Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting the point across

This photo appears on the back of my new novel, One Shoe Off, which hits the bookstores December 1. I asked my friends on Facebook to guess what it is and lots of people assumed it had something to do with the shoe in the title. A shoe horn or some repair apparatus. A meat hook.  Or a hook for hay bales. But several also mentioned it looks pretty lethal.

When my journalist friends spotted the picture, the jig was up. Newspaper people recognize this as a spike. Back in the days before computers, a lot of paper piled up in a newsroom, especially on an editor's desk. All those stories typed on all that copy paper needed to be corralled. When an editor was finished with a story, he would put it on the spike.Evidently some must have used the spike to hold rejects... ie the phrase to "spike a story." But the editors I worked with used it as a way to file used copy, a sort of purgatory before the waste can where copy could be retrieved if there was a question later.

I remember spikes standing straight up and sharp, like a very long nail. And more than one person got nicked when they slapped a piece of paper on the spike.  The spike in this photo -- which I inherited from David Nicolette's junk drawer at The Press -- has been bent over to avoid such accidents, possibly in response to OSHA regulations.

The spike on the back of One Shoe Off represents that dangerous, lethal aspect of journalism. A spike figures into one of the scenes in the book when a reputed mobster confronts a crime-fighting editor. "Too bad she has to see blood before she regrets the damage she's done. Some people are like that. Blood's the only language they understand."

No comments:

Post a Comment