30 December 2015

Good Cop Story, Bad Cop Story

by Robert Lopresti

I read a lot of short mystery stories. I like them, plus they are market research.  And of course I need them to create this and this.

By coincidence,  in the last week I read two tales about tough, world-weary homicide cops.  One was pretty good.   The other was  - meh.  I didn't bother finishing it.  Naturally, I was curious about why one worked, for me, and the other didn't.

I am not going to identify the story I didn't like - what would be the point?  But the story I did enjoy was "Rizzo's Good Cop," by Louis Manfredo. It appears in the December issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

The story I didn't like is about an obvious murder.  Manfredo's is about a suspicious death. Did the vic jump out the window, fall, or get pushed? 

But that's not the important difference between the stories.  Here is what I concluded about that.

In the other story we are told the cop is weary, that the job is soul-killing, that he's frustrated, that things don't make sense.

In Manfredo's story the two police detectives take beer out of the victim's fridge and help themselves.  Rizzo, our hero, says "We got us a murder here, buddy.  A genuine, twelve-hour-a-day pain in the ass murder."  When a female cop jokingly asks "So whatcha got for me, honey?" Rizzo replies "Thirty years ago, plenty."

You see the point?  Very similar character.  But one story tells.  The other shows. 

It's an old rule of story-telling (uh, story-showing?). And like all such rules, it isn't true every time.  But in this case it makes all the difference to me.


  1. That snappy dialogue helps. too.

    Good wishes for the New Year

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The Manfredo tale is an excellent example!

    Happy New Year, Rob!

  4. I, too, am sick to death of authors telling me that a cop is flawed, weary, stressed, etc. Yeah, yeah, yeah - but those two cops, drinking the victims beer? That I believe. And want to read more!

  5. It's difficult for new writers to grasp the difference, especially in these days when everyone's an author. One guy argued showing bundled with lots of adverbs was 'his style'. Sadly, he was too busy self-publishing to get the point.


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