You may have heard a story that broke nationwide over the weekend about Patrick McLaw, a middle school teacher in Maryland who was supposedly basically disappeared by the authorities for writing a pair of novels under a pen name that involved a school shooting. A school shooting in the 2900s. Nine hundred years into the future.
Maybe you’ve noticed: I’m a middle school teacher who writes novels under a pen name. Now, granted, none of my books have ever involved a school shooting, but… yeah, this kinda hit close to home, and early mental drafts of this post involved some reflection on the Columbine shooting; as someone who spent large chunks of high school and college in a black trench coat, I could identify with those kids too.
Long story short: I could write the hell out of a school shooting story if I wanted to, guys. For any number of reasons. I get alienation. I get violent thoughts. And while I was never close to a Klebold/Harris type kid in high school, a big part of the horror of the Columbine massacre, to me, was the “there but for the grace of God go I” aspect of the whole thing.
But anyway. I didn’t get the post written yesterday because the story was too insane. I couldn’t find any information that was useful beyond the horrifyingly badly-written and borderline libelous local news article about it, and that article was clearly written by a fearmongering moron. There had to be more to the story.
Well… yep. I’d seen a single comment on one article alluding to some sort of letter he’d sent to school authorities that had attracted their notice, but it hadn’t been picked up or followed up on anywhere else. My wife pointed out that, at 23, he was at exactly the age where (and it should be made perfectly clear that this is pure speculation) issues with schizophrenia tend to manifest themselves. And while the article doesn’t use that word, that’s certainly what it feels like.
It is decidedly odd to be relieved that someone has turned out to be schizophrenic, but… fuck, I’m not prepared to deal with a world where your boss can get you locked up for having written a book, three years ago, where you describe a fictional bad thing happening nine hundred years in the future. I was begging for there to be more to this story and for it just to be insanely shitty journalism. I’m not glad I’m right, but I’m glad I’m right, if you know what I mean.
The lack of genuine government insanity also makes it a bit easier to say this: I didn’t buy his books, because $14.95 for an ebook is more than I’m willing to spend, but I did download a sample chapter. And I’ll be honest even though it makes me an asshole: I said right away that I thought the dude wrote like someone with mental issues. Here’s the first few paragraphs, from the Amazon viewer:
This transcends bad writing, guys. Also, the book is supposedly set in the 2900s but the kids are described as watching televisions a few pages later. Is it okay that I don’t want someone this bad at writing to be a poster child for free speech?
15 thoughts on “Well, so much for that, I guess.”
Dude, where have you been? More than one person has lost their job in the last 10 years because they wrote romance or erotica under a pen name, several of them teachers. Here in Colorado, a local woman was pushed out of a political race because 20 years ago she wrote a trilogy of bodice-rippers.
Despite the hoopla, I thought she should’ve taken it in stride and said something like “At least I can prove I have a reasonably high reading comprehension level as opposed to others,” rather than gone on about how she’d only done it to make money for her cash-strapped family and how she wasn’t proud of it and all that.
As for bad writing, well, there’s not much to be done about that other than to not read it.
The articles literally had the man barred from all public spaces in the county he lived in and under emergency medical evaluation in an UNDISCLOSED LOCATION. As in “we’ve taken him, we’re not telling you where he is, and we’re not letting him go.” While I don’t condone any of the events you describe, this is a slightly bigger deal.
It sounds like they exercised the Baker Act on him, which explains the undisclosed location (medical privacy) and not letting him go (assuring that he won’t hurt himself or others prior to releasing him). I personally know someone who was ‘Baker Act’ed’ for far less than the circumstances surrounding this man.
Yeah I didn’t even have the patience to read all that snippet of the chapter. Jeez, that really is bad writing.
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The really frightening part about his incredibly poor writing is that he was a Language Arts teacher. Ugh!
I hadn’t heard this story, but it’s surprising given how liberal a state we are, yet unsurprising given how much we abjectly loathe guns. Then again, we still have a law in place saying that you have to be separated 12 months and living apart before you can divorce, and another one saying that you cannot run for public office without choosing a religion. So who knows where this situation falls in Maryland’s liberal-conservative spectrum.
I am assuming that we’re erring on the side of EXTREME FUCKING CAUTION because we’d rather not have missed a red flag in hindsight. I’m in favor of that kind of caution, but I don’t think taking it at the expense of a person’s civil liberties is ok. I hope that’s not what’s happening…
Some of the most powerfully mentally ill happen to also be excellent writers. I agree with you that this writing is terrible. If you want a poster child for the mentally insane let’s not make it this dude, Big Media!
Serious question: we can all name some world-famous writers whose work appears to have been influenced, at the least, by alcoholism or depression. Are there any who were actual schizophrenics? I can’t think of anyone offhand but what I can come up with offhand is not always useful. 🙂
I want to say yes, but I need to look it up; I feel Jon Ronson might have mentioned one in particular in The Psychopath Test…
Wow, my brain got out of breath reading that, where were the spaces? He should have been fired for being bad at his job long before he wrote this.
Went in search of more info this morning, found this article. Pretty vague if you ask me, but they are claiming it wasn’t about the books.
[…] here, if you don’t remember who Patrick McLaw […]
Very good review! I am with you, this is a disturbed mind!! Bless his heart.
I am speechless about the passage from the book! UGH. And he is a language arts teacher? I think I’m going to ask for a writing sample from my kid’s teacher. LOL
But seriously, I hope the little blurb that Krystal posted was right and that the incident had moree to do with his mental health issues then simply the writing of books.
I think it certainly was: https://infinitefreetime.com/2014/09/12/last-patrick-mclaw-update/
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