Monday, November 06, 2006

CSI:1600; Norm Partidge

New World Explorers Sought to Explain Death

By David Chanatry
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, November 6, 2006; Page A12

In June 1604, fur traders led by Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua found a site they thought would be ideal for the first settlement in New France. The tiny island in the middle of the St. Croix River, now part of Maine's Acadia National Park, had high bluffs and a clear view downriver to watch for their English rivals.

But winter that year came early and hard, and St. Croix Island proved to be a prison. The men were stuck, trapped by dangerous ice floes moving on the tremendous tides from the nearby Bay of Fundy. By February, they began to die of scurvy; in all, 35 of 79 colonists perished.

Forensic anthropologists have unearthed a skull that is the earliest known physical evidence of an autopsy in the New World, performed on a French settler who fell victim to scurvy in 1605.

The disease was known, but not its cause. In his desperation to find
out what was happening to his men, Champlain took the unusual step of ordering autopsies.

"We could find no remedies to cure these maladies," Champlain wrote in his memoirs in 1613. "We opened several of them to determine the cause of their illness."

Now forensic anthropologists studying the St. Croix burial ground have found a cranium with the skullcap cleanly sawed off, along with shallow cut marks they say would have been made by the expedition's barber-surgeon while removing the scalp. Although there are written records of earlier autopsies by European settlers in the New World, the St. Croix find is the earliest skeletal evidence of one.

"It's the holy grail for a forensic physical anthropologist or historical archaeologist to find this kind of evidence" said Thomas Crist of Utica College, the lead anthropologist on the team that re-excavated the site in 2003. "It just doesn't happen every day."
for the rest of the article:

(Norm was just informed that his new novel has been selected as a PW Best Book of The Year. PW said:" Dark Harvest
Norman Partridge (Cemetery Dance) Set on Halloween night in 1963 in Anytown, U.S.A., this dark fantasy and coming-of-age parable holds its own with the best of contemporary American writing."

Norma responding to my take on Bill Pronzini's suggestion that non star writers are th equivalent of character actors--and my statement on how desperate things are getting for mid-listers in the business:


Ed: Bill Pronzini once wisely said that all of us who aren’t stars are the character actors of the writing business. If we’re lucky and good enough we rise to the level of a Robert Duvall as a character actor. We can make a book a lot more interesting just by our slant on things.

Norm: Hadn't thought of it that way, but I really think that's true... and it may be the secret to having a career at all anymore.

What I notice about a lot of the guys who do get the big NY deal isn't any prettier, though. Most of those books never earn out, and then it's kind of a "one and done" situation. And with the guys who've been toiling for years in the ranks, you keep hoping they'll get a publisher behind one of their books and turn the corner to stardom, the way Bronson did in Hollywood after years of being a dependable character guy. Doesn't seem to happen anymore, tho. Guys in NY are just like guys in Hollywood. They want the blockbuster.

Ed: But the market is so bad we’re really functioning the way actors do today. We have to audition in ways we’ve never had to before. At least some of us. I remember that DeNiro wanted Charles Grodin for Midnight Run. Grodin (despite DeNiro’s angry objections) had to audition thee fing times. Can you imagine that picture without Charles Grodin in it? But he wasn’t bankable they said and so they put him through what to me was a pretty humiliating process.

Norm: Yep. I know you never go to conventions, Ed, but the last one I went to? Man. Desperation of the tangible variety whenever a NY editor walked into the room. It weren't a pretty sight.

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