Re-Writing Wrongs


On Saturday morning, at approximately 10:09 a.m., (I say approximately because it could have been 10:08 and 57 seconds and as a sprinter this sort of detail matters), I finished the fourth and final version of my first book.

Bear in mind that the process of crafting this beast of burden was anything but a sprint. 5286

The story was born in October 1988 when my friend died at the hands of another friend in Seoul, South Korea–a month after the Olympic Games had caused derision in the city.

The manuscript began to take shape in August 2008 when I starting writing in earnest while watching the Beijing Olympic Games.

From 2010-2013, the tome went from true crime to fiction to yet another kind of fiction. But was never quite right.

SPLIT, which the book is now called, is a memoir and the story I meant to write all along. It was made possible by my trip to Seoul and the DMZ in January 2014. photo 2

Here’s a preview of how it ends. Or, considering all the edits, is this a re-view? Anyway, it’s over, as much as a story about an unresolved murder can be:

I never contacted Jane. There was nothing to gain by hearing her say, to me, that she didn’t kill Carrie. We had to wait, like the former assistant U.S. Attorney said, for her cross a line again. There was no sense putting my family, and a future case, in jeopardy, in an attempt to get Jane to confess. She simply wasn’t going to do it.

Instead, I’d made peace with South Korea. I’d held a grudge against a country that never deserved my ire. South Korea was a victim, too, like Carrie—of politics and place; of love and hate.

My tour guide Laura had called the DMZ a “battlefield of ideology.” The same was true of the rift caused by Carrie’s death. Differences in international law divided the case at the International Date Line.

Because of the International Date Line, Pamela says that she found out about Carrie’s murder “before she died.” Although not technically accurate of course, as she clarified, it had been disorienting to look at a clock in Nebraska showing a time earlier than her death taken place in Seoul. Eerily, Pamela also received a card from Carrie after they’d buried her because of the time it took for mail to cross the Pacific. 

After receiving the FBI files in 2008, I’d waited a long time before reading them. I knew the 200 pages contained more of the same—a vast no man’s land where once a beautiful woman had been. 

The FBI report did indeed acknowledge the futility of Carrie’s case. There had been too many legal and cultural divides between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea to bring the Colburn family’s suffering to an end.  

The FBI report concluded with an acknowledgement of the horrible paradox in Carrie’s case that happened below the 38th Parallel.

“We are concerned that the appearance of a lack of cooperation between US and ROK authorities in apprehending the prime suspect in the murder of a US citizen may result in unwarranted criticism of the US Government. Should the Koreans fail to request formally that __________ be returned to Korea for trial, it may appear to those unfamiliar with pertinent law and regulations that bureaucratic bungling allowed a killer to get away with murder.”

The end of the book.

The end of 26 years of grief and rage.

The beginning of the next chapter of my life.



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