Showing posts with label Andrew MacRae. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrew MacRae. Show all posts

03 March 2020

Goodbye, Joe


Introduced by Hasbro in February 1964, when I was 6 years old, G.I. Joes were 12-inch action figures—not dolls—created for boys, but I was a few years older when I began playing with them.

Original G.I. Joe lineup.
Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.I._Joe
Though my own Joes may have suffered their share of pre-adolescent-induced combat trauma, they remained physically intact because I did not have pets to chew on them or siblings to tear them apart. My friends’ Joes were not so lucky and, because my interest outlasted theirs, I soon had a collection of damaged Joes—action figures that had seen too much action and were missing hands, feet, and other body parts.

The many Joes I collected allowed me to create a variety of scenarios, such as battle scenes and MASH units, where the crippled Joes were the star attractions. They had nicknames based on their afflictions—Lefty, Peg-Leg, Spike, Napoleon Blownapart*—and they accepted their roles with nary a complaint.

I didn’t limit my action-packed scenarios to my Joes. I recruited Barbies belonging to my friends’ sisters to serve as nurses and girlfriends, and the Barbies would kick poor Ken—4F and unable to articulate any of his critical body parts—to the curb whenever the Joes were on leave.

STORYTELLING

I had been exposed to storytelling from birth. My mother read to me and, because we did not own a television until I was in third grade, we listened to radio dramas rebroadcast from earlier decades.

But playing with G.I. Joes may be where I first developed my storytelling chops. I created characters with backstories and had them interact with other characters who had their own backstories. I developed inciting incidents or had them forced upon me—the Germans have broken through the line! Lefty’s been captured! The poodle of doom has run off with Peg-Leg!—and my characters and I faced hard choices: whether to stand our ground or retreat in the face of overwhelming odds, rescue Lefty or let him fend for himself, chase the neighbor’s poodle or risk the loss of Peg-Leg’s remaining leg.

During inclement weather, my Joes and I could spend an entire day indoors, fighting battles that raged from my bedroom across the hall into my mother’s or down the hall to the living room and kitchen. An early morning inciting incident would lead to rising action, setbacks, false climaxes, more rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution. And all before bedtime.

In those heady times, before the reality of adulthood taught me that some fairy tales end with unhappily ever after and I learned to appreciate noir, all of my G.I. Joe stories ended with the heroes vanquishing the villains.

GOODBYE, JOE

I don’t remember when my Joes and I fought our last battle, but they were no longer part of my life by fifth grade. Having grown too old to play with dolls (no matter how they were labeled), I had moved on to other things. Even so, the storytelling skills I first toyed with back then became the foundation of my writing career.

And if I ever get stuck writing a story and need an unexpected twist, the poodle of doom is always lurking in the shadows.


*You really thought I was this clever in third grade?


Mid-Century Murder (Darkhouse Books, edited by Andrew MacRae) contains “Where’s Sara Jane?” a story I co-authored with Sandra Murphy.










“See Humble and Die” by Richard Helms, published in The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, which I edited and Down & Out Books published, has been selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2020.

19 November 2014

Hold the anchovies


by Robert Lopresti

When I saw that someone was working on an "Anthology of Cozy Noir" my first thought was that that was the craziest idea I had heard in a while.

My second thought was "Hey! I've got a story that would fit there."

The fact that those two thoughts fit so closely together may explain why I have not quit my day job to live off my royalties yet.

Be that as it may, Andrew MacRae apparently agreed with my second thought because he bought my story and gave it the lead-off position in his book which has been published this month.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.  (In fact, I have read some of them now and here is the proof.)  But, selfish devil that I am, I am going to talk a little about my own.

"The Roseville Way" is about a couple who meet on the east coast and move to the wife's midwestern hometown to open a pizza shop.  Problem is, there doesn't seem to be much demand for New York style pizza in Roseville and things are not going so well.  


Then a couple of men arrive from the New York area, a retired businessman and his younger assistant.  Both of Italian ancestry, both looking like they have survived a few fights.  They love  the pizza.

Is it possible the old guy is a former mobster, maybe on the run, and the younger man is his bodyguard?  And do the shop owners want to argue with success?

I trust you can see how we have aspects both cozy and noir here.

I can tell you exactly where this story idea came from.  In fact, if you used to read the Criminal Brief blog, I did tell you about it.  (Please note that this was back in 2007.  When I say I am a slow writer, I mean it.) 



Sitting in a pizza parlor just off Dupont Circle I acquired an idea for a mystery story. Since I was in the capital city of a major nation, surrounded by power, intrigue, and scandal, naturally I came up with a story about blue collar people in a small town. The human mind is a strange beast.

And here is more evidence for the strangeness inside a writer's cranium.  There is a scene in my new novel, out next spring, set in a pizza parlor in Washington D.C.  How can one mostly nondiscript place inspire two completely different pieces of fiction?

Oddly enough, this double-dipping happened to me once before, as I explained here. 

Anyway, I hope this will inspire you to read a short story.  Or eat some pizza.  In either case, happy digesting.