20 February 2024

Murder, Messy

My fellow SleuthSayers had been discussing a group anthology long before I graduated from occasional guest poster to a regular spot in the rotation. They had a theme (crime and drinking establishments) and a title (Murder, Neat), and Paul Marks had agreed to serve as editor. Unfortunately, while the anthology was still in an embryonic stage with only a few stories written, Paul became ill, and the anthology went into a holding pattern.

Given that many of my fellow members have edited at least one anthology, I’m uncertain how the editorship landed in my lap, but once it did, I asked Barb Goffman to join me. I think I’m a good editor, and I know Barb is a great editor. We worked together to solicit stories from the other SleuthSayers, to edit them for publication, and to organize them in a way that takes readers (those who actually read anthologies from front to back) on a literary journey through crimes that happen in and around drinking establishments.

This is the first time I’ve edited an anthology where no publisher was attached prior to soliciting stories, so the work—from contributors writing their stories to Barb and I editing and organizing them—was an act of faith on all our parts.

Once we had a finished manuscript, I created a proposal and pitched the anthology to various publishers. While other publishers dawdled with their responses—or didn’t respond at all—Level Best Books accepted the anthology the day after I pitched it.

Between the time they accepted Murder, Neat and its release, Level Best Books established a new imprint—Level Short— specifically for anthologies and collections, and Murder, Neat is the inaugural title for the new imprint.

I wish Paul had been able to see the project through to completion—unfortunately, he passed away shortly after Barb and I stepped in—and I think the twenty-four exceptional stories in Murder, Neat honor the work he did to get the project started.


“Bar None,” my contribution to Murder, Neat, finds the protagonist caught between a disastrous disagreement between a bar’s manager and his alcoholic brother.

The Kindle edition of Murder, Neat was released February 13; the trade paperback edition will be available soon everywhere books are sold online.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Between the time I wrote my post and the time it appeared, the paperback edition became available at Amazon. Order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Neat-SleuthSayers-Michael-Bracken/dp/1685125662/ref=sr_1_1

  3. Wish Paul Marks was here with us too. Like Bill Crider, and a few other folks, he made a point to reach out now and then as Sandi was in her fight. He was one of the few afterwards that continued to do that. When his own started, I told him some stuff about chemo and things that the docs had not. I hope I helped at least a little bit.

    I am one of those weirdos that reads anthologies from front to back, just like any other book. Apparently, there are normal folks who do not do that. They need help.

    Thought it was a great read.

    It probably deserves a sequel anthology. Keep it all flowing. ;)

  4. Grateful to you and Barb for bringing this to fruition!

  5. You and Barb did a GREAT job! Thank you for all you hard work!

  6. Michael, you are very kind. (I know, as an editor I should be able to come up with another adjective rather than relying on very to emphasize kind. But I cannot. I welcome suggestions.) It was good to work with you and all the authors, and I'm delighted with the resulting anthology.

  7. It's a thrill to be included with so many excellent writers. Thanks to you and Barb (and everyone else) for letting me play with the big kids. And congratulations to everyone on a top shelf collection.

    1. Oops, don't know why this is anonymous. I know I'm Steve Liskow.

  8. A lovely tribute to Paul, Michael. Not only are you a great writer and editor, but you have heart. I truly am proud to know both you and Barb.

  9. Elizabeth Dearborn20 February, 2024 14:55

    I've just ordered a paperback copy of Murder, Neat, plus some other things Amazon has available to tempt a person ... I finalized the order while I still had some money left.

    I'm with Kevin, being another person who reads anthologies cover to cover. Actually I thought everybody did that. I've been anthologized twice myself & my story was the first in one of the anthologies. If people didn't read the book from cover to cover, they'd miss it.

  10. It was an honor to be edited by you and Barb, Michael. And as Melodie said earlier, that was a lovely tribute to Paul.


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