29 February 2024

Golden Parachute - Can Money Buy Everything?


When Barb Goffman, Michael Bracken, and other Sleuthsayers discussed putting together an anthology from active members and alumni about stories set in a bar/drinking establishment I was thrilled to be invited with so many amazing writers. I had an outline of a story with an explosive opening that I had been wanting to write for a while and this was the perfect excuse. 

As a writer of crime fiction – and often in the short story format – sometimes I create characters who are not likable and then make their lives miserable. More often than not, it is protagonists who sabotage themselves with selfish short-term decisions. People making bad choices and suffering the resulting consequences is a definition that I use for noir. 

In my story “Golden Parachute” I wanted to create a display of obscene arrogance and have it backfire. A billionaire tech bro in Silicon Valley plans to make a memorable exit after the board of his company canned him for inappropriate behavior.  Unfortunately for Alex Dorrett, his departure does not go very well for him …and things get worse from there. 

I also wanted to contrast insane wealth and egotism with people who were down, out, and desperate. While San Francisco is famous for Alcatraz there is another famed prison just across the bay, San Quentin. The current and former residents include Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Merle Haggard, and Scott Peterson among others. The prison (now called a rehabilitation center) sits in on prime waterfront property in an area where nearby homes sell for millions of dollars. I set a bar in the nearby vicinity of San Quentin. So when Alex, injured in both spirit and body, stops at that bar not long after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, things will probably not go well for him. 

AI-generated (Copilot) image

I don’t want to give too much more away except to say that the story is very dark and brutal. During the writing process, I came to a fork in the road where the story could have gone in another direction. I sketched out some scenes that would have resulted in a different outcome with an overall lighter, happier tone. But I went dark. (Hopefully, I’ll use those “road not taken” scenes in another story.) There was something in the air—the political climate we live in probably—about wealth corrupting everything and how it can bring out the worst in humanity that felt true. So, I chased it. 

I am excited to read all of the stories in this collection from so many authors that I admire. This is an outstanding collection. Also, this is my first Sleuthsayers article in several years, so I want to thank Velma for allowing me back on this platform. I wasn’t so sure she’d let back here after what happened the last time. 😅

The author trying not to look too dark


  1. Great set-up Travis. Looking forward to your story. My favorite Bay Area bar was The Zam Zam Room in the Lower Haight. I haven't been there in decades, but I (sort of ) fondly remember Bruno, the owner/bartender, who would ask patrons to leave if he didn't like their look/drink order/anything else.

    1. Thank you, Larry. I have a feeling that Bruno would throw me out on first site.

  2. I thought I heard some rumors about you and Velma, Travis.
    Meanwhile, there's nothing like arrogance, money, and a total inability to work a crowd to get someone into major trouble.

    1. Velma and I are still working out our differences. Thanks, Eve!

  3. Travis, I write novels primarily now, and I have to really like my protagonist to get through a year with them (it takes me a year to write a novel). So it's in short stories, that I like to put my fiendish characters! Similar with reading: I can enjoy reading a short story about a person I don't like, but I simply must like the main character if reading a novel. Love your un-dark pix! grin Melodie

  4. Elizabeth Dearborn29 February, 2024 15:06

    I've just received the paperback of Murder, Neat a day earlier than expected from Amazon. I'll be limiting myself to reading one story a day, in order. Congratulations to all! The cosmetics of the book look great. I've never heard of reedsy.com ... I have done typesetting on an old Mergenthaler & in the propeller head's best friend, TeX, & have made book covers in an art program. I went to look at reedsy.com but they don't tell you much unless you sign up for it.


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