‘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

Acceptance starts with liking one’s self

“Diversity – it starts with you.” That was the message that keynote speaker Nick Ferrante brought to the Diversity Day pro ... Read More


Tradition dates to 1422 in England

Bankruptcy Inn of Court named to honor Drake

The recently formed Georgia Bankruptcy American Inn of Court has been named for W. Homer Drake Jr. of Newnan. Drake is U.S. Bankruptcy Court ... Read More


Eye-catching billboard may help catch killer

When travelling on Interstate 85 north through Fairburn, many motorists have taken notice of Donna “Denice" Roberts’ face on a l ... Read More


NTH 150th anniversary

‘Judge Brown’ was editor/publisher for 42 years

For more than four decades, journalism in Newnan was associated with James Evans Brown. Brown – often known as “Judge Brown&rdqu ... Read More


NTH 150th anniversary

Newsman’s father-in-law had five brides

Editor’s Note: Karen Milner Freeman of Cherry Log is a descendant of Jonathan P. Milner and has done extensive research on her family, ... Read More

Shooting suspect arrested

Teen charged in Glenn Street incident

An 18-year-old man suspected of shooting another man in the chest last weekend was arrested by authorities with the Newnan Police Department ... Read More