Thursday Quotables – The Chemist

THE CHEMIST (Chris Blewitt) Inspired by a true story, Charlie White leads a simple life in 1920's Philadelphia, but the workings of Prohibition will soon put him face to face with a hard decision

71+JZ4aJ36L._SL1200_“Whatchu need today?” he asked in his think Italian accent.

Charlie walked closer to him, careful not to put his hands on the blood streaked counter where Carlo slices and dices the various meets. He said softly, “Casually look at your door. Are there two guys standing outside right now?” Charlie then raised his voice a little and said, “Give me a pound of hot Italian and half a pound of mozzarella.”

He watched as Carlo moved from his position and started to weigh out the hot sausage cut into six inch links. Carlo stole a glance at the window as he was wrapping the meat in brown parchment paper and putting it in a bag. “Yeah, they’re still there. Who are they?” he asked.

quotation-marks4The Chemist by Chris Blewitt is a very short story set in the 1920s based on a true story. It refers to how the US government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition in order to make it undrinkable, though people kept drinking it with terrible consequences.

I think there really is a story, here. The story of two brothers who don’t communicate the way they should, and so it is that one of the brothers arm the other while doing something he knows is wrong, but thought it would never really change his life. But this theme – that has very strong moral drive – remains in the background. The historical events take control of the narration and I think this doesn’t work very well, in spite of nice moments, like the one I’m quoting.

I see this happen quite often: the author has the idea for a story, but the idea never takes a life and never morphs into a true story. Which, if you ask me, it’s a shame, because sometimes there are true potentialities.


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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

12 Comments on "Thursday Quotables – The Chemist"

  1. There’s a definitely a story in what you mention, it’s a shame it didn’t quite come out in the actual story. For me the dynamics between two characters, and their relationship, is always the most interesting part of a story.
    Celine Jeanjean recently posted…An interview with Charles YallowitzMy Profile

  2. Sad to hear about the story. In your descriptions I definitely saw the potential for a lot of interesting story elements… I think writers, though, are particularly hard to please as readers. 🙂
    Alex Hurst recently posted…INAUGURAL MUST-READ BLOG AWARDMy Profile

  3. Very interesting. Barbara Myerhoff says in one of her books something like that words are hard to communicate with. Which I guess is some of the same point as in your text above.
    Mimesis Heidi Dahlsveen recently posted…50 prosent ondskap – et eksempel på en fortellers arbeidMy Profile

    • That’s a fantastic observation!!!!

      Though in this case I don’t think it’s only a problem with words. I actually think communication is fine. It’s the structure of the story that might have been a lot stronger.

  4. It’s such a shame when there is potentiality, the whole story not to work quite well. The quote you shared was really intriguing, though.
    Aeriko @ The Reading Armchair recently posted…Thursday Quotable: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, WitchMy Profile

  5. Great quote 🙂 it makes you wonder if there’s anything unsavoury going on and if he’s in danger.
    Have a great day,
    Amy x
    Amy recently posted…Thursday Quotables: Charlie and the Great Glass ElevatorMy Profile

  6. The history should never completely take over the story! It feels like some writers are trying to show off all the research they did, or delivering a history lesson instead of a real story. The historical part of a story should never be used as minor window dressing, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the story and characters either.
    Carrie-Anne recently posted…BOAN at 100, Part I (My history with the film)My Profile

    • I think this is the biggest risk of historical fiction, and I’ve seen so many story falling to it. I think using just the right ammount of history to enhence the story, and the right details without overdoing them is very very difficult.

      In many ways, historical fiction is so similar to fantasy (which may be why I feel so confortable with it 😉 ): you need to create a complete convincing world so the the reader will believe to be there, but not overdo it, or the reader will be push out of the story.
      It’s a very delicate balance.

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