The Editor: Meet the Characters of Magnolia bluff
June 8, 2022
Caleb Pirtle III
His very presence can strike fear into the self-appointed power brokers of Burnet County. He likes nothing better than a good fight.
Neal Holland is the owner, editor, and publisher of Magnolia Bluff’s newspaper.
He’s an iconoclast.
Most small-town newspaper editors and publishers are.
I’ve worked for them.
If the news is fit to print, Neal Holland prints it.
If it’s not fit to print, he puts it on page one.
In Eulogy in Black and White, book 2 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, he is the conscience and the voice of the town he loves.
THE NEWSROOM OF the Magnolia Bluff Chronicle smells like ink and paper. This morning’s ink. Last week’s paper. Some swear all news smells, and I won’t argue with them. Everybody wants the truth. Very few are willing to tell it. And those who do are generally run out of town. Let’s all live a lie, and none of us will get stung. Let a poor boy go to jail, and it’s front-page news. Let an advertiser have a closed-door meeting with the judge, and the report of his indiscretions wind up in the trash, burned and the ashes scattered somewhere in the next county. A man may bury his conscience, but it will always come back to haunt him. I know. I live with the ghosts.
Nobody, with the exception of Rebecca Wilson, bothers to look up when I walk through the door. She’s tall. She’s a brunette. She could have walked in from the cover of some magazine, wearing a deep blue dress that looks like silk or satin. Rebecca is the receptionist, the society editor, and the head of advertising sales.
“Lose your umbrella?” she asks quietly.
“Didn’t think it was supposed to rain.”
Her laughter sounds like the black keys on a piano. “Where’d you get that idea?”
“Read it in the newspaper somewhere.”
Neal Holland grunts loudly. He’s the owner, publisher, editor, and guiding genius behind the Chronicle. He’s bent over the twenty-four-inch screen of his ink-stained IMac Pro, either writing the news or making it up as he goes. I’m told he’s good at both.
“Sounds like insubordination to me,” he says without looking toward me.
“That’s what my Colonel said.”
“He shoot you?”
“From one side of the room to the other.”
“That’s the reason,” Neal says.
“Reason for what?”
“Reason we can’t win a damn war.” He stops typing long enough to straighten the ragged end of his white mustache. “Damn brass can’t shoot straight.”
Neal Holland is as close to being a legend as anyone who has ever walked the town square of Magnolia Bluff. He must be in his sixties, but maybe he’s older. His very presence can strike fear into the self-appointed power brokers of Burnet County.
Mister Holland is a little too short, a little too round, and his face looks like a rock boulder after sparring with a stick of dynamite. His white hair is always in need of a good trim. His white mustache is a little too shaggy.
His eyesight is failing. His dark-rimmed glasses are coke bottle thick. But nobody wants to get on the bad side of a small-town editor who loves nothing better than a good fight.
He’s dug up dirt on politicians who have wallowed in a lot of dirt, had the chief of police arrested, the district attorney disbarred, and I know at least three members of the city council who always find out before the meeting which way Neal Holland wants them to vote.
They may get out-voted from time to time, but none of them is ever crucified in front-page headlines or skinned alive in print.
They have learned the golden rule of small-town journalism. Don’t ever pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and will use as much as he needs to soundly whip you as often as he needs on page one.
Please click HERE to find Eulogy in Black and White on Amazon.