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Nature and Civilization in Warren Easley's MATTERS OF DOUBT
Posted by Barbara Leavy on Mar 13 2014, 8:50 PM
 
                                  NATURE AND CIVILIZATION IN WARREN EASLEY'S MATTERS OF DOUBT 
 
     When the wife of Cal Claxton commits suicide, he quits his job as a lead prosecutor in Los Angeles and moves with his dog Archie to a secluded house in the wine country of Oregon.  With his pension from his job and the small law practice he sets up, he simplifies his life and is able to indulge his passion for fly fishing.  In this rural area, he seeks peace and, because of his guilt over failing to recognize the signs of his wife’s depression, hopefully redemption.  In an earlier essay on Easley’s book, A Mystery and a Mural in Warren Easley’s Matters of Doubt,” the point is made that Cal has not only resigned from his job but has rejected the “culture” of the Los Angeles criminal justice system. A major theme in the book can be described as a conflict between nature and culture.  But the word culture is too large, too inclusive of what can be subsumed under the umbrella word, although, as the earlier essay points out, it is possible to indentify many different cultures in Portland, where Cal investigates the murder of a woman who had disappeared eight years earlier. Her son, Daniel Baxter (called Picasso because of his artistic talent), has allied himself with the dispossessed and homeless who have flocked to the city. They have their own culture, with its own rules and practices, which is a challenge to the more conservative citizens of Portland. In the following discussion, the theme that runs through MoD will be defined as a conflict between nature and civilization, although it might be argued that civilization may be as amorphous a term as culture. But the word civilization has attached to it connotations that not only differentiate it from culture but are also more applicable to Easley’s mystery.
 
     Above all else, Matters of Doubt is a very good read, a book that will draw in its readers and keep them until the very last page. It is not a treatise in the social sciences. The conflict between nature and civilization, moreover, is one that those readers can relate to because even if they have never given a name to it, they all experience it. Early on a cold morning, when they want to stay asleep under warm quilts, the alarm clock is a call from civilization to remind them that unless they—like many of Easley’s characters--want to live on the streets, they had better get up and prepare to go to work. Preparing may involve dressing more carefully than they wished they had to, because only on Friday do their employers sanction their wearing jeans and sweaters. If there is someone at work whom they dislike intensely, who evokes their anger and disgust, who they want very much to cut down to size or take a punch at, they struggle to restrain themselves. For they are not ordinarily violent nor are they inclined to give in to every impulse. Whether they are aware of it or not, their ancestors signed on to some form of a social contract, which generated laws that required that their descendents obey them. This repression of nature was supposed to guarantee that they would not be objects of someone else’s wish to hurt them. Laws and the means of enforcing them are a product of civilization.  Finally, to invoke an old joke, if everything they want to do seems either forbidden by law or custom, or is too expensive, they are likely to resent the restrictions according to which they live, experiencing what Freud calls the discontents of civilization. As a person, Easley has experienced these conflicts between nature and civilization.  As a fiction writer, he has to look closely and thoughtfully at the environment in which his characters live. Readers will find in Matters of Doubt  many familiar situations, the following discussion intending to reveal how carefully they are integrated with each other and carry the plot. Finally, like most writers and readers of crime fiction, Easley understands that if a murder takes place, it is usually because the perpetrator has not been able to stifle nature—jealousy, rage, greed,  hatred of another person, sadistic instincts—in the name of civilization.
 
       Cal has not only resigned from his job but also has rejected the specific “culture” of the Los Angeles criminal justice system. Many writers on the subject would contend that Easley’s themes should be defined more broadly as the conflict between nature and culture.  But the word culture is too large, too inclusive of what can be subsumed under the umbrella word, although, as the earlier essay on on Matters of Doubt has contended, many different cultures can be identified in Portland, where Cal’s investigation into the murder of a woman who had disappeared eight years earlier, takes place. Her son, Daniel Baxter, called Picasso because of his artistic talent, is part of a counter-culture group of young, many homeless people who have flocked to the city, living according to their own rules and practices, which challenge Portland’s conventional citizens. In the following discussion, therefore, the conflict will be defined as one between nature and civilization. It may appear as if civilization is as amorphous as culture, but the former word has attached to it connotations that not only differentiate it from culture but are also more applicable to Easley’s mystery novel.
 
     Civilization is a term that implies change and progress; it also indicates personal refinement and the importance of the arts.  There are, of course, problems with defining civilization this way.  It runs headlong into concepts of cultural relativism where it is assumed that other civilizations are deficient morally, politically, technologically, and even artistically.  Civilization suggests an advance over a kind of barbarism or primitivism, but as will soon be seen, the ideas surrounding the primitive are both complex and also can be a critique of civilization.  The notion of a refined civilization, moreover, indicates a kind of elitism, which in its most negative form in Matters of Doubt causes the citizens of Portland to believe the homeless among them are a threat to their quality of life. There is additionally another aspect to civilization that attaches to it a strong negative feature: it can be accused of being responsible for an individual’s neuroses and psychoses, which in turn can spread to the larger group to which that person belongs. A good example of this can be found in a eighteenth-century poem, London, by William Blake.  If sexual instincts are too severely repressed and women are therefore divided into the pure and the sullied, men are going to turn to those sullied for their physical satisfaction. Too often, they will infect their respectable wives with a STD, at that time syphilis, the disease affecting newborns, who are blinded in the process of being born.  And because even so-called pure women occasionally stray even at the risk  of their reputations, they can spread the disease, already epidemic because of their husbands. Those who strive to remain virtuous by stifling their natural drives will, if they escape physical disease, suffer from psychological ones. Either way, society will pay the price.
 
          As Freud puts it, “If civilization imposes such great sacrifices not only on man’s sexuality but on his aggressivity, we can understand better why it is hard for him to be happy in that civilization.  In fact, primitive man was better off in knowing no restrictions of instinct.”  There is a point in Matters of Doubt  when Cal has been listening to the ugly fascist rhetoric of someone who has a regular radio show on which he can spew his poison, Cal “fantasized about going back to the radio station and waiting for him in the parking lot”—clearly to physically attack him. But he suppresses this anger and image of doing bodily harm to the broadcaster.  At another point, Cal’s protection of a prostitute whom he is helping get out of the life brings him into a confrontation with a thug who has been ordered to return her to her madam.  When the hired enforcer calls Cal an “asshole,” Cal’s instinctual anger runs counter to his instinct for survival. He doubts that he could beat in a fight his huge opponent. But he is momentarily restrained by something else, less visceral: his reason, influenced by civilization, requires self-control. “My saner half screamed for me to de-escalate the situation,” he relates, “but raw anger boiled up in my chest and rose to my head faster than I could contain it.”
 
     Again, as Freud puts it, “This replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization. The essence of it lies in the fact that the members of the community restrict themselves in their possibilities of satisfaction, whereas the individual knew no such restrictions.” This evocation of the supposedly unfettered freedom of any individual is probably as mythical as the Garden of Eden; it is a freedom probably only enjoyed by Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and then only until Friday showed up.  It is a myth, however, that drives the behavior of the young homeless who would defy the society they think has stifled all they believe in and which they think would rob them of all their individuality.  Ironically, one of the things about them that Cal disapproves of is their lack of individuality as they copy each other in their forms of protest: personal appearance and behavior.  Also, they do not really want the freedom they proclaim: they form their own social units, pseudo-families that they think offer safety and satisfaction of their perceived needs, although often these families are as bad or even worse than the ones they are separated from. .  
 
          By the time Cal decides to leave Los Angeles and find respite in his secluded country home in the country, he (as well as Easley) had two, sometimes competing, views of nature to influence him,  two ways of looking at the natural world that have persisted to the present.  Traditionally, in western thought, nature might be beautiful, but like other beautiful worldly things, it was seductive and misleading.  It partook of the fall, and after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, the natural world was known for such phenomena as earthquakes, tornadoes, brutal extremes of weather, predatory animals, widespread epidemic illnesses, and the inevitability of death. The seasons each might have their own appeal, but the progression of the seasons inferred mutability and mortality. In that sense both humans and the world they inhabited were imbued with the effects of sin. Today, these descriptions of nature’s relation to humanity might be described in secular terms, many people working to control it and reduce its danger, but doing so with an adversary to be defeated.
 
     The romantic age and its practitioners, the ideological ancestors of today's environmentalists, saw things differently.  Nature itself was good but humans ruined it. When S. T, Coleridge's Ancient Mariner gratuitously killed the albatross, his was a sin against nature. William Wordsworth wrote that a single impulse from a “vernal wood” could teach more about morality than all the “sages.” It grieved his heart to see what “man has made of man.” The romantics did not deny the reality of catastrophic natural events, but they did not attribute them to human sin.  To extend their views to such phenomena as Oregon's wild coastal sea suggests not destruction but unrestrained energy, such as William Blake's tiger, more ferocious than his meek lamb but also representative of human imagination.  There was no question, however, that nature could be dangerous.  When Picasso is first turned away by Cal, he makes the bicycle trip back to Portland in the rain on wet roads.  Cal's concern for his safety becomes a factor in his reconsidering whether to help the young man.  Nature even in its seemingly destructive aspect evokes Cal's general sense of human decency.  In that sense, nature and human nature complement each other rather than being at odds.
 
     Another example of the deficiencies of civilization ------- when Cal and Anna visit a park “filling with sun-starved Portlanders [whose life kept them largely indoors] anxious to cure their vitamin D deficiencies.” Anna is a doctor with whom Cal has a tempestuous affair; to describe their relationship this way is once again to suggest what is natural, even if sometimes fraught with difficulty. She runs a free clinic for the homeless and destitute. And one of the services the clinic offers are referrals to places where their tattoos can be removed. The counter-culture sees in their appearance a sign of romantic primitivism, and the popularity of body piercing and tattooing imitates peoples for whom these practices are part of a supposedly more natural lifestyle, removed from the refinements required by civilization. That they are in fact typecasting themselves is something they do not recognize until they decide to change their lifestyles.
 
 Anna encourages those who seek their help to rejoin the world they have fled because along with the defiant body mutilations that they associate with supposedly more natural societies come drug abuse, filth, disease and a culture of mutual exploitation every bit as bad as that exemplified by the capitalist world they scorn and defy. They form pseudo-families to replace the one they have escaped from for many reasons, mutual protection, a feeling of belonging.  But such families can be as bad as the one escaped from.  Anna is particularly concerned for a young woman named Caitlin, whom she hopes to protect from a particularly dangerous situation. Her “family,” which will not passively stand by while Caitlin severs her ties to them, will use her to engage in sex for money, which can be used to buy drugs. she has escaped from or which rejected her, can sell sex for money that is then used to buy drugs. She is caught in a vicious cycle from which it will be difficult to extricate herself.  But Anna too is caught in contradictions, for just what these young people who have turned their lives around can and should seek in the “real” world is never defined.   After all, Cal can change his way of life because he chooses to and is able to because he has both a pension and a source of income from his limited law practice which sustain him. There is nothing simplistic about Easley's novel whose antitheses can never neatly be divided between the good and the bad. How to define a better world than the ones that exist in Matters of Doubt, one that is not a utopia transformed into a dystopia would be difficult to imagine much less achieve. For Caitlin’s supposed family represents another way of perceiving the natural world.
 
    Late in the nineteenth century, Alfred Lord Tennyson would—again recourse to human sin—define a nature “red in tooth and claw.” Later writers would describe nature and human nature in terms of a feeding chain, in which the stronger devoured the weaker. Images in Matters of Doubt illustrates this metaphor. Cal visits one of the witnesses whom he questions as part of his investigation into the murder of Picasso's mother. On the wall is a painting “drawn” from “the point of view of the fish, which was looking up at [an] insect floating on the surface of the water.” In a feeding chain, the fly is eaten by the fish, which in turn is eaten by a predatory bird or a human being. If civilization is defined as an advance in human behavior, fish that might have been originally eaten raw would eventually be cooked or otherwise cured and preserved. (Unless a person eats sushi or sashmi.) On the very first page of MoD, Cal eats a thick slice of smoked salmon, which he puts on a bagel with cream cheese, red onions, and capers. Capers are the unripe buds of a bush that grows widely n the Mediterranean and pickling them is akin to cooking. Cal, who must have dined in many expensive restaurants in Los Angeles, devotes a lot of time to cooking in Matters of Doubt.  A detailed description of his mincing ginger for a stir fry dinner which also, however, requires store-bought ingredients, such as hoisen sauce and red pepper flakes.
 
     An even further development of civilization has to do with fishing as a sport, as a way of spending leisure time when not all time and energy is required for physical survival. For fly fishermen, the fish is not necessarily part of a feeding chain since it is often thrown back in the water, and in one scene Archie reveals approval when Cal does just that. On the other side, the transformation of the search for food into a kind of sport seems unique to humans.  In another fishing scene, Cal witnesses how an eagle that seems to be watching him finally “swooped low over the river . . . and snatched a trout that had surfaced beneath a cloud of caddis flies.”   Yet, where it comes to healing, physical or emotion, nature and civilization can be either opposed to each other or interactive. If fly fishing is for some a remedy for a troubled psyche, the sport is paradoxical: it involves turning to nature instead of relying on medications, antidepressants or anti-anxiety pills. And yet many medications created in a laboratory or manufactured in a pharmaceutical plant involve the processing of products taken from nature.   And the flies that fishermen rely on are also annoying to those who venture out into nature, and the most effective insect repellents are dangerous to human beings if applied incorrectly. And, of course, some flies carry serious diseases.  The expression “fly in the ointment” is one that Easley uses in his book. In short, Matters of Doubt illustrates the interaction of nature and civilization, supposedly for the betterment of humans.  The controversies over chemical pesticides are raging ones as scientists try to advance the causes of civilization by using nature to fight nature.
 
      Cal may have escaped Los Angeles and will minimize his visits to Portland in order to find peace of mind in Oregon country, and in general, Easley will reveal starkly those features of civilization that lead to discontents. Still, Cal has not—to borrow an expression from anthropology when field workers decide to join what they view as the more primitive—read natural-- people being studied—gone native. And not just anthropologists. Some survivors of Indian attacks who were kidnapped when the United States was being settled, chose not to return to their own people when it was possible. During the Revolutionary War many parents who wanted to keep their children safe would send them to live with the Indians and were dismayed when the children often were reluctant to return to them after the war. This phenomenon was remarked on by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782). On the other side, what are known as Indian captivity stories, written as memoirs by survivors who escaped from their imprisonment, reveal the tenacity with which they strove to return to their families.  Who often did not welcome them back.  The classic film, The Searchers, tells of one such abduction and the disagreements between two men who had spent five years looking for a kidnapped woman, who has “gone native,” the self-proclaimed wife of an Indian.  When she is rescued, her return to civilization almost appears to be another abduction.  These stories create a well-defined genre of American literature in which the conflict between nature and civilization is central to the tales told, and in which the more broadly defined clash of cultures were a major theme.  In the American mystery genre, a brilliant example can be found in Sharyn McCrumb’s She Walks These Hills.
 
     Again, Cal does not go native when he leaves Los Angles for Oregon.  He shops for groceries at Whole Foods, which is known to promote organic food and natural cosmetic and healing products, but which is still a supermarket—one where, ironically, a shopper pays a big price for the return to nature.   Cal quips that one of its names might be Whole Paycheck. He travels by bus and his own car, if a used, modest one, and notes that airplanes may be objects of people's envy because travelers on them have “jobs, homes, and important destinations,” reasonable things for a person to aspire to. Cal's grooming keeps him clean and socially acceptable, but his present appearance, so different from what he cultivated as a prosecutor, typecasts him. Early in the book he describes a change in his appearance in such a way that it is clear that he has not left civilization completely behind. When “I worked down in L.A. I had a clean-shaven upper lip, razor cut hair, and wouldn’t be caught at work without a suit of at least two pieces along with freshly shined shoes.” But when he goes to Portland to begin investigating the murder of Picasso’s mother, “I had on a pair of jeans, scuffed deck shoes, and a faded polo shirt under a well-worn leather jacket. My hair was longer now, sprinkled with gray, and the moustache that sprouted after I moved north was full and ran to the shaggy side between trims.”  The image of the alteration in his moustache “between trims” signals his moving between two kinds of lifestyle instead of committing himself completely to only one of them. Hair, which has always been a cultural marker, supplies meaningful images throughout Matters of Doubt.
 
     Anna, who works to help the homeless, has little inclination and even less time for trying to appear glamorous. Her beautiful hair, a lock of which falling over her face so that she is constantly brushing it away, is so much a part of her appearance that when Picasso paints her into his mural, the hair across her face is included in his image of her.  Clearly, hairspray will not be found among her toiletries.  This absence is not incidental.  Hairspray not only maintains a hair-do that garners approval from others equally fashion-conscious but has other significance.  Often bottles of hairspray use the word “control” or “hold,” images of restraint that designate the degree to which the hair can be tamed.  The Russian hired to keep a madame’s prostitutes under control and who attacks Cal is described as having hair “cut high and tight, military style,” evoking pictures of repressive or aggressive forces.  Caitlin, the young woman whom Anna hopes to rescue from a sordid life, almost but not quite succeeding, is described as having hair that is dirty and unkempt, or clean and brushed, both indicating where she is at while she vacillates between two ways of life. Similarly, a friend of Picasso’s who is unable to recover from the trauma of Iraq and who lives among the homeless until he comes to a tragic end, is described as having a matted and unkempt beard, clearly not one that is periodically trimmed. It is difficult to interpret Picasso’s straggly goatee and equally untamed hair, a goatee that he strokes as he ponders what Cal says to him about  investigating his mother’s death.  Aside from the probably permanent tattoo of a snake circling his neck, Picasso seems poised between two worlds, and how he might appear, if he appears at all, in the next Cal Claxton mystery, Dead Float, cannot be predicted on the basis of hair or beard.  
     
     Cal has been driven by his wife's suicide to change his life and seek peace beyond the discontents of the civilization he has left behind. Even suicide, however, suggests an unresolved conflict between nature and civilization that psychologists are still grappling with. Many depressed persons find a way out of their emotional pain by becoming what Easley describes in another context as “unshackled from the burden of living.”  Is depression a disease and are civilization’s discontents a trigger for its onset, or are those discontents the main source of depression, activating a possible biological predisposition.  The treating of so many people by anti-depressants suggests a physical component to the condition but it hasn’t resolved the chicken and egg conundrum. Had Cal been less busy with his work, would he even have recognized the symptoms of his wife’s severe depression, since such symptoms are varied and likely to be overlooked by those not trained to recognize them? And does it matter? Even proving to Cal that he might not have been able to prevent her death no matter how aware of and attentive to her symptoms he was would probably not alleviate his remorse and sense of failure. Easley, moreover, doesn’t attempt to raise or answer the underlying questions concerning depression and suicide. It is being raised here only because the bottom line is that whatever the cause of his wife’s suicide, there was some interaction between nature and civilization involved, and therefore what happened to her is consistent with the themes found throughout Matters of Doubt.
 
     Associated with the question of depression are another set of unresolved matters concerning the emotions, where they come from, how they are activated and expressed, what purpose they serve in the evolutionary development of human beings.  Scientists, philosophers, and psychologists have asked such questions for a long time; and once again these questions are reflected in Easley’s book.  Cal oscillates between doubt and trust where it comes to his view of whether or not Picasso is guilty of murdering the man he thinks has murdered his mother.  Doubt has more to do with rational thought than emotions.  Picasso’s lies and evasions provoke Cal’s distrust at times, and for this reason, he and Anna clash because she views any distrust on his part as a betrayal of Picasso. Cal ironically protests that they seem to have a different view of human nature.  In fact, this protest is ironic, for Cal’s view of human nature is a rejection of any kind of original sin, even when secularized as with Freud’s id or concepts of innate human aggression. 
 
     If he does not quite advocate natural innocence, Cal at least adheres to some kind of blank slate philosophy, for throughout the book Easley focuses on the environment as the chief factor in how people develop, their attitudes, their behavior, their way of interacting with others. Still, reason predominates when he wonders if evidence doesn’t contradict his trust of Picasso, whether that trust is wishful thinking more than anything else.  Trust, on the other hand, seems based on emotions, intuition, feelings.  When Cal talks to someone of whom he is suspicious, someone who shares his love of fly-fishing, his subjective responses to the man override his reasons for doubt: “I had to admit my suspicions didn’t mesh completely with my sense of the man. There was something disarming about him, his modesty, I suppose, his sympathetic take on Picasso’s situation, and of course his love of fly fishing.  These factors militated against him being Baxter’s killer in my mind.” Then Cal’s reason takes over and he adds that “as an ex-prosecutor, I knew that jealousy and passion could darken the heart of any man.”  When he witnesses an horrific scene that ends in the death of one man and in the serious wounding of Picasso, Cal recounts how he was during the crisis, “all business and efficiency.” But when he is later alone, he describes how he was overwhelmed with tremors “starting in my gut and rippling through my chest.” Then, he says, “my eyes filled, and I wept silently.  I wept for Joey and for Picasso. I wept for all the desperate, cornered people in this city.  And to my surprise, I wept for cops like Scott and Jones [who had fired the fatal and wounding shots], the people we call on when our frayed safety net unravels.”
 
     Trust as an emotional rather than rational response to doubt can be traced to Cal’s former work as a prosecuting attorney, once again illustrating the conflict between nature and civilization. For trial by jury has been seen as a major advance in civilization. It replaced personal vengeance in which individuals retaliated against each other as each side committed a crime against the other. Picasso had turned to the police when he thought he knew who killed his mother and wanted them to investigate, but to no avail. He had similarly turned to Cal in hopes that he would investigate the murder and that in this way the murderer would be caught and punished, again to no avail, at least at the beginning of their meeting each other.  It is because the civilized forms of justice had ostensibly failed Picasso that he is believed to have taken it upon himself to execute, that is slay, the man he thinks has gotten away with murder. It was not illogical for officials in Portland to decide that he was not just a person of interest but was rather a prime suspect in the murder of the man he believed had killed his mother. It is the logic of this argument that sometimes inspires Cal’s doubt that Picasso is innocent.
 
     But Cal had another reason to doubt Picasso, for doubt itself was something he had had to confront every working day as a prosecutor.  The crux of a criminal trial involves a lawyer for the accused who tries to instill doubt in a jury, and a prosecutor who tries to prevent this, for as soon as a jury has reasonable doubt about a defendant’s guilt, it is required to bring back a verdict of not guilty. A presumption of innocence should govern a trial, although Cal—especially because he was once a prosecutor—knows this ideal is too often ignored.  At one point he animatedly tells someone who urges him to distance himself from Picasso, “I give the kid the benefit of the doubt, okay? He’s being thrown to the wolves by someone,  damn it.  And you know as well as I do that the justice system will only be too happy to oblige.” But as the evidence against Picasso mounts, and becomes what Cal realizes is “pretty overwhelming,” he admits that he no longer knows what to believe. Cal wants to trust him but he had earlier recognized he “would need proof, as well.” When Cal decides to accept Picasso’s word,  he qualifies his decision, very aware that “at least most of me did.  A small corner of my brain—call it the L. A. prosecutor piece—remained skeptical.”
 
     The substitution of personal revenge for trial by jury has, again, always been considered one of the greatest advances of civilization.  For western civilization the transition took place in Hellenistic Greece and is held to be among its glories. In Aeschylus’s Eumenides, the last play in the only trilogy that has survived from ancient tragedy, Orestes is put on trial for murdering his mother Clytemnestra in order to avenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon. This play is sometimes referred to as the first courtroom drama in western literature. The trial marks the final phase of the family saga known by ts name as the House of Atreus, in which generations of family members turn on and kill each other with rage and calculated vengeance.  When these mythical tales are added to the saga of the House of Abdacus (part of which is the Oedipus story), the two dynastic families commit just about every crime a mystery writer could imagine: cannibalism, kidnapping, incest, homosexual rape, adultery and the murder of a spouse, infanticide, fratricide, patricide, matricide, sacrilege. The chain of crimes resulting from individuals taking it upon themselves to punish the perpetrator of an earlier crime forms more links. Orestes’ trial for killing his mother is not only viewed by commentators as an advance in civilization but is also strikingly modern.  One of the characters in the ancient play remarks, for example, that evidence in a trial must not be ruled by technicalities, and today technicalities remain the bane of criminal attorneys, prosecution and defense alike. The jury in Aeschylus’s play cannot agree on a verdict, and is split down the middle.  As Easley’s Cal switches sides, that is from prosecutor to possible defense, he too will be divided, oscillating between doubt and trust until the mystery surrounding the death of Picasso’s mother is finally solved.
 
      At the end of Matters of Doubt, Easley’s readers might realize that doubt in a criminal proceeding can serve as a metaphor for the doubts that can overwhelm people as they go through their lives.  The road not taken, whose end-point will never be known, imbues every aspect of life with uncertainty.  The earlier essay on this book, “A Mystery and a Mural in Warren Easley’s Matters of Doubt,” argues that a mystery series unlike a standalone allows the writer to develop a story or change its direction, redefining characters. How in Easley’s series Cal deals with his doubts and how the roads he takes as well as memories of the ones he didn’t affect him, will create another level of suspense in the Cal Claxton mystery series.  
 
 
 
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