descriptions, settings, plots, scenes, themes and publishing fantasies. I don't know if being a committed daydreamer makes me mildly insane, or just odd. I don't care because I prefer living in my own mind over living in the real world. You could say I lead a double life, even a triple life since I'm a heavy night dreamer as well. I guess I am insane, and not mildly.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On How Television Works

A student once asked me if I knew how television worked. I said, "Sure, you simply put a bunch of idiots incapable of embarrassment in front of a camera."

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Three Executions

Edward Harold Schad

     In 1968, 42-year-old Edward Harold Schad strangled a male sex partner to death in Utah. Ten years later, on August 9, 1978, the paroled killer carjacked Lorimer Grove's Cadillac in Bisbee, Arizona. Police discovered Grove's body along a highway near Prescott, Arizona with a sash-like cord knotted around his neck. 
     After he murdered Mr. Grove, Schad drove around the country in the stolen Cadillac cashing forged checks drawn on the dead man's bank account. Schad also made purchases with the victim's credit cards. A year later a jury found Schad guilty of first-degee murder. A judge sentenced him to death.
    At ten in the morning of Wednesday, October 9, 2013, at the Arizona State Prison at Florence, the oldest man on the state's death row received his lethal dose of pentobarbital. When the warden asked the 71-year-old if he had any last words, Schad said, "Well, after 34 years [on death row], I'm free to fly away home. Thank you, Warden. Those are my last words." 
     In Arizona, 121 death row inmates await their executions. Two of the condemned prisoners are women. Since supplies of pentobarbital are limited, I wonder if the state has enough of this lethal drug to carry out its execution mandate. 
Ronald Clinton Lott
     On September 2, 1986, 26-year-old Ronald Clinton Lott broke into 83-year-old Anna Laura Fowler's home in Oklahoma City. The intruder beat, raped, and strangled the old woman to death. On January 11, 1987, Lott broke into the home across the street from his first victim's dwelling. In that house he tortured, raped, and murdered 93-year-old Zelma Cutler. 
     A jury in Oklahoma City found Ronald Lott guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to death. 
     At 6:06 in the evening of Tuesday, December 10, 2013, the executioner at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, administered Lott's lethal injection. The 53-year-old had no last words. Lott was the fifth Oklahoma prisoner to be put to death in 2013. 
Allen Nicklasson
     In August 1994, 22-year-old Allen Nicklasson met a convicted killer named Dennis Skillicorn at a drug rehabilitation center in Kansas City, Missouri. On August 22, 1994, Nicklasson, Skillicorn, and a third man, Tim De Graffenreid, decided to drive across the state to St. Louis where they planned to buy drugs. En route, Nicklasson's 1883 Chevrolet Caprice broke down on Interstate 70 near Kingdom City, Missouri. The next day, after a local mechanic worked on the car, the trio of violent losers got back on the road despite the mechanic's warning that the repairs had been temporary. Not long after resuming the trip, the Chevy broke down again.
     On August 23, Richard Drummond spotted the three stranded motorists standing alone I-70 next to the disabled Chevy. The 47-year-old AT & T supervisor pulled off the highway to help. When Mr. Drummond got out of his Dodge Intrepid, Nicklasson put a gun to his head and took him hostage. 
      Nicklasson ordered Drummond to drive the Dodge to a secluded place where Nicklasson shot the good samaritan execution style in the back of the head. (The victim's body was found eight days later.) Years later, in recalling the moment he killed Drummond, Nicklasson said, "I felt euphoria. I finally got back for all the beatings I took as a child." 
     Two days after he murdered Richard Drummond, Nicklasson, with his two degenerate friends in the dead man's car, drove to Arizona where, in the desert, the Dodge broke down. The three men walked in the desert until they came upon a house occupied by Joseph and Charlene Babcock. Once inside the dwelling, Nicklasson shot Charlene to death and forced her husband to drive the killers back to the broken down Dodge. It was there Nicklasson murdered Mr. Babcock and stole his car. 
     The three fugitives were caught shortly after the murders by police officers in Arizona. After being found guilty in that state of murdering Mr. and Mrs. Babcock, a judge sentenced Nicklasson to life in prison. Tim De Graffenreid, in return for his guilty plea and cooperation with the authorities, received life sentences in Arizona and later in Missouri. 
     In Missouri, following his conviction for the cold-blooded murder of Richard Drummond, a judge sent Nicklasson to death row. Another Missouri judge sentenced Dennis Skillicorn to death. In 2009 they executed Skillicorn for his role in the Drummond murder. 
     Allen Nicklasson's time finally came at 10:52 in the morning of December 11, 2013. The executioner at the Missouri State Prison in Bonne Terre injected the 41-year-old killer with enough pentobarbital to stop his heart. This murderer of three innocent, helpless people had no last words. What could he say?