by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I read a lot of mystery novels, and in each one there’s a dose of something absurd that upsets my sensibilities as a shooter. I’ve gotten past Agatha Christie putting a “safety catch” on every revolver; but in this day of the internet, I simply cannot overlook the travesties that some authors get away with. I think I told you some months back about a military policeman in a novel who wondered whether the cartridge cases he found at a crime scene were military or not. He solved his dilemma by hefting a case in his hand and determining from its weight that it was a 5.56mm. Of course, the headstamp on the case was of no import whatsoever because nobody knows what all those words and numbers mean!
In a current novel I’m reading, we’re in the middle of a court martial and the government’s expert witness for the prosecution has just testified that a German Luger magazine holds 15 bullets. He meant to say cartridges, but nobody cares about the difference, do they? Maybe they do because he then went on the explain that 3 of the bullets had passed through the victim, and one was still in the body. But 4 bullets were found on the floor.
Did I say 4 bullets were found on the floor? Oops, I meant bullet casings, of course. I guess they were about to make bullet sausage because that’s what casings are used for. Ammunition, on the other hand, is comprised of a bullet and a cartridge case, plus gunpowder and a primer, although I’m pretty certain that if they had to explain it in the book they would have called it the explosive and the flashy-thingy.
The expert witness was then asked about the trigger on a Luger, which he described as a “hair trigger,” so light it can go off almost by itself. Oh, really? Then why are there thousands of websites devoted to removing all the mushiness from Luger triggers? Why are Luger triggers noted for their lack of precision?
Then there’s the actor Danny Glover, who starred in the movie Predator II. Glover plays an LAPD lieutenant who tracks and kills an alien predator. He is armed with a nickel-plated Desert Eagle in an unspecified caliber. I’m always captivated whenever a noted anti-gun activist like Glover also makes his living with the very thing he claims to oppose. I guess, as an activist, he has to keep the dreaded firearms very close so he can watch them! Of course, you can’t reason with a predator, which is why, I suppose, the Los Angeles Police Department gives special dispensation to officers like Glover to arm themselves with non-standard weapons. Or perhaps that was the year the LAPD carried nickel-plated Desert Eagles? It would be like seeing a dune buggy in a World War II film, and don’t you dare try to explain away that with a thumbnail sketch about the Kübelwagen!
Of course, this kind of license is not confined to firearms. Oh, no, we have it here in the airgun world, as well. Things like the following.
“There are three main types of pneumatic arms. One is powered by a spring driving a piston, another has an internal pump that pressurizes air in a built-in reservoir and the third type utilizes gas sparklets, in the same way as a seltzer bottle, only instead of water they propel lead pellets.”
Excuse me? How is a spring-piston gun a “pneumatic”? Better yet, isn’t the use of carbon dioxide gas the very antithesis of the definition of a pneumatic?
If I wrote a screenplay, the hero would shoot a single-shot rifle and carry a 1911 as a sidearm. When his back was against the wall and his enemies had him pinned down, he would eliminate his oppressors with aimed shots from 500 yards and then engage them at 100 yards with the handgun. The bad guys would be Hollywood types with ball caps on backwards and black rifles that they spray and pray, while my hero picks them off like clay pipes in a shooting gallery. The movie Quigley Down Under comes to mind.
And in my novel, the judge would throw the expert witness out of the courtroom after he referred to cartridges as bullets. Or, if he said that a Luger has a hair trigger, the judge would demand a technical definition of what constitutes a hair trigger. Finding none, he would then demand that a trigger-pull gauge be used on the murder weapon to determine what the trigger-pull actually is.
The murder weapon is sitting right there in the courtroom, where it is available for examination and testing. Yet both attorneys accept the words coming from the expert witness, instead of actually testing the thing in front of them. Apparently that’s okay, but it’s very important for the author to ramble on for 10 pages about how someone feels about something or what social interactions caused him/her to do/be what they did/are.
Put up or shut up
So, why don’t I write my novel or screenplay? Simple. My fictional writing isn’t worth reading. These New York Times authors can call a pig a chicken and get away with it because they do it in such a compelling way. On the other hand, I stand on my soapbox and protest the misleading details in the writing of others and nobody cares — not even me.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter to me that Michael Gross who played survivalist, Burt Gummer, in the Tremors movie series is actually on the National Committee of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, or that his wife in the same movie series, Reba McEntire, is noted for buying back guns with tickets to her concerts. Both actors admit to owning guns (of course they do!), but they really don’t want YOU to!
Why do I care so much about these petty mistakes and misleading actors? Even I admit they don’t hurt the story line. The novels are still good reading, and the movies are still worth watching. In fact, watching the 4 Tremors movies is something of an institution at my house.
But those little inconsistencies are like speed bumps in the road. They upset an otherwise smooth journey. And they remind me that in the gun world there are people who don’t really care about the things they stand for, either. People who say things like, “I think it’s okay for people to own guns — just not assault rifles.” Reba McEntire said that. The Brady campaign calls the AR-15 an assault rifle, even though it’s not capable of the full automatic fire that defines an assault rifle.
But they LOOK like assault rifles; and if we can get people to believe they ARE assault rifles, then we’ve condemned them to the ever-growing list of vilified things — things like magazines with capacities over 10 rounds, and “cop-killer” bullets and foregrips and, heaven forbid — LEAD!
Adolf Hitler said it best. A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. Whose lies do you believe?