03 October 2015


I've been writing for so long now--21 years--that I no longer have many "first-time" happenings, in this business. But I did finally reach one of my goals recently: I had my first story published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. In the past, editor Janet Hutchings has been kind enough to buy a couple of my "mystery poems," but unlike many of my SleuthSayers colleagues, I had never before been able to sell her a short story. (Not for lack of trying, by the way.)

When I last saw her, Janet told me that one of the things that swayed her this time was that my story (it's called "Dentonville," in the November 2015 issue) was so offbeat. That's probably a good description. After all, one of the lead characters is a woman seven feet tall, with an attitude that's different as well--she's normally kindhearted but can be formidable when the situation requires it, and several situations in this story require it. The other main character is an easygoing accountant with a seven-year-old son and a shady past whose old enemies are being released from prison with revenge on their minds, and for most of the story he's not quite sure who (including the aforementioned giant mystery-woman) is friend or foe. The plot soon becomes complicated, with strange alliances and hidden agendas playing a big part in the outcome.

As for other reasons why "Dentonville" might've been accepted for publication, all I know is that we as authors occasionally run into a story that is just plain fun to write, and this one was. And sometimes I think that kind of enthusiasm comes through to the editor who's making the buy-or-don't-buy decision. Whatever the case, I'm thankful that this one made the cut.

Also, I received my author's copies a couple weeks ago, and I found--no surprise, here--that the other stories featured in the November issue are excellent. One of my favorites is "The Lake Tenant," by Brendan DuBois, a mystery that's told with almost no dialogue but paints an unforgettable picture of small-town New Hampshire. It also contains a lot of humor and some delicious twists and turns. Another favorite is "Ninth Caller," by Philip Lowery, from EQMM's Department of First Stories. It's a delightful account of a couple of women who decide to swindle a radio-station call-in program.

In the magazine's lead story, a group of ladies are again up to no good: veteran author Carolyn Hart spins a devious tale of murder between girlfriends in "What Goes Around." Later, in Katia Lief's "The Orchid Grower," a suburban housewife takes us on a fast-moving adventure in survival, and Brazilian author Raphael Montes's "Black Widow" introduces us--in a yarn told almost entirely in dialogue--to a suspicious but remarkable woman who has watched several husbands die after only a year or two of marriage with each. I won't spoil things by giving you a body count on any of these stories, but I will say there's plenty of misbehavior going on, and much of it by the fairer sex.

There are also stories about murder among the Florida elite ("A Killing at the Beausoleil" by my friend Terrie Moran), the ins and outs of professional women's wrestling ("The Female of the Species" by Chris Muessig and Steve Seder), and a serial killer with a Jack-the-Ripper-style M.O. ("Like Jack" by Peter Turnbull). On the lighter side, Golden Derringer Award winner James Powell gives us a story called "Guy Talk" about a private detective who just happens to be a hummingbird.

The quality of these other authors' stories in the November issue makes me even more proud to be featured among them.

Thanks, Janet, for allowing me into the party.


  1. Congratulations, John! Way to go!

  2. Congratulations on appearing in Ellery Queen.

    That is super.

  3. Thanks, Paul and Janice. You two have already slain that dragon, but it took me a long time. One thing that makes it so much fun to have a story in EQMM is that I've enjoyed reading that magazine for so many years.

  4. Thank you, Richard. If you see that issue, I hope you'll enjoy the stories.

  5. Congratulations, John, and as I wrote you a few weeks ago--great story!

  6. A big congrats from me, John. I found this fascinating, because I had my first mystery publication in 1991 (24 years ago? God help me). And while I've had stories in Hitchcock, I've never had one in Queen! I don't seem to have the 'Queen' style, I've sadly assumed. Will try them next time. And will enjoy yours, as always.

  7. Congratulations! Looking forward to reading it, as I said--and have to admit to being really surprised that this is your first story for them!

  8. I never did understand that drought. Congrats on putting it behind you!

  9. Thanks, Eve. Sure wish you were going to be at Bouchercon next week!

    Melodie, I too have been much more fortunate at AHMM. I wasn't far behind you--my first AH story was in 1995. Yes, do keep plugging away at EQMM.

    Many thanks, Art, and Dale. As I mentioned, it wasn't for lack of trying. I once heard a saying that probably applies here: even a blind hog can root up an acorn now and then.

  10. Thanks, David--somehow I missed your comment. Glad you liked the story!

    Now, if I could only figure out how to publish as many there as you and Doug Allyn have . . .


  11. Congratulations, John. I received my copy of the November issue yesterday. I usually read the magazine about a month or two after I receive it. But, I'll read your story as soon as I finish this comment.

  12. Congratulations, John! So now you'll have to come up with another "first" you want to score.

  13. Thanks, Louis--good to hear from you! Hope you enjoy the story. If I had studied literature half as much as you have, I'd probably have had an easier time of all this (and known a lot more about what I was doing).

    Thank you, Bonnie. The truth is, I had read four or five of your stories in AHMM before I even got around to submitting anything to them. You're an inspiration to all of us!

  14. Read your story, John, and as usual enjoyed it very much. My first--and only--sale to EQ was in 1973, and published in Dept of First Stories. At that time a submission to them was also considered by AHMM. I would send a story to EQ only to have it accepted by AH. Unfortunately my success was relatively short lived, (6 sales), then Eleanor Sullivan passed away and the new regime had different tastes. Add to that a major cross country move and a break from writing and I never found the formula again. Thanks for the memories.

  15. Herschel, you only beat me by 42 years.

    I never knew Eleanor Sullivan, although I've certainly heard about her. Cathleen Jordan bought the first six of the 14 stories I've sold to AHMM--she was great to work with, and so of course is Linda Landrigan. I never realized that there was a time when the same submission would be considered by both AH and EQ. Interesting!


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