Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Plenty of Experts by Andy Scheer

My father-in-law explains the engine of his 1930 Ford Model A.
It happened again this weekend at a Father's Day car show. I spent about an hour in conversations with a half-dozen car owners. Especially the owners of a 1955 Studebaker, a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle, a 1957 Dodge, and a Chrysler 300C.

All it took was a genuine interest, a targeted question, and they were off. I learned about the in-car phonographs that were optional for a few years on Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos, and Chryslers. I learned about what years the big Chryslers used cross-induction manifolds. Potentially useful information if I were writing writing a story set in the early 1960s.

But it wasn't just their own cars the owners told me about. The owner of one Porsche asked if I'd seen the Porsche Spyder a few rows over. I hadn't. He told me it was likely the most valuable car there. Then he talked to another Porsche owner about how he'd love to show the owner of the Spyder how to clean the engine area before an event. “Detailing,” he called it.

I took his suggestion and found the tiny German two-seater, hidden by large 1960s muscle cars. He was right; the car was unlike any other I'd seen. I'm grateful he pointed me in the right direction.

But that's so often the case with people who are experts in a field. Passionate about their topic, they're pleased when someone shows interest.

The day before, my father-in-law had shown his 1930 Ford Town Sedan at two car events. He loves inviting people to sit inside and showing them under the hood. Most people have heard about Model Ts and Model As, but known nothing about them. He's happy to set them straight.

As someone with expertise in a few fields, it pains me when an author gets something blatantly wrong. Even when it's a field in which I'm not an expert. Like the novel where the hero overpowered one gunman and took not only the bad guy's revolver, but also his spare ammo clips.

If you can't spot the problem with that, don't include guns in your next novel. Or better yet, ask someone who's an expert in the kind of firearms you want to put in your story. You won't lack for willing experts.

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