Worst typo ever? Easy. Page 301 of The Devil's Redhead, hard cover edition (page 313 in the mass paperback version): "sandstone palavers."
I wish I could blame some drudge in the bowels of Random House, anyone but myself. No such luck.
The word I wanted, of course, was "pavers," a word I'd never heard until my wife, Terri, uttered it while we were planning a rehab job on our back patio. Part of the word's charm was how she said it, a giddy almost childlike delight, which she brought to practically everything. When it came time, a few years later, to describe a Monterey-style lobby in a Mexican hotel, it seemed precisely the mot juste.
Except my brain couldn't find it. It rummaged around in the "similar sounding" bucket and came up with "palavers." I knew this was wrong, and mentally earmarked the spot for revision once the right word came to me. It never did. Not in time, anyway.
The reason? At the time of this particular rewrite Terri had died of cancer. The manuscript for Redhead, my first novel, had been purchased six weeks before her death, and I reworked the page in question after her passing.
She was forty-six, the love of my life, and I was devastated. Anyone who knows that kind of grief knows it turns your mind and memory to slop. The simplest things confound you. Both the inner and outer worlds acquire a smudgy dullness and the only light that breaks through comes in lightning bolts of helpless rage.
Such was my state of mind when the copy edited version of Redhead reached me. When I came to this particular page I saw the copy editor had crossed out "palavers," but she'd been so baffled by the misusage, so confused about my intent, that she'd replaced it with another inappropriate word. It felt like a violation, given my feelings for Terri, her association with that word, my memories of how she'd said it, but I still couldn't conjure the right word myself. There was a hole in my memory where the word used to be. And so I peevishly stetted the copy editor's change, hoping to return when the right word came back to me. Then, of course, I forgot. I forgot a lot of things back then.
The typo has proved to be strangely immortal. In edition after edition, despite the most desperate begging that it be changed, the little monster appears, even in the U.K. edition. (God only knows how the Japanese translation must read.) I've had my editor promise that, should a new edition appear, we will once and for all drive a stake through its heart.
I'm not, as they say, holding my breath.
I'm sure somewhere, Terri is chuckling away, thinking this is what I get for losing my temper. I wish I could tell her: I know.
Causes David Corbett Supports
Buddhist Peace Fellowship, PEN USA, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, Asociación Pro-Búsqueda, The Center for Victims of...