05 March 2014

A Good Day For Bad Days

After I wrote this piece the Short Mystery Fiction Society announced the finalists for this year's Derringer Awards.  I am delighted to say that one of them is my "The Present," which appeared in The Strand Magazine.  If you are interested I wrote about the story here.

I am pleased to report that the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, on newsstands now, features my twenty-third story for that august journal.  I am even happier to report that number twenty-four was purchased in February.  So I may have a three-Hitchcock year twice in a row.

(And  I am delighted to see that two fellow SleuthSayers are on the cover.  Congrats John and Janice!)

But let's talk about where the idea for lucky twenty-three came from. Typically a story idea for me comes like a bolt from the blue, or it accumulates a piece at a time.  In this case, oddly enough, it did both.

You see, I had an idea for quite some time, but I lacked a place to put it.  I needed a setting where a group of strangers would be in close proximity and I couldn't find the right one.  Then, one day, I happened to be waiting in line for an estate sale  - the very one I described here  -- and I realized that that was the perfect setting.   I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling down all the possible ways I could use an estate sale in my story.

Then I needed a character, specifically a police officer who would be attending the sale as a customer.  And for my story to work he needed to be a specific kind of policeman.  Not to put too fine a point on it, I needed a cop who was not very good at his job.

Then I realized that I already had one.  A long time ago I had written a story called "A Bad Day for Pink and Yellow Shirts."  It described three men getting involved in a disastrous mess and having only a few minutes to come up with an explanation that made all of them come out looking good.  One of the characters was Officer Kite, a patrolman who had spent almost as much of his career suspended for various screw-ups as he had on the beat.  

Just the man for the job.  I quickly enlisted him and realized that I had the title for my story: "A Bad Day For Bargain Hunters."  Like the first tale, this one is also told from multiple viewpoints.

And here is another odd relationship between the stories.  "Shirts" appeared in Hitchcock's in May 2004.  "Hunters" is showing up ten years later to the month.  Odder still is that my last publication  is a sequel to a different tale that appeared in Hitchcock's almost exactly ten years earlier.  I seem to have a new habit: a decadal series.  Decadent?  Decimated? 

I hope you enjoy the story, anyway.


  1. Congratulations on being a Derringer finalist!
    Good luck with that!

  2. Rob, congrats on "The Present" being nominated for a Derringer.

  3. Loved this story, but more importantly, CONGRATS on the Derringer nomination!!


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