Friday, November 19, 2010

Old-Fashioned Outlook

By Chester Campbell

I'm scheduled to appear in this spot on the first and third Fridays of each month. This means that by the time I show up again, I'll have passed another milestone. I don't know that this one has any particular significance, but it sounds pretty formidable to me. On November 30 I'll turn 85. To give it a little local perspective, since I'm a native Nashvillian, country music's venerable Grand Ole Opry, longest running radio show in America, started two days before I was born.

But we're talking mystery writing here, so what does all this have to do with anything? I think a writer's age colors his writing.

I readily confess to an old-fashioned outlook. I try to keep up with most aspects of what's going on about me, but I live at a more leisurely pace these days and don't find time to indulge much of things like watching TV series and movies. I don't tune in the Oscars so don't recognize most of today's stars. I'm an avid newspaper reader, having started my career as a reporter, so I see a few names in print now and then, but they don't mean much to me. I recognize few beyond Tom Hanks.

I heard a statistic on NBC News last night that 39 percent of Americans think marriage is obsolete. One in three American children is living with a divorced, separated or never married parent. Things like this run completely counter to my concept of how our society should be behaving.

Like I said, I'm old fashioned. I prefer the big bands to rock music. I don't find the current crop of sitcoms nearly as amusing as ones I watched years ago. Admittedly, I haven't watched all that much of them lately.

How does all this affect my writing? For one thing, my books are populated with many more characters beyond 40 than those of a more tender age. My wife and I are raising a 13-year-old grandson, so I know what goes on with the younger set. I don't feel comfortable writing about kids, however. I would probably paint them in darker tones than they deserve.

My current work in progress has a 25-year-old man as a central figure, which has caused me to widen my perspective a bit. We'll have a house full of several generations for Thanksgiving next week, with my four kids (all over 40) here, plus several grandchildren and at least two great-grandsons. It'll be an opportunity to observe younger folks in action.

When it's all said and done, though, I'll enjoy getting back to my characters "of a certain age" who've been around the block almost as many times as I have. Although I've found younger ones among them, my fans seem to be mostly of the more mature set. I suppose they can better understand, or at least sympathize with, my point of view.

I've always considered myself an eternal optimist, but my optimism is becoming a bit clouded these days. I still have hopes that people will come back to their senses and straighten things out. We have a way to go to in repairing our views of morality and fairness and treatment of our fellow man. Those are things that will probably turn up in my writing. And they may sound old fashioned to some.

Check my website to see how I handle my "mature" characters.


Kevin R. Tipple said...

I turn 49 tomorrow which I realize makes me four to you, Chester. lol

My protagonist in my WIP is supposed to be in his middle 30s, but yet the constant criticism (among many) from my writer's group was that he read far older.

So, I think instead, he will now be twenty-two and a male stripper who is thin and with a full head of hair.

Mason Canyon said...

Congratulations on your upcoming birthday. That is a milestone. Wishing you many more.

Thoughts in Progress

Ben Small said...

Chester, you may be old-fashioned, but you are one of the most productive writers I know. You constantly amaze me what you accomplish: Write books; manage I don't know many websites; post on FB; attend book signings; manage accounting; produce newsletters; provide outstanding advice and links to advice...and of course, please Sara. And that's just stuff i know about, albeit in abbreviated summary. Do you also paint houses and replace windows? When Warren Buffet announced his likely successor, I expected to see your smiling face.

I'll be interested in your take on a twenty-five year old.

Ben Small said...

Happy birthday!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I want to add my Happy Birthday too, Chester. I must admit I do watch TV--and love a lot of the cop shows. I watch TV at night because I'm not good for much of anything else by then.


Chester Campbell said...

Thanks for all the well wishes. You flatter me, Ben. I may do a lot, but I don't know that I do too well with them. I once did some house painting when I owned rental real estate. I got tired of dealing with tenants, though. Marilyn, I do catch snippets of TV. I do most of my writing on a laptop in the living room while Sarah watches TV. I'm signing off now because of the 10 o'clock news.

Earl Staggs said...

Let me add to the pile of Birthday wishes, Chester. I suppose I'm old-fashioned, too, because I agree with just about everything you said. You've accomplished a lot and you're not finished yet. Keep on going, guy.

Morgan Mandel said...

Congratulations on your upcoming birthday! I'm so glad you spend a part of your time here on our blog. Your contributions are very much appreciated. Keep up the good work, and there's nothing wrong with being old fashioned.

I may love all the new gadgets, but I've often been accused of being old fashioned in my thinking.

Morgan Mandel