Odd timing: Zanesville & Sanford

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Dec 25, 2012

It’s probably only the sort of coincidental connection that inevitably results from any large-ish project, like writing a book, but still, I want to share a curious bit of synchronicity from Brilliant Deduction‘s genesis.

In researching the life of William Burns, I discovered that one of the indisputably greatest detectives of all time was a fellow adopted Ohioan. (I moved here from Iowa, Burns from Maryland.) Burns made his first forays into detection in Columbus, though in between his birth in Baltimore and his family’s eventual resettling in our state’s capital, he spent much of his childhood in Zanesville. (His Zanesville years may not have had any particular influence of Burns, though it’s possible that a school lesson from the period played an important role many years later in his resolution of the great counterfeit Monroe-note case.) Despite living, according to Yahoo! Maps, no more than 150 miles from Zanesville, I had never heard of the place, myself.

And then in late 2011, as I was finishing up my research, I and a whole lot of other people heard about Zanesville in a very memorable context.

This would be mildly curious, on its own, but it really struck me in combination with what happened a few months later, as I was finally writing the first draft of Brilliant Deduction. My research was mostly complete by that point, but I continued working on a few interesting leads, including one relating to my most mysterious subject, Ignatious “Paddington” Pollaky. Thanks to Derek Ross and his diligent efforts reassembling the traces of Pollaky’s life and career, I knew that Pollaky had played a modest role in the international intelligence battles of America’s Civil War, at the behest of one Henry Shelton Sanford. As it happens, the Florida city he founded after the war has preserved most of the man’s papers including some fascinating correspondence from Pollaky, of which the local museum graciously provided extensive digital copies. (I eventually incorporated some of this material into the chapter on Pollaky, enriching the chapter considerably I believe; if you’re good I may share a bit of it here as well.)

Like Zanesville, I had otherwise never heard of Sanford and knew absolutely nothing of it. But right around this time, it surfaced in not one but two unexpected places. First, my brother moved to Deltona, Florida, barely 15 miles from Sanford. Second… this happened.

Strange world.

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