Absence of Evidence by M. C. Tuggle

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Neurodivergence and Mystery

by M. C. Tuggle

One of the themes I keep returning to in my writing is the disconnect between modern norms and human needs. The resulting clash is hard on everyone, but especially so for autistic individuals. Both work and educational norms require people to sit all day, which is pure agony for someone bursting with energy and curiosity, whose natural instinct is to ramble and explore the world around them.

Similarly, a society that’s scrapped traditional codes of behavior is a nightmare for those who seek the comfort of structure and proper protocol, standards that once guided and sheltered individuals in potentially awkward interactions. this has critically eroded social connections. And that’s a tragedy, because the loss of connections impairs individual development.

That’s the driving theme in my novelette “Absence of Evidence“, now in the latest issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine. The protagonist, Treka Dunn, is a former combat nurse who can fix anything from shrapnel wounds to barracks plumbing. Now the chief medical examiner at the Gilead, Missouri, county morgue, she faces budget cuts, a growing backlog, and family pressures. So when her cursory exam of Davis Washburn’s body reveals no evidence of foul play, she’s ready to move on to her next corpse.

But Ron Washburn, the victim’s son, is convinced his father was poisoned. Ron, who is autistic, struggles to convince Treka and Officer Jerry Simms, who investigated Washburn’s death. Treka agrees to run a toxicology test, which reveals–nothing. When she tries to explain her findings to Ron, he mentions a seemingly insignificant detail that Treka can’t explain – and she realizes a murderer is about to get away with the perfect crime.

My primary motivation in researching and writing this story is that I love offbeat characters, a challenging mystery, and juicy technical details. But another thing that inspired this story is my experience with InReach a service agency that provides assistance to folks with learning disabilities. My wife and I support this organization. InReach’s annual luncheons, which give sponsors the opportunity to meet the people their donations aid, have deeply moved us.

So the character Ron Washburn is based in part on the life experiences of several of the InReach clients we’ve met. I can only hope the character I’ve drawn reflects the dignity, sense of purpose, and pride of those clients. Treka Dunn is the protagonist of “Absence of Evidence,” but Ron Washburn is the driving force behind Treka’s quest for justice.

In fact, “Absence of Evidence” reinforces the theme of social and individual integrity in its interplay of characters and plot. The murderer is a sociopath disconnected from human relationships, while the three main characters reflect the unity of a healthy personality — Treka Dunn is the mind, Officer Jerry Simms the body, and Ron Washburn, the spirit. All three are unique individuals who aid and sustain each other. And that’s the kind of people we all aspire to be.

Mystery Weekly Magazine is a Mystery Writers of America approved publisher, and is available in digital and print formats on Amazon.

M. C. Tuggle lives and writes in Charlotte, North Carolina. His fantasy, science fiction, and mystery short stories have appeared in several publications, including Mystery Weekly, Hexagon, and Metaphorosis. He blogs on all things literary at https://mctuggle.com/

I want to thank M. C. Tuggle for his guest post. Please be sure to go to his excellent site!

I Stand With The Jewish Community

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(https://pixabay.com)

Today we have seen the commission of a horrible act of terrorism and murder committed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A shooter opened fire inside a synagogue and killed 11 and injured 6 others. I am not sure if those horrific numbers will increase–I hope they do not.

It must be said without any doubt that this was an anti-Semitic, racist, bigoted, and fascist act, that also is chillingly reminiscent of acts in Germany during the 1930s. In our current political climate, in which hatred is growing, and in which guns are easily available to anyone, including some people who have no business having them, such horrors occur far too frequently. This was an act of hatred by a racist, an extreme right winger.

People of all political views, at least those who are sane, must oppose these increases in hate. There are no excuses, no justifications, and no political spins that can reduce the culpability of a political culture that has lead to the massive increase of both shootings and attacks on places of worship, especially of people in the minority in the United States. These actions indicate a growing and disturbing trend towards fascism, and it must be opposed. My parents were of the generation that fought against totalitarianism by Japan and Germany and Italy. They did not sacrifice so much so that our country can slide into fascist attitudes. We must never forget the lessons of the horrors of the 20th Century, especially the Holocaust and World War Two.

Freedom and democracy demand that reasonable people, who can certainly disagree with how to fix problems in the United States of America, unite to oppose this disturbing trend.

Again, I am horrified by this shooting, and I feel great sadness for the Jewish people who suffered from this attack–the dead, the wounded, and their families and friends.

It is not enough to offer thoughts and prayers.

This must never happen again.

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(https://pixabay.com)

Cowardice, Hypocrisy, and Corruption

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Those who follow my blog know that I try to keep politics out of it, but I can not sit by and ignore the utter insanity of the events that keep happening–of the never ending mass shootings in our country. Then politicians, the President and many in Congress, come out and offer their prayers and thoughts, while they take blood money from the NRA and the gun manufacturers.

How many innocent people, how many children, both elementary and high school children will have to die and be wounded before action is taken to correct the situation?

When will Americans say, in a united voice, that this will happen no more, that we will hold politicians who do not enact reasonable gun legislation responsible for their increasing cowardice, hypocrisy, and corruption? I have never been a one policy voter, but now I will never vote for a politician who does not support gun legislation, and I hope the majority of Americans say the same thing. Only then, can real action be taken, and the situation can be changed.

I am not arguing that Americans should not be able to have certain guns for self-protection or hunting, but no citizen should be allowed to have an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.  They exist only to kill as many people as possible in a short a time as possible.

And for those who would scream out “The Second Amendment,” I suggest you read it, parse it, analyze it, and understand its intention. We have a military now, and a militia is no longer needed.

As a nation, we need to grow up and act as responsible adults. We need the United States of America needs to be a civilized nation where children and teachers are safe in school, where people can gather to enjoy an evening out, and where attending a concert is not an act of bravery in the face of danger.

We need responsible gun legislation now.

How many will join me in voting against any politician who will not support such laws?

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: Psycho

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Psycho_(1960)

(https://it.wikipedia.org)

It is time to both revisit and move forward with my series on horror films. Psycho (1960) is a Paramount Film that was both produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch.  This movie stands as one of the best, not only horror but American, films as a whole. Hitchcock is, without a doubt, an auteur, one of the great Masters of American cinema, and this film had huge influence on the creation of slasher films and psychopathic villains in films.

The film revolutionized the way the public viewed evil; it did not have to be supernaturally based nor a radiation caused event; rather, Hitchcock established that the human mind and life experience could create more frightening monsters than vampires and werewolves. These are people who suffered horror, and their creators were other people, at least in most cases of psychopathology.

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(https://it.wikipedia.org)

Psycho had an exemplary cast. Among the actors were Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, and Vera Miles. All gave extraordinary performances in this movie.  From the deeply disturbing opening sequence of the murder in the shower to the end revelation of Norman Bates’ level of insanity, the film is a masterpiece of cinema.

Hitchcock’s cinematic formalism is evident in his complete control of every detail of each shot. This is a film that is created with the planned brushstrokes of a master artist. The power of the murder scene in the Bates Motel bathroom is so strong that many people watch it and believe they have seen much more than they actually have.  Hitchcock never shows the killer’s knife entering the body of Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh.  Hitchcock’s use of careful angles and reaction shots as the young women is being murdered makes the viewers perceive more than is being shown on the screen.  The effect is far more powerful than later films which would rely primarily on gore to have an impact and not on story and cinematic technique.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

It is also interesting to note that the first victim, Marion Crane, was a woman who had committed a crime, in the theft of a substantial amount of money from her boss.  Hitchcock would establish this pattern that was too often used to the point of becoming cliched that the so-called “bad” girl was the one to be killed.  Additionally, if Norman Bates is also viewed as a victim of the circumstances of his own life, then the film focuses primarily on the impact of these crimes on the young.  This is certainly not exclusive; others who are older are also attacked, but Hitchcock seemed to be exploring the effect of this horror on the younger generation. Perhaps he also understood that group was the primary audience for his film.

Psycho made an extraordinary profit at the box office, and it was nominated for several Academy Awards.  Its legacy is well established. Norman Bates is a character who has grown past this film and entered into the public’s awareness through other remakes and adaptations, and many of the motifs of horror/slasher/gothic films are derived from this movie.

Psycho must be seen as one of the best films in American cinema, and Hitchcock is one of the American film masters. If you have not seen this movie and are prepared for powerful images and shocks, then I recommend it highly. It is one of the best films of all time.