Mr. White’s Confession

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Herbert White has a problem with his memory, so he keeps meticulous records of the days’ events in a journal to remember his life, and keeps scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings to help him remember the world’s events. Later, though, one of his journals gets him in trouble, not for what he says, but for what he does not explain—and does not clearly remember.

Mr. White seems to be a dreary man living a dreary existence. He has a simple job, writes to starlets in B movies, and tediously documents everyday events. The one bright spot is his photography hobby, which allows him to meet beautiful women and take their photographs. The women think White harmless; he’s always formal and polite and respectful around them. When one of the dime-a-dance girls responds to White romantically, he’s amazed and totally unprepared for what she offers.

At first, Horner is convinced that White is the killer. When another girl is killed, the initial evidence points to White again, and Horner is under pressure to get a conviction. Soon, though, evidence comes in that creates doubt for Horner, but before he can find another suspect, White confesses under pressure. Although Horner didn’t hear White’s confession, his name is signed as the witness, making him solely responsible for White’s conviction. The lives of Horner and White are thereafter entwined, with one at peace and the other endlessly tormented.

Robert Clark has taken two complex and quirky characters, a pair of murders, and the abuse of the legal system and woven them into a story that is more than the sum of its parts.