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Lessons from a Half-Blind Horse in a Mystery Writer's New Novel

In the just published Ben Reese mystery, Watches Of The Night, Sally Wright (a Mystery Writers Of America Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist) examines the ways in which a well meaning horse can give us humans a day-to-day example of how to accept painful realities and pick ourselves up and move-on.

Like many before him, Wright’s own horse, Max, a thoroughbred/quarter horse cross, had to have an eye removed after months of pain and suffering, which he faced like a gentleman-realist with good grace and patience.

In weeks Max learned to make-do with one-sided sight, and (though he didn’t want to be turned out with others, or go cross country with company) he trusted Wright to ride him safely, which gave them years to work at dressage before he faced his final undoing (still ride-able and amazingly sound) from cancer at 31.

Although Wright’s five published Ben Reese mysteries are primarily concerned with the experiences of a university archivist who’d been a behind-the-lines scout in Europe in WWII (based on a real archivist/scout Wright still works with), Wright’s own horses contribute to every book. Her rescue horse’s life and death played a large part in the early novels - before she gave Max to Ben (who’s trying to adjust to the death of his wife) in Watches, and let them go through what she and the real Max weathered in real life.

Like all the Ben Reese books, the mystery grows out of actual historical events. In Watches (which takes place in 1962), the scientific tech teams the US and Britain sent into German territory during (and just after) WWII to look for Nazi science drive much of the plot. Ben (shown in flashbacks to 1945) takes a tech team behind the German lines on a mission that leads to murder in Scotland eighteen years later.

But it’s trying to help Max through months of painful treatments and surgery, and seeing the dignity and acceptance Max has that helps Ben turn toward life again, in spite of the death of his wife.

Wright believes horses can help us become more than we are without them. That they can teach us patience, first of all, and open our eyes to other ways of being, and make us more compassionate.

Winston Churchill (who was right about a lot) said, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”

Wright would say the heart of a horse does more even better.


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