Poe said "The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world."
Operating from that premise, author John Milliken Thompson gave a talk at the Library of Virginia about his new book, "The Reservoir" about a young (and pregnant) woman found floating in the city reservoir in 1885 and the sensational trial that followed.
Working from an actual murder case, Thompson researched extensively to learn about the case, only to realize that because the characters were obscure people, not much was known about them.
Well, that's just a challenge to a writer (who referred to himself as a "haphazard plotter"), so he took it upon himself to imagine the thoughts and conversations of the people involved and the search for the seducer.
"Search for the seducer," is that a great phrase or what?
So his book is a fictional telling of real people's stories, minus the "dirty poem" that was central to the case ("Pretty raunchy," he grinned. "We've got nothing on them back then.").
He said his editor had referred to it as "In Cold Blood meets Cold Mountain."
And while I'm not much of a fiction reader, the "romance wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an historical crime story" sounded pretty fascinating.
A lot of the people in the audience, many of whom had read the book already, ate their lunch as he talked.
I held out to meet a friend for midday eats at the Franklin Inn, home of the best $3.95 burger in town.
He was late so I sat at a table with my back to the front window with the server noting, "You have a good spot there in the sun."
Indeed I did and the old-fashioned peach-colored roses on the table smelled almost as pretty as they looked, so the wait was actually very pleasant.
So of course I gave him a hard time for being five minutes late.
We caught up over lunch and I heard tales of cookie parties (a friend was counting on me to be there and I let her down...for music), venue parties ("Everyone was plastered by 9:00") and potential jobs (his and he wouldn't take it if it was offered, apparently).
There was even gossip about former co-workers.
With no seducer in sight and my own haphazard plotting skills, it was not exactly a poetical ending to my mid-day interlude.
But then, no beautiful woman had to die, either.