The Book Stall on Main had "Pillars of the Earth." Didn't take long to get there. Next to a yoga parlor and an exotic Asian goods store. Inside the bookseller has it waiting for me, spine broken.
Seller rings me up and says, Good author. Good book. Have you been here before?
He's old and friendly and his front teeth are gigantic. Four dollars.
I reach into my pocket. The bills are wadded up.
You go to school out here at OU?
Yes sir. I do, I'm a student at OU, the university. I pull the bills free.
He takes them. What are you studying?
I tell him that it's creative writing.
He says, Oh, that's what I used to do. Write. Wrote a play once, probably something I'd be embarrassed to look back on, but I got it made. But I gave it up. But I got into the book field. Got four of these shops open around town. Try to read everything that comes in, but gave up on that. Used to work at the newspaper, used to be a printer's devil.
Yeah, printer's devil. Like a janitor.
Oh. Very cool.
I go around to the other side of the counter, towards the door. The bookseller says, I want to recommend a book to you. It's called Raintree County. They're reprinting it for the first time in I believe fourty years.
Who's the author?
Ross Lockridge, Jr. They made a movie of it. Butchered it. He killed himself over it. Must have worked on it forever. I believe he worked to about fifteen or sixteen drafts. Liz Taylor was in it.
And he just killed himself?
Yeah, and for the longest time no one could figure out why he did it. This young guy, must've made a fortune, the book was a great success, and he just offed himself. I think it's because they butchered his book when they made it into a film.
I promise to check out the book and leave. I get into my car and go home, the whole time secretly hoping that this old man was the one who wrote Raintree County, that he faked his death to escape the spotlight and retired to Oklahoma, more content in selling books then writing them.
I look at Wikipedia. Raintree County the book was published the same year Lockridge poisoned himself with carbon monoxide, 1948. The film wasn't made until 1957.
In the credits to the film they misspell his name, listing him as Ross Rockridge, Jr.