April 17, 2012

Mrs. Vickers and the case of the vanishing manuscript


When diabetes took her vision away, Dorset native Trish Vickers took to poetry to bring order to her suddenly chaotic life. In time, Mrs. Vickers found that the pen suited her and she took to writing a novel. Twenty-six pages later and some positive reinforcement from friends, and she was beginning to dream of having her book published.

When her son came to visit, Mrs. Vickers excitedly shared her now burgeoning pile of papers. It must have been heartbreaking, or possibly terrifying, for her son when he had to tell her that all the pages were blank. The pen she had been writing with was devoid of ink.

John Burns writes in the New York Times:

Then came a twist in the story of a kind that would serve in one of the detective stories that have entertained mystery buffs for generations: Mrs. Vickers, 59, and her son turned to the forensic service of the Dorset County police.

After five months’ work, done on her lunch breaks, one of the experts there, a woman usually set to helping solve cases of murder, arson and fraud, cracked the case, delivering a typescript of all the missing pages to the bereft author.

“I am so happy, pleased and grateful,” Mrs. Vickers said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “Being blind is very restrictive as far as going anywhere. I have always been interested in writing. I have one of those imaginations that run riot. Everybody who has read it so far seems to like it, and the police also said they enjoyed the bit they read and can’t wait for the rest.”

It is a tale that the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, who also pondered the loss of his vision, would have delighted in telling: Cops spending their lunch break, slowly and meticulously reconstructing the unborn writings of a blind woman. Fanciful digression aside, Mrs. Vickers is now working to finish her novel and hopefully this time she will be doing so with a brand new pen.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.