Andrew Carlson interview
Monday, July 10, 2017 – 11:45 a.m.
Dr. Andrew Carlson is a renowned William Faulkner expert and the keynote speaker at the Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference. He was scheduled to co-present with Jake Hemphill in the meeting room where Douglas Reed's body was found.
Detectives Murphy and Parker interviewed Dr. Carlson in another meeting room at the Yoknapatawpha County Convention Center (YCCC).
- Detective S. Murphy
- Detective E. Parker
- Andrew Carlson
Detective Murphy: Would you please state your name and address for the record?
Andrew Carlson: My name is Dr. Andrew Nicholas Carlson, and I live in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Detective Murphy: Your street address?
Andrew Carlson: Hopper Road. I never remember the number.
Detective Parker: Cape Girardeau. Didn't that serve as a setting in Elmore Leonard's Killshot?
Andrew Carlson: You'd have to ask someone else. That doesn't sound like the kind of book I would read.
Detective Parker: Not a big fan of mysteries?
Andrew Carlson: William Faulkner published the collection Knight's Gambit in 1949, although five of the six short mysteries were published individually as early as 1932.
Detective Murphy: Is this the first time you've attended Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference?
Andrew Carlson: Scheduling issues have kept me from accepting invitations until this year, yes.
Detective Parker: But you speak all over the world about William Faulkner.
Andrew Carlson: That is correct.
Detective Parker: Very impressive. I have to admit I never did get the hang of The Sound and The Fury. I always felt I must be missing something.
Andrew Carlson: Faulkner often proves challenging to the uninitiated.
Detective Parker: That's what I tell people. More or less.
Detective Murphy: When did you arrive in Oxford, Professor Carlson?
Andrew Carlson: About 3:30 Saturday afternoon. I'm staying at The Z and was using the opportunity of being out of the office to catch up on some research before going to the conference center on Sunday morning.
Detective Murphy: Do you remember what time you got here at the YCCC yesterday?
Andrew Carlson: By 10:00, certainly. I can't be more specific than that. The ride was only about ten minutes.
Detective Murphy: And generally speaking, what did you do Sunday?
Andrew Carlson: I made myself available to attendees. That's part of the price of being invited to one of these things. I wandered the public areas until I lunched with Jake Hemphill, my co-presenter, and then again I played the visiting celebrity through the afternoon and the buffet until I returned to my room, probably around 9:30.
Detective Murphy: Have you worked much with Jake Hemphill?
Andrew Carlson: No, I haven't, but when I can, I like to co-present with someone local. Jake's young, but his credentials are impressive. He's postulated some very intriguing theories.
Detective Murphy: What about Doug Reed?
Andrew Carlson: I would prefer not to speak ill of the dead.
Detective Murphy: While your view is admirable, those rules don't necessarily apply in this situation.
Andrew Carlson: Doug Reed struck me as overly ambitious. I say "overly" because his reach extended past his abilities.
Detective Murphy: Perhaps if you had taken him under your wing?
Andrew Carlson: In fact, he desired nothing less, and in fact demanded more.
Detective Parker: Demanded?
Andrew Carlson: Reed was quite insistent, bordering on the psychotic. He all but stalked me as soon as I crossed the Mississippi border.
Detective Parker: What do you mean by stalked?
Andrew Carlson: He believed himself to be the more suitable co-presenter. I think he thought that if he bumped into me twenty or thirty times, I'd decide I'd chosen incorrectly. In fact, the opposite was true.
Detective Parker: And why would he do that?
Andrew Carlson: As your colleague suggested, Reed thought I could advance his career. Expected me to advance his career as if I couldn't wish to do anything different.
Detective Murphy: Have you had previous dealings with Reed?
Andrew Carlson: I am happy to report I have not.
Detective Parker: How did Jake Hemphill seem to get along with him?
Andrew Carlson: There was palpable tension between the two men. I'm not sure how much of that had to do with my choice of co-presenter and how much predated my involvement. Hemphill and I had more intriguing matters to discuss.
Detective Parker: Such as?
Andrew Carlson: Our presentation on William Faulkner.
Detective Murphy: How did that shape up?
Andrew Carlson: Quite nicely, thank you. If not for Reed's murder….
Detective Murphy: Yes?
Andrew Carlson: It's only that the unfortunate event played havoc with the schedule, never mind the distraction that resulted. One could almost imagine Reed conspired to sabotage my presentation.
Detective Murphy: Conspired how?
Andrew Carlson: Perhaps he intended to cause a commotion, and things went awry. But I spoke in generalities, in frustration. I didn't mean to imply he actually meant to … I hope you'll forgive me. It's been a difficult day.
Detective Murphy: You're in the unique position of being able to view things as an outsider, and thus you may have noticed interactions that others might have missed. Thinking back over the past couple of days, what thoughts do you have related to the crime that occurred?
Andrew Carlson: I am saddened, of course, but not entirely surprised. I experienced an unusually high level of resentment. One expects a certain degree of infighting in an academic setting, people vying for position, being passed over, and perhaps I should not feel free to speak my mind, but I find the situation here ripe.
Detective Parker: Can you be more specific?
Andrew Carlson: Not without leaving something out. I apologize for expressing myself poorly, but I witnessed no interaction that wasn't fraught with barely suppressed conflict, a study in dysfunction worthy of Faulkner himself.
Detective Murphy: And could you be more specific than that?
Andrew Carlson: All I have are my impressions.
Detective Murphy: We would be happy to hear them.
Andrew Carlson: Jake Hemphill, my co-presenter, I gathered he relished the effect my choosing him had on Reed. The man seemed determined that nothing would go wrong. He reviewed the presentation endlessly. Checked and rechecked the equipment. He went so far as to examine each copy of the handouts to make sure nothing could be criticized.
Detective Murphy: Did his actions seem extreme?
Andrew Carlson: They did. While one can and should double-check, Hemphill's behavior bordered on the paranoid.
Detective Parker: How did he explain himself?
Andrew Carlson: He didn't, except to say he didn't want any surprises, little imagining what would transpire.
Detective Murphy: What else has stood out for you?
Andrew Carlson: Take your pick. Dan Johnson's afraid he'll be supplanted as department head. In centuries past, Laurence Bricker would have led torch-wielding mobs through the countryside. I'm given to understand Reed's multiple amorous entanglements were a source of distress for some and vexation for others. Some of this I saw with my own eyes, some I overheard, and some I only intuited. There aren't enough axes in the state of Mississippi to keep these people busy grinding.
Detective Parker: Did you ever overhear actual threats?
Andrew Carlson: No, but then you have to remember I only left Missouri Saturday morning.
Detective Murphy: When did you last see Doug Reed?
Andrew Carlson: That would be the buffet last night. Apparently, he didn't think it too late for me to change my mind.
Detective Murphy: Did the two of you speak?
Andrew Carlson: He would make some inane comment or other whenever he managed to get close. Again, I apologize for my apparent callousness, but from the very beginning, Reed has been a blight on an otherwise pleasant experience.
Detective Murphy: What time did you return to the conference center this morning?
Andrew Carlson: A few minutes before 9:00. That's what time the presentation was scheduled.
Detective Parker: You didn't want to prepare, check that everything was all set?
Andrew Carlson: As I said, I always co-present with a local, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jake Hemphill didn't sleep in the conference room.
Detective Murphy: He may have stopped a murder if he had.
Detective Parker: When was the last time you talked with your co-presenter?
Andrew Carlson: When I left for The Z last night.
Detective Parker: You didn't coordinate this morning?
Andrew Carlson: We'd already discussed everything that needed discussing, and I felt reassured by his paranoia.
Detective Murphy: Did you leave The Z at any time between last night and this morning?
Andrew Carlson: No, I did not.
Detective Parker: Can anyone corroborate that?
Andrew Carlson: I saw one of the owners last night, and not wanting to forsake the rest of that cinnamon bun, I stayed as late as I dared this morning. As to whether the owners or the other guests would have known if I left in the middle of the night, I couldn't say.
Detective Murphy: Thank you, Professor, for sharing your insights. I'm sure we'll want to talk further once we have a chance to digest all you've told us.
Interview ended: 12:13 p.m.