‘The Stray Bullet’ book a riveting, insightful read

by W. Winston Skinner

William S. Burroughs was an American writer who fatally shot his wife in Mexico while playing William Tell.

“The Stray Bullet: William S. Burroughs in Mexico” (University of Minnesota Press, paper, 176 pages, $17.95) was initially published in 1995 in Mexico. Jorge Garcia-Robles’ book, now translated into English by Daniel C. Schechter offers insights into William and Joan Burroughs, why they were in Mexico and the world that surrounded them.

Garcia-Robles depicted Burroughs — whose mother’s family had ties to the Coweta County area — as one who wound up in Mexico for pragmatic reasons and who largely lived in Mexico without being touched particularly by any aspect of its culture.

“The fact is that Burroughs could be somewhere without being there at all,” he wrote. “Burroughs was in Mexico, but he remained far, far away from it.”

In the new preface to the American edition, Garcia-Robles wrote: “Burroughs experienced Mexico in different ways: he celebrated it, detested it, enjoyed it, suffered it. In his own words, it was on Mexican soil that his fatal vocation as a writer was born.”

Garcia-Robles also wrote that his goal in writing the book, was to “explore the Mexico-Burroughs connection, to break it down, look into its nooks and crannies.”

Garcia-Robles succeeded. He sets the stage for the Mexico years — relating how Burroughs met Joan Vollmer and how they formed a connection despite his homosexuality and her “somewhat libertine predilections.”

The Burroughs household, which include their own son and Joan’s daughter, moved to Texas to farm for awhile. Burroughs’ goal was to raise and sell marijuana. They then moved on to Mexico City, where Burroughs used the GI Bill to enroll in college — attending classes rarely and sporadically.

In the book, Garcia-Robles examined Joan’s death wish — her use of drugs at her own emotional and physical expense and to the neglect of her children. He also wrote of the “special, profound degree of communication” between Joan and Burroughs.

The details surrounding Joan’s death, the usually stoic Burroughs anguished reaction and the peculiarly Mexican legal process that followed are all well presented. Burroughs spent only 13 days in jail for shooting his wife. Garcia-Robles has drawn a sharp picture of Burroughs’ skilled Mexican attorney, Bernabe’ Jurado, and other acquaintances who crossed his path.

Ultimately the financial resources of Burroughs’ family enabled him to once again leave a country behind. The death of Joan Vollmer Burroughs, however, crystalised in William S. Burroughs the divergent feelings that fueled his literary and artistic successes to come.

As Garcia-Robles put it: “Burroughs would not have been able to think, write or paint as he thought, wrote and painted without having gone through the terrible experience of Joan’s death.”



More Local

Coco's Cupboard

Partnership works to find service dogs for veterans

Dog trainers Suzanne Aaron and Tara Cotton saw many clients who had dogs they just couldn’t handle. They would help the owners find do ... Read More


250 students affected

Homelessness ‘vicious cycle that’s going to continue’

The economy has bounced back from the lows of a few years ago. The housing market is healthy, and the jobless rate has improved. But, for so ... Read More


Annual Sunrise on the Square Road Race a success

The annual Sunrise on the Square included ideal weather and a first-time winner who actually pushed his baby in a stroller. The race, hosted ... Read More


HealthSouth facility scheduled to open Dec. 2

Progress for HealthSouth’s new facility is on track for a Dec. 2 opening, which will add to the town’s growing collection of hea ... Read More


Subsidized medical center proposed for Senoia

Palmetto Health Council is applying for a grant to bring a subsidized medical clinic to Coweta, proposed for the Senoia area. The non-profit ... Read More

Economic Impact

Ports hit new record

The Georgia Ports Authority moved more than 3 million 20-foot equivalent container units in fiscal year 2014 – and set a new record fo ... Read More