John McIntyre, a truly old-school copy editor (the man wears a bow tie, for God’s sake), has a delightful hard-boiled detective story celebrating National Grammar Day, Pulp Diction. To whet your appetite, here’s a bit from Chapter 2, “The last copy editor”:
At the old Sun building on Calvert Street the front door yielded with a rusty creak. Dust lay thick on the guard’s desk, and small birds flew through broken windows. Bundled stacks of the last print edition displayed the headline: SEE US ON THE WEB.
Windows were out on the second floor, too, and scurrying and skittering sounds preceded me as I rounded the corner into the main room. Row on row of cubicles stretched out, each with a computer terminal like a headstone, each with a sad little collection of photos, figurines, long-dead plants. It was like walking the deck of the Mary Celeste.
On a bulletin board near the old copy desk, dangling from a single push pin, a yellowed memo listed a set of banned holiday cliches. The office next to the bulletin board was empty except for a Webster’s New World College Dictionary missing its cover.
A quavering voice asked, “Who’s there?”
A stooped figure, brandishing a red stapler, rose from one of the copy desk work stations where he had been dozing on an improvised pallet of final-edition bundles. His hair was white, his beard untrimmed, his gaze wary. He wore a green eyeshade, and I recognized my quarry: the last copy editor.
He spends his time “writing in a small, crabbed hand” in a beat-up copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, “fixing all the stuff those arrogant fools got wrong for years.” It’s a terrifying glimpse at what I might have become if I hadn’t been rescued by the love of a good woman.