26 September 2021

So I was Thinking

So, anyway, I was thinking that maybe I should expand my field of writing and possibly try some new markets. I could always write some horror short stories and see how that went, but to enter that market, I would need to come up with something fresh and really scary from what's already out there. Nah, better not, I like to sleep at night.

Maybe I could try for the sci-fi market. The problem with that genre is my my knowledge of space technology is minimal, so I'd probably be limited to writing space opera and dodging incoming from those readers and editors questioning what little science I did use in my stories.

Well, there is one subgenre under the mystery umbrella which I haven't tried yet. The Private Investigator story. Guess the main reason I haven't wandered into that market is my need to find a new angle into a PI story. Seems that some angles have been used so many times that they have become a cliche. You know what I mean, the PI who is an alcoholic, is retired from or fired from the local police department, divorced, disgraced, has one buddy still on the force who gives him case details, has a certain hobby, is handicapped in some manner (whether it is physical, mental or a language barrier), etc.

I think the last innovative angle I've read was by Dave Zeltserman when he invented a micro-computer with a personality named Archie. Archie, disguised as a tie tac, researched records by hacking into computer systems, answered the business phone and gave advice to his (protagonist) PI, all while bringing him clues. So, then I'm wondering what's left to be fresh and new.

In an e-mail discussion with John Floyd, in which I mentioned all of the above, John was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his PI story in Black Cat Mystery Magazine. His "Mustang Sally" had just won the Shamus Award for Best Short Story. In that story, his PI was just an Average Joe trying to get by, but the story did have a great twist to the ending, and that is probably why it won the award. So, maybe the PI didn't have to be someone or something special, if it was a really good story. Point taken.

Next step forward. As luck would have it, a guy (Steve Pease) in our MWA chapter carpool is a licensed Private Investigator in the state of Colorado. Not only that, but he also recently taught a twelve lesson course on PIs to a local chapter of another national writers group. And for a small negotiated fee, somehow involving a quantity of wine, plus me being a fellow carpool member, retired law enforcement agent and current friend, I could take a gander at his lesson plans. Turned out to be very interesting information, plus it came with war stories for examples. Great stuff.

So now I'm thinking, with all this material, I'm gonna brainstorm me a PI short story.

Look out Shamus Awards. Here I come.


  1. Best of luck with your new PI!

  2. Well, I won the Shamus this year with a novel featuring a PI who was a retired cop, has a particular hobby (woodworking), partners with a police detective, and hobbies around on a cane for the entire book after getting stabbed with a ballpoint pen. So...maybe you just need to load it up with ALL the tropes!

    And good luck!

    1. Congratulations, Rick! And I like your suggestion, a PI with all the problems.

    2. Yeah, Rick, but you always write a really good story that the characters carry anyway.

  3. R.T., thank you for your kind words. I don't write a lot of P.I. stories, but when I have, I've enjoyed it. I find myself remembering all those Spenser novels and Mannix episodes I've read and watched, over the years. And all my P.I. stories have been first-person, too, unlike most of what I write, and that's been fun also.

    As Janice said, good luck with your new private eye. I look forward to reading those stories!

  4. Professional or amateur PI? I've not written either, but it sounds intriguing.

    The great thing about sci-fi, is thst you can craft your own world, rocket tech optional, which is a good thing since we're barely into the Model T stage of space travel. Most of the great John Brunner's novels read like tomorrow's newspaper. He did have an uncanny ability to predict computer viruses, over population, and climate change.

  5. Thanks one and all for your comments. As of Saturday, I have started the brainstorming for a PI story with my non-writing, Huey pilot buddy. We will see what comes of it.


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