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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, February 8

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Feature Mon Nov 08 2010

Answers and Questions: Kevin Guilfoile

Answers and Questions is a biweekly column that asks Chicago writers to remember the funniest or strangest things they've been asked in a question-and-answer session, during a talk, or in an interview.

Sometimes writers have to deal with fans who watch way too much TV and think that fiction writers can solve crimes. And maybe some of them can. Just, self-admittedly, not Kevin Guilfoile, author of thrillers Cast of Shadows and The Thousand:

There are a couple of contenders, but the ones that are really bizarre are usually too rambling to properly recreate. I suppose the one that takes it all was at the Harold Washington Library a few years ago. I noticed this guy with a big box, like a banker's box, hanging around in the back of the room as I signed books for a line of readers. People who refuse to get in line but instead hang around waiting for the line to dwindle are red flags all the way. They clearly have A LOT they want to talk with you about and don't want anyone behind them pressuring them to move on. I imagine really famous authors must have a dozen hang-arounders at every signing. I'm not sure how they ever decide who goes last.

Anyway, as the last person in line was getting her book signed this guy finally walked up with his box. He was big and tattooed and clearly very intelligent. He looked me straight in the eyes and spoke deliberately and sincerely, and I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but the gist of it was that he had been wrongly imprisoned and wanted me to write a book clearing his name. The box contained proof, and he began to go through it, showing me arrest reports and trial evidence and all kinds of papers I didn't understand.

It wasn't at all clear why he had chosen me for this task. He didn't seem to have any idea who I was or what kinds of books I wrote. After about five minutes of him talking and me nodding stupidly and probably explaining that I had no experience as a journalist, I think he decided I wasn't the right guy and he apologized and picked up his papers and left. I was too stunned to take notes, like I should have. And honestly I felt bad I couldn't help him. Or at least have the kind of investigative chops where I could find out if he was worth helping.

If he really was innocent, I hope he found a less dumbfounded guy -- maybe a lawyer instead of a writer -- to take up his cause.

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