Eulogy in Black and White by Caleb Pirtle III

Caleb Pirtle and I have spent many hours over the years discussing the craft of writing.  One of his favorite sayings is: All memoir is fiction.

By that, I take it he means that a life story is always told from a point of view, and the author is always shaping the story because he or she sees the story through his own lens. It is unavoidable. A writer can't put his persona on the shelf while he writes.

However, the other day when we were discussing this issue in the context of his recent book, Eulogy in Black and White, it struck me that the obverse is also true: All fiction is memoir. 

For instance, in Caleb's excellent book, the protagonist works for a community newspaper and is pressed into writing lead articles when the paper's owner (the usual writer) is unable to do so.  The hero has no training in journalism and knows no way to go about his assignment other than to jump into it.  The result is a series of short, punchy sentences which encapsulate the essence of the story and are totally accessible to the paper's readers.  The readers love his approach to writing the news, and cry out for more articles in his inimitable style.

Perhaps style is the word I'm searching for.

In Eulogy in Black and White, Pirtle boils down a complex whodunnit into a stylistic tour de force. Along the way, he digs deep into the protagonist's psyche, his fears, his twenty-year hidden mission to right a wrong for a perished friend. There is no place for Pirtle to hide, because he has put not only his character, but also himself on the page.  

Eulogy in Black and White is classic Caleb Pirtle, the career newspaper man, the memoirist, the writer of mysteries, coupled with the new Caleb Pirtle, the writer who is settling into a new hybrid style, a syncretism of all that has come before with a new additive, an essence not unlike two fingers of Wild Turkey 101. 

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