Showing posts with label EQMM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EQMM. Show all posts

25 August 2018

It Gets Harder (Praise and Imposter Syndrome)

by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl...in which we admit that praise comes with a nasty side dish)

"the Canadian literary heir to Donald Westlake" EQMM, Sept-Oct 2018 issue
How the HELL will I ever live up to this?



A while back, I was on a panel where the moderator asked the question,
"Does it get harder or easier, with each successive book?"

"Easier," said one cozy writer, a woman I respect and know well.  "Because I know what I'm doing now."

I stared at her in surprise.

"Harder.  Definitely harder," said my pal Linwood Barclay, sitting beside me.

I sat back with relief.  The why was easy.  I answered that.

"Harder for two reasons," I said.  "First, you've already used up a lot of good ideas.  I've written 40 short stories and 18 novels.  That's nearly 60 plot ideas.  It gets harder to be original."

Linwood nodded along with me.

"Second, you've already established a reputation with your previous books.  If they were funny, people expect the next one to be even funnier.  It gets harder and harder to meet people's expectations."

"The bar is higher with each book," said Linwood.

This conversation came back to me this week, when I got a very nice surprise (thanks, Barb Goffman, for pointing me to it!)  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine reviewed my latest book, and called me "the Canadian literary heir to Donald Westlake."

At first, I was ecstatic, and so very very grateful.  Donald Westlake was a huge influence on me.  I still think his book where everyone on the heist team spoke a different language to be one of the zaniest plots of all time.  To be considered in his class is a wonderful thing.

And then, the doubts started.  I'm now looking at my work in progress with different eyes.  Is this plot fresh?  Is it as clever as I thought it was?  Am I still writing funny?

Would Donald Westlake fans like it?

Or am I the world's worst imposter?

So many authors on Sleuthsayers are award-winning.  All of you will, I'm sure, relate to this a little bit.  Was that award win a one-off?  Okay, so you have more than one award.  Were those stories exceptions?  You haven't won an award in two years.  Have you lost it?

Will I ever write anything as good as that last book?

I'm dealing hugely with imposter syndrome right now.  It's a blasted roller coaster.  I know I should be spreading that EQMM quote far and wide, on Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, etc.  Possibly, I should be buying ads.  And at the same time, I'm stalling in my WIP, with the feeling of 'never good enough.'

Luckily, the publisher deadline will keep me honest.  I work pretty well under pressure.  Next week, for sure, I'll get back to the book.

This week, I'll smile in public and suffer a little in silence.

What about you, authors?  Do you find imposter syndrome creeps into your life at times when you should be celebrating?  Tell us below. 



The book causing all this grief:  on Amazon

21 June 2018

The Mysterious Women of Dell Magazines: Janet Hutchings

Janet Hutchings
Janet Hutchings
photo by Laurie Pachter
Yesterday we began a series of interviews with the editors of the Dell mystery magazines. We began with Jackie Sherbow, we finish tomorrow with Linda Landrigan. But today we welcome Janet Hutchings.

— Robert Lopresti

Janet Hutchings has been the editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine since 1991. She is a co-winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Ellery Queen Award and the Malice Domestic Convention’s Poirot Award, and in 2003 she was honored by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention for contributions to the field. Under her editorship, EQMM was named Best Magazine/Review Publication by Bouchercon 27 and in 2017 was celebrated by Bouchercon 48 for Distinguished Contribution to the Genre.



Relate a piece of history about your magazine.

EQMM made history with its very first issue. When founding editor Fred Dannay released the magazine to the world in the fall of 1941 he was offering readers an entirely new type of publication. He’d decided to bring together between the covers of a single magazine stories of such widely different sorts that the combination would create a new type of audience for the mystery short story. Everything from what he called realistic stories of the hardboiled school to classical whodunits in the style of England’s Golden Age of mystery to stories no one would even remotely have considered mysteries before, by mainstream and even literary writers, were to be included. It was all, he said, “frankly experimental.”

Previously there had been the pulps, focused on hardboiled action-based stories, and the slicks, which published about one mystery per issue of a more traditional kind, but there was no single publication for readers who liked both forms—or for those who liked an even wider mix of stories. EQMM’s first issue sold more than 90,000 copies and the magazine soon began to exert an influence not only upon mystery fiction—helping to define the boundaries of the genre as we know it today—but upon the wider culture. At least one recent contemporary scholar has argued that EQMM was one of the many forces that influenced the postmodernist movement in the arts and literature. Modernism had made a clear distinction between art (or what we might call “high art”) and popular culture. Postmodernism rejected that distinction. But rejecting that divide was exactly what Dannay was doing in the early days of EQMM, mixing the high brow and the popular—the “literary” and the genre story.


What is one thing you wish everyone would know about your publication?

One thing I wish everyone would know not just about EQMM but about short-story magazines in general is that they are not just agglomerations of stories. In recent years various e-publishers and websites have been making individual stories available for sale or for free reading. But what the reader gets by subscribing to a short-story magazine is not simply a collection of individual stories, it is—or should be—a more complex reading experience.

The magazine should be designed to take the reader on a journey, via the juxtaposition of the stories, sometimes also by thematic convergences, and sometimes by means of commentary that may accompany a given story (the most famous example of the latter being Fred Dannay’s lengthy introductory essays for so many of the stories in early EQMMs). A short-story magazine should also seek to broaden readers’ tastes by offering, occasionally, something the readership would not necessarily be expected to like. I hope short-story magazines are never replaced entirely by short stories sold individually, because if that happens, a place in which discovery can occur will be lost. It’s an editor’s job to stretch readers’ horizons.


What does a typical workday for you look like?

There’s no typical day. I’m a little obsessive about keeping up with reading. When I hold a story for more than two or three weeks it’s usually either because something special is going on or because I like the story and hope eventually to find a space for it. Whenever possible, I devote one day a week entirely to reading. In recent months, social media has also been taking up a lot of my time: we now blog, podcast, and post on Twitter and Instagram—in between our primary duties, which are curating, editing, and finalizing each issue for the printer.


Have you always been a fan of mysteries?

I always read and enjoyed mysteries, from childhood on, but I was not a really dedicated fan until I got a job at the Mystery Guild in the 1980s. We got to read virtually every mystery novel that was published in a given year there, and it was so much fun! Still publishing some of the authors I first read there—such as Simon Brett.


Aside from short mystery fiction, what other parts of the genre do you enjoy?

I’ve had very little opportunity in recent years (with eyes always tired from reading submissions) to keep up with what’s going on at novel length in the field; nevertheless, I don’t feel out of touch with the genre as a whole. I once wrote that from our small outpost as editors of short-story magazines, we get to see the whole of the broad, fascinating universe of mystery and crime fiction.

I don’t consider the mystery short story to be a single form. It is, it seems to me, a multiplicity of forms in terms of length, and also a multiplicity in terms of structure. There’s everything from the miniature novels that Ed Hoch wrote for EQMM for so many years to the circularly structured twist-in-the-tail story (and much in between). I call the twist story “circular” because when you get to that final twist you see that it is what the whole story had to be leading up to. Flash fiction is another separate form, and in its compression it often has to convey whatever is necessary to the story through imagery; it says a lot in a very few words and in this it can sometimes have a lot in common with poetry. There’s so much more that falls under the mystery short story umbrella than I can mention here.


What great short story or collection have you read recently?

I am currently reading Joyce Carol Oates’s new collection Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense. I’ve been a fan of Joyce’s work for decades—long before I came to EQMM!


What is your personal editorial philosophy?

This isn’t easy to characterize succinctly. First, although I sometimes offer thoughts about how I think a story might be improved, I see my job as editor as fundamentally different from that of a critic or a teacher. My first responsibility as editor is to our readers. I read as a sort of proxy for them. And reading for them means I have to try to read in the way that they will read the finished magazine—for enjoyment, in other words, and not critically. When I sit down to read submissions, what I’m hoping for, no matter what the subgenre of the story, is to be taken out of my own life and all that surrounds me and be pulled entirely into the world of the story. I like all types of mysteries—indeed, all types of stories. Genre is not very important to me. A story will generally succeed or fail for me depending on how deeply the author is able to immerse me in it. And it isn’t always the best-crafted story that succeeds in doing this. It’s often the inexperienced Department of First Stories author who holds me captive from first page to last. I think this has something to do with passion (perhaps before writing becomes a job) or with the fact that first efforts often draw deeply from experience that has profoundly affected the author.

When I do attempt to give advice, I try to approach each short story as an organic whole. I know a lot of writers and also teachers of creative writing put a lot of emphasis on the importance of the separate parts of a story. The opening line is something that seems to be given a lot of weight. I often hear writers advised that they need an “attention grabbing” opening line. I think too much emphasis is put on this. A great opening line may be vital to a writer in getting the creative juices flowing. Some writers have told me they have to have an attention-getting opening line as the seed for the story. That’s fine. But from a reader/editor’s perspective what makes the opening line good or bad is how it serves everything that follows it in the story. Endings, it seems to me, are harder. I think an ending should have a sense of inevitability that derives from all that goes before it. But again, it’s the story as a whole—the particular story—that is my focus, not any rules I could formulate.


What do you love about short stories?

The tightness of the structure, and the fact that they can be read in one sitting. As Edgar Allan Poe pointed out, what you can read in a single sitting has the potential to have a profound impact. Life does not intervene.


What’s a place you’ve traveled to that has stuck with you, and why?

I lived in England for most of my twenties, and since those are formative years, I’m sure the affinity I have for most things British will never leave me. It’s wonderful having so many British writers contributing to EQMM, though that was none of my doing; it must be credited to my predecessor, Eleanor Sullivan. In geographical terms, EQMM’s reach has always been wide. From the earliest days, the magazine has looked for the best in mystery and crime stories from all over the world. There were 13 international contests run in the early years of the magazine and they received submissions from nearly two dozen countries.

One of my favorite departments is Passport to Crime, which we launched in 2003 with a crime story per month in translation. I’m not much of a traveler these days, but two trips I’ll never forget were the Soviet Union in the 1970s—it was like waking up in a war movie from the 1940s, with rationing and not much color and no advertising— and Costa Rica a couple of decades later, where I spent a night in a rain forest in a storm, with the animals seeming to generate as much noise as a NYC street. These days, I let our Passport authors take me where I want to go.


Where did you grow up?

The Chicago area, “flyover country.” Which is funny because I was once accused by an author whose work wasn’t accepted to the magazine of being an insular New Yorker with no understanding of the Midwest. I love my adopted city and state, but the Midwest will always be a part of me.

Thanks, SleuthSayers, for hosting the Dell Mystery Magazines editors! Tomorrow, Linda Landrigan.

20 June 2018

The Mysterious Women of Dell Magazines: Jackie Sherbow

Jackie Sherbow
photo by Ché Ryback

Leigh Lundin had the wonderful idea of inviting some of our favorite editors to sit for interviews. As the guiding hands at the mystery side of Dell Magazines (EQMM and AHMM) they have a huge influence on our field by bringing new readers and writers into it. Tomorrow we will feature Janet Hutchings, and Friday will star Linda Landrigan. But today we have the delightful Jackie Sherbow.
— Robert Lopresti

Jackie Sherbow is the Associate Editor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She is also the editor of Newtown Literary Journal and her poetry has appeared in places like Day One, Moonchild Magazine, and Luna Luna Magazine. She lives in Queens, New York.



What is one thing you wish everyone would know about your publications?

First and foremost, that they (still) exist. This of course seems like child’s play to anyone reading SleuthSayers, but you don’t know how many people come up to us at events and say the words “I didn’t know you were still around,” or otherwise think we’re publishing reprints of older issues. It’s wonderful to speak with readers who have a long-time, nostalgic connection to the magazines (and/or have unearthed their parents’ or grandparents’ collections, which they remember from childhood), but I think there’s no reason why short mystery fiction shouldn’t have a wide and growing audience—especially since so many different modes of contemporary and traditional fiction fall under that umbrella and can be found in the magazines.


What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the short-story collection Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, and Eye Level, poems by Jenny Xie. I am usually reading two or three books concurrently, and trying to catch up on magazine or journal subscriptions too—I try to balance my reading between short stories, novels, poetry, and nonfiction at all times. Looks like I need to pick up some nonfiction.


What other hobbies or jobs do you have?

I’m the editor of a community-based literary journal in Queens called Newtown Literary, and I’m involved with the nonprofit organization that publishes it. I am also a writer (of poetry) and a runner (albeit a very slow one).


Dottie
Do you have any pets?

I’ve somewhat recently adopted a small asthmatic cat named Dottie (after Miss Fisher’s companion in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries). And now I’m the kind of person who has attached a photo of the cat to this e-mail.


What great short story or collection have you read recently?

I loved Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, which came out last year from Graywolf Press and has received a handful of awards and nominations since then. A story that really unnerved me recently was “The Midnight Zone” by Lauren Groff, originally published in the New Yorker and reprinted in The Best American Short Stories of 2017. I had to put it down and give it a break before finishing it. I read a lot of short horror as well as—naturally—crime and thriller, but I can’t remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a story. Very uncomfortable, but very memorable.


What do you love about short stories?

As a poet, I’m always impressed by fiction in general: what an author can pull off in terms of plot while also concentrating on theme and form—and as we know this is accentuated in a short story, where there’s less wordly “real estate.” As an editor and reader of short fiction, I particularly find intriguing the plot and character arcs in a short story (especially when there’s a mystery—which there almost always is!). I find that in a short story, imaginative leaps, experimental form, and other playful or innovative methods can be pulled off more successfully. And I really love how reading a short story on its own and then among others (whether in a single-author collection or a periodical or anthology) can bring out something new in the work. In terms of practicality, I’m a fairly slow reader, so short stories tend to strike me more in this way than a series of novels do.


Who is your favorite author?

Gabriel García Marquéz.


If you knew you’d be deserted on an island, what book would you bring?

One Hundred Years of Solitude.


What is your personal editorial philosophy?

In general I edit for clarity, consistency, and then refinement in service of the author’s voice and the entirety of the piece. I think that everything in a piece of writing matters, down to the smallest element of punctuation, but that it’s important as an editor to examine the power structures underlying the use of different types of language. I think it’s irresponsible not to do this. In everyday life, I think it can be pernicious to promote unsolicited, moralized adherence to traditional correctness without thinking about it. Language is a gift and powerful tool, and I think the words, style, and usages we choose to employ (or choose not to) have a cumulative effect on our communities.


Aside from short mystery fiction, what other parts of the genre do you enjoy?

I am a fan of mystery novels, television shows, and movies, and I am fascinated by true crime, but I would have to say the community of writers, readers, and fans. I think mysteries bring people together. Speaking of which, thank you, SleuthSayers, for inviting me, Janet, and Linda to participate.

Thank you, Jackie. Tomorrow, Janet Hutchings.

02 March 2018

Stories to Novels: Reading the Complete Continental Op

By Art Taylor

Over the last couple of months, I've been reading aloud to my wife Tara the stories in The Big Book of the Continental Op, the first print collection ever of all of Dashiell Hammett's stories featuring the unnamed detective. We've read fifteen of them so far, and as I write this, we're about three-quarters through the novelette "The Whosis Kid"—and on the edge of our seat each time someone new comes through the apartment door with pistol(s) in hand! (The room's getting crowded now, with the Op and five other people all vying for space to maneuver.)

Our readings stem in part from a New Year's resolution to read the whole collection this year—rereading stories in some cases—and the title doesn't lie, it's a big book, and it's a mammoth achievement too, thanks to the hard work of editors Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter. But I've been interested in Hammett and particularly the Op stories long before, even having taught some of them in my classes at George Mason University, and I was thrilled with the earlier gathering of these stories in an e-book series.  (See my 2016  SleuthSayers interview with Rivett on that project.)

I've read some of these stories before, as I mentioned, but some—even some well-known titles—I'm enjoying for the first time. And what's struck me at several times is how Hammett used the short stories as a testing ground for ideas, characters, and scenes.

I've said before—and will argue again (and again)—that short stories can't fully be apprenticeships for writing novels. While writing short stories can help writers learn some of the fundamentals of crafting characters and shaping scenes and sharpening dialogue, etc. But the short story and the novel are two vastly different forms, with different requirements and different challenges. The leap isn't entirely a natural one, and I've talked to as many fine novelists who say they've never been able to write a short story as I have with fine short story writers who've struggled to complete a novel.

That said, however, I've also written before about Hammett's own transition from short story to novel—with his first two novels loosely put together as novels in stories with the seams smartly covered up. Both Red Harvest and The Dain Curse appeared as serialized stories in Black Mask, each installment with its own narrative arc, even as the fuller narrative arc emerged only in the connecting of the story cycles. I've written about this before too; see my essay here for the Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine blog. And one of the things I'm most excited about in the new Big Book of the Continental Op is seeing those story cycles in their original forms: "The Cleansing of Poisonville," "Crime Wanted—Male or Female," "Dynamite," and "The 19th Murder," which became Red Harvest; and "Black Lives," "The Hollow Temple," "Black Honeymoon," and "Black Riddle," which became The Dain Curse. In these cases, it's not just that Hammett used the short story as a training ground for the novel but that he used the architecture of the short story as the building block for the larger structures.

Beyond those specific stories and those specific novels, the early stories in the new collection have been opening up new perspectives on Hammett's artistic process—exciting discoveries for me, even if others have likely written on them elsewhere. Take, for example, that scene from "The Whosis Kid" I mentioned above. The Op and a woman named Inés Almad and a guy named Billie are together in her apartment; then in comes the Frenchman Edouard Maurois and a fellow with a big chin (appropriately called Big Chin); and at our last stopping point the title character steps in, a black revolver in each hand. What everyone's doing there—well, neither the reader nor the Op know at this point in the story, but the Frenchman seems to be looking for something that Inés is supposed to have—and that she claims she doesn't but the title character does. And all through the scene, I couldn't avoid thinking about Sam Spade, Bridgid O'Shaugnessy, Joel Cairo, Casper Guttman, and Wilmer Cook all crowding together in that pivotal scene in The Maltese Falcon. (Again, we haven't finished "The Whosis Kid" yet, but I'm thinking things don't look good for Inés here.)

Similarly, reading "The Golden Horseshoe," about the Op's hunt for missing Norman Ashcraft, who left his wife and disappeared, how could I not think of the famous Flitcraft Parable—and not just because of the echo between the names. That story from The Maltese Falcon—a digression that's been discussed and argued over endlessly—gets an earlier treatment here as a case itself, and it's fascinating.

Elsewhere, in "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," Porky Grout (what a name!) seems a prototype for  characters in later stories and novels. (On a side note, I just read this New York Times review of the 1974 collection The Continental Op, which focuses on Porky Grout—and I disagree with the take here. In recent conversation, Peter Rozovsky mentioned Porky and talked about the story's moments of real emotion, a glimpse inside the Op's feeling—so true.)

And then beyond plot and scene and character, I've also found myself marveling as seeing Hammett's style evolving—and his boldness about his writing. Even in a very early story, "The Tenth Clew," he includes a chapter that seems more impressionistic, certainly less plot-driven, with the Op floating in San Francisco Bay, horns blowing around him, swimming, trying to survive. It's a marvelous passage, and one that another writer might simply have skipped (or another editor might simply have cut).

In short, reading The Big Book of the Continental Op has delivered not just some fine, fun stories, but also significant glimpses both into the evolution of an artist and into the process of artistic creation. Still many stories to go—and the rest of the year to read them!—and looking forward to them all.

BIT OF BSP


Since my last post here, Malice Domestic has updated its website with links to all of the finalist for this year's Agatha Award for Best Short Story. You can find them all here.

So pleased again to have my story "A Necessary Ingredient" among the mix here—and shout-outs again to two fellow SleuthSayers: Barb Goffman, my fellow Agatha nominee, and Paul D. Marks, co-editor of Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, where "A Necessary Ingredient" first appeared.




03 October 2015

Milestone


by John M. Floyd



I've been writing for so long now--21 years--that I no longer have many "first-time" happenings, in this business. But I did finally reach one of my goals recently: I had my first story published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. In the past, editor Janet Hutchings has been kind enough to buy a couple of my "mystery poems," but unlike many of my SleuthSayers colleagues, I had never before been able to sell her a short story. (Not for lack of trying, by the way.)

When I last saw her, Janet told me that one of the things that swayed her this time was that my story (it's called "Dentonville," in the November 2015 issue) was so offbeat. That's probably a good description. After all, one of the lead characters is a woman seven feet tall, with an attitude that's different as well--she's normally kindhearted but can be formidable when the situation requires it, and several situations in this story require it. The other main character is an easygoing accountant with a seven-year-old son and a shady past whose old enemies are being released from prison with revenge on their minds, and for most of the story he's not quite sure who (including the aforementioned giant mystery-woman) is friend or foe. The plot soon becomes complicated, with strange alliances and hidden agendas playing a big part in the outcome.

As for other reasons why "Dentonville" might've been accepted for publication, all I know is that we as authors occasionally run into a story that is just plain fun to write, and this one was. And sometimes I think that kind of enthusiasm comes through to the editor who's making the buy-or-don't-buy decision. Whatever the case, I'm thankful that this one made the cut.

Also, I received my author's copies a couple weeks ago, and I found--no surprise, here--that the other stories featured in the November issue are excellent. One of my favorites is "The Lake Tenant," by Brendan DuBois, a mystery that's told with almost no dialogue but paints an unforgettable picture of small-town New Hampshire. It also contains a lot of humor and some delicious twists and turns. Another favorite is "Ninth Caller," by Philip Lowery, from EQMM's Department of First Stories. It's a delightful account of a couple of women who decide to swindle a radio-station call-in program.

In the magazine's lead story, a group of ladies are again up to no good: veteran author Carolyn Hart spins a devious tale of murder between girlfriends in "What Goes Around." Later, in Katia Lief's "The Orchid Grower," a suburban housewife takes us on a fast-moving adventure in survival, and Brazilian author Raphael Montes's "Black Widow" introduces us--in a yarn told almost entirely in dialogue--to a suspicious but remarkable woman who has watched several husbands die after only a year or two of marriage with each. I won't spoil things by giving you a body count on any of these stories, but I will say there's plenty of misbehavior going on, and much of it by the fairer sex.

There are also stories about murder among the Florida elite ("A Killing at the Beausoleil" by my friend Terrie Moran), the ins and outs of professional women's wrestling ("The Female of the Species" by Chris Muessig and Steve Seder), and a serial killer with a Jack-the-Ripper-style M.O. ("Like Jack" by Peter Turnbull). On the lighter side, Golden Derringer Award winner James Powell gives us a story called "Guy Talk" about a private detective who just happens to be a hummingbird.

The quality of these other authors' stories in the November issue makes me even more proud to be featured among them.

Thanks, Janet, for allowing me into the party.




30 July 2014

Staying Afloat

by Robert Lopresti

I recently got my hands on a hoard of very old Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazines, and have been skimming them for dusty gems.  Came upon a little oddity in the April 1969 issue.  The first odd thing is that the story was a reprint - it had first appeared in EQMM in 1947.  And the editor -- that would be Frederick Dannay -- reports that upon the original appearance "(a)lmost without exception, readers and critics disapproved of the story, and editor-EQ [Dannay], to put it mildly, was pilloried."  Now, he reports, people have been asking to see "that prophetic story."  He suggests that he and the author were ahead of their time.

Well, we will get into that.  The story was "The President of the United States, Detective," by H.F. Heard.  Now, I would bet a shiny new quarter, featuring the Everglades National Park on the reverse side, that that title came from the editor, not the author.  First of all, Dannay was addicted to title-tinkering.  Second, it stinks of special pleading:  "This isn't science fiction!  It's a detective story.  See?  It's in the title."


It is science fiction.  The story takes place in the year 1977--

Okay, let's pause for a moment and deal with this crazy-making real-life time travel.  The story was written (or at least published) in 1947.  It was reprinted in 1969.  But I just read it (while flying around in my jetpack, of course) in the year 2014, which means this reader is further removed from the date of the story than Heard was when he wrote it.  Mind-boggling.

The hero of the story is President Place, "a mammoth of a man.  His hands were bigger even than George Washington's, he was taller than Lincoln, he weighed more than Taft. 'The biggest president ever.'"  Clearly not modeled on Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter, both of whom graced the Oval Office in 1977.

And now I should put in a SPOILER ALERT because I am going to reveal the plot of this almost seventy-year-old story. 

During one day President Place gathers info from several sources that convinced him that the Commissar of the USSR is up to no good.  The Commissar was Yang Chin, a Mongolian ("China, as usual, had swallowed those who rashly tried to get her into their clutches").  And as it turns out Yang had dropped atom bombs on his own permafrost, melting the ice, which would inevitably lead to parts of Europe and the Americas being flooded.

Ah, but he didn't count on shrewd President Place who, the same day, (apparently Environmental Impact Statements don't exist in this version of the 1970s) ordered the Air Force to bomb Greenland and Antarctica, causing their ice packs to melt, causing the land to be lightened, and therefore rise up.  

I told a friend about this and he said "Physics no do that."  He is a native English speaker,   but he was stunned.

An aside: the late author, H.F. Heard, also known as Gerald Heard, was an interesting guy.   His website, which doesn't seem to mention our target story, does tell us about a Sherlockian novel, A Taste For Honey, and a lot of religious texts.  Apparently he was a big influence on the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous as well.

Getting back to the short story, one interesting point, obviously, is its prediction of human-made climate change.  I went on the web searching for comments on the story and  found Cli Fly Central, a website dedicated to climate change science fiction, which it suggests should be called Cli Fi.  Mr. Heard's piece is one of the earliests entries.  There is even an award for Cli Fi novels: The Nevil. 

This is of special interest to me because it appears that my own contribution to Cli Fi will be published in the next year.  It is, I assure you, crime fiction, not SF.  Even though it doesn't have "detective" in the title.  In the mean time, stay dry.

02 April 2014

Time to Accessorize

by Robert Lopresti

I am somewhat stunned to report that my morning granola was interrupted today (April Fool's Day) by the news that my "The Present" had won the Derringer Award for best short story.  Talk about a present!  I can't think of anything to say about the story that I didn't say here.  But thanks to the Derringer judges, the voters, and The Strand for publishing in the first place.  Now, on to more good news...

On the day my last blog entry went up I came home to a pleasant surprise: three copies of the June issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  I knew they were publishing a story of mine but I had no idea when that happy event would occur.

"The Accessory" is my second appearance in EQMM in 38 years of trying.  Yes, you read that right.  It's a story about --

Well, let's pause for a moment.  This is a golden opportunity to rehash that favorite topic: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?  This time, by category!

1.  Personal experience.  At three in the morning one night a policewoman rang my doorbell to tell me my car had been "prowled."  The first two pages of my story "Shanks on the Prowl" are almost a literal description of that scene.

2.  Someone else's personal experience.  One day I watched an elderly, over-the-hill musician being disrespected by his accompaniest.  "Snake in the Sweetgrass" was conceived while they were still on the stage.

3.  News story. 
Or other piece of nonfiction.  "Crow's Lesson" began with a New York Times article about a school system hiring private eyes to follow students and see if they really lived in the catchment district.

5.  Out of the clear blue sky 
One day I had a vision of a short man attacking a much bigger man on the street for no obvious reason.  "Hammer and Dish" was my attempt to find out why and what happened.

And finally...

4.  Fiction.  To some extent ALL fiction comes from other fiction we have read.  For example, I read "My Life with the Butcher Girl," by Heath Lowrance, a very nice story about a man who becomes romantically obsessed with a woman who killed three men in sexual situations.  That got me thinking about people who correspond with convicted criminals.  The main character of my new story, "The Accessory" is a woman who does just that.  Now the man is out of prison and has apparently killed someone who testified against him.  The cops want to find out what she knows...

I hope you like it. 

01 April 2014

Honey...I'm home!

By David Dean

I know what day this is, but this isn't a joke--I'm back.  None the wiser for the hiatus, mind you, just back...and glad to be here.  I noted in my absence, that Terry raised the bar for Tuesdays so that I am almost guaranteed to disappoint.  Thanks for that, Terry.  Thanks a lot.

If you recall, dear reader, I took the time away from SleuthSayers to pen another of my unsellable novels.  It is with some pride that I report--mission accomplished!  "Starvation Cay" is complete!  My thanks, by the way, to my fellow Tuesday scribbler, Dale Andrews, for overseeing some of the technical aspects of the story.  Besides his literary value, he has a wealth of knowledge regarding all things nautical.  Useful to me, as I set nearly the entire story on board boats.  Thanks again, Dale.  Through no fault of his, I am now in the process of collecting rejection slips and arranging them in order of snarkiness.

On another note entirely, my son and heir, has gotten hitched to a truly lovely young woman.  Robin and I absolutely fell in love with her too, and apparently she was too smitten to heed that time-honored warning--Look to the parents!   

The wedding took place in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Virginia where they both teach.  My son's side was not only represented by mine and Robin's families (The Georgia-Jersey Axis), but also by a large contingent of his college rugby buddies who double, apparently, as the school's male dance team.  Her side was family from both Jersey and Michigan.  Both sides were duly impressed with the athletic abilities of rugby players and their women, even if the dance floor became a dangerous place for the infirm and elderly.  The bride's family went very quiet during their dance interpretation of John Denver's "Country Roads," which also included a sing-along.  Fortunately, the nuptials had already been performed so there could be no "take-backs." 

As if this wasn't enough good news, our Christmas present from them was a grandparents' album.  Robin got it almost immediately.  I, however, being a former police officer, stared at it for several stupefied moments before understanding dawned.  Robin was crying and hugging the young couple, as I was still turning the album over and over in my hands, murmuring, "They're trying to tell us something...but what?  What could it be?"

Besides working on the novel, I also managed to knock out a few short stories along the way.  I'm happy to report that those did sell, and will be (or have already been) published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

As if all these things weren't enough, I've actually read a few books, as well.  But more on that at another time.

I've missed you guys.  Though I have duly followed SS every morning (it's the first thing I read), it's been a little lonely out here.  Writers are not thick on the ground in South Jersey, and as you all know, it's a solitary profession at the best of times.  So, it's good to be back amongst friends, if only virtually, and even better to have been asked.  Thanks all.   

     

 


 

24 September 2013

Herewith, the Clues


by Dale C. Andrews

       Last week I received an eagerly-awaited package in the mail -- my author’s copies of the December, 2013 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. SleuthSayers is well represented with two stories -- one by David Dean and the other (I admit that this is the one for which I was waiting) by me.

       Like the previous stories I have been fortunate enough to place in the pages of EQMM, my latest story, Literally Dead, is an Ellery Queen pastiche. Since it is written, as close as I can make it, to the style of Ellery it is a “fair play” mystery -- that is, all the clues are there, but are hopefully presented cleverly. Sleight of hand is at the heart of all golden age fair play mysteries.  While interest in this genre may have waned somewhat in recent times, mysteries premised on obscure but solvable puzzles have been with us a long time, at least since the days of Poe and Doyle. But the genre really hit its stride in the middle of the twentieth century. 

a Detection Club dinner
       An organized approach to writing fair play mysteries dates at least from the 1930s when a number of famous (or soon to be famous) British mystery writers, including Christy, Sayers and Chesterton, to name but three, established the Detection Club with the intention of establishing standards for “fair play” detective stories. Each of the members of the club took the following oath, reportedly still administered today:
Do your promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?
       The members of the Detection Club went on to establish rules of fair play that, by and large, have governed the writing of fair play detective stories ever since. The most important of those rules is that every clue necessary to solve the mystery must be revealed, in advance, to the reader. 

       The task of actually revealing all of those clues in advance can be a thorny one. After all, one cannot do it in too obvious of a way.  Often, describing a clue in a manner that conveys its full importance to the reader can amount to revealing too much, a too-easy tip to the ultimate solution. Moreover, some clues are simply difficult to describe in narration. The description may bog down if embodied in the detective’s first person narrative or the third person narrative of the author, or the clue itself may be difficult to "show" to the reader.  As an example, a typewriter may have telltale discrepancies, such as cuts in some letters, that will allow the detective to tie a message to a specific machine. But how do you fairly show this in the context of a narrative? Or another example -- how do you show one important aspect of a newspaper article -- do you highlight it by presenting it alone, or do you risk boring the reader by presenting the entire article, none of the rest of which is relevant? 

       There is a simple solution to all of this, although the solution requires a degree of author control that is unavailable in most publishing venues. But the solution is still there -- if the author has the means, he or she can simply include all of the clues in their entirety along with the narrative. Like most simple solutions this one is not at all simple to put into practice. But it has, nevertheless, been tried. It’s interesting to take a look at two different attempts, separated by about 75 years.  

Dennis Yates Wheatley
       In the 1930s an English writer, Dennis Yates Wheatley, was famous for his series of mystery and occult novels. Extraordinarily prolific, Wheatley also authored the Gregory Sallust espionage series that many credit as the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Searching for a clever way to present fair play whodunits Wheatley teamed with a fellow wine aficionado, art historian James Gluckstein Links, and produced a series of fair play mysteries that the team referred to as “Mystery Dossiers.”  The dossiers featured mysteries constructed by Links and then written by Wheatley. The first of these, Murder off Miami, was published in 1936 and quickly sold 120,000 copies. It was followed by Who Killed Robert Prentice, (1937), The Malinsay Massacre, (1938) and Herewith, the Clues, (1939). The dossiers were mysteries of a different ilk -- while they contained narratives setting forth the underlying story, they also gave the reader a lot more.


       Accompanying each mystery was a series of clues -- real clues, such as entire newspaper articles, burnt matches, strands of hair, an arsenic pill (from which, the dossier explained, the poison had been removed). And in each case the solution to the mystery was contained, at the end, in a sealed envelope. The game, then, was for the reader to examine the clues along with the narrating detective as the story progressed; the approach allowed the reader to see precisely what the detective sees, that is, the wheat along with the chaff. 

       The approach intrigued the reading public, but, as can be imagined, the production costs for these mysteries were inordinately high. It is reported that hair samples required by one of the dossiers were secured from European nuns. Matches were burned seriatim by employees of the publisher for inclusion in one of the dossiers. And many of the clues had to be wrapped in wax paper, and then affixed by hand with staples to the appropriate page in the final volume. Little wonder that pristine copies of the original dossiers -- with the clues still encased, and with the ending still sealed in that envelope, sell for many hundreds of dollars.

       The Wheatley/Links works were re-issued in the late 1970s by Hutchison and Company Publishers in London, but even with modern technological advances the cost of publication inspired few imitators. 

       Between the 1970s and today advances in computer technology and computer gaming saw similar attempts to offer up not only the story but the clues -- several computer simulation games based on Sherlock Holmes stories accomplished this with varying degrees of success. But, at least to my knowledge, a full-blown attempt to harness these technological advances in the context of published literature was not attempted. Until this August, that is, when Random House published Marisha Pessl’s brilliant (there. I’ve said it) new occult thriller and mystery Night Film

Marisha Pessl and her great new book
       Night Film, to be clear at the outset, is a mystery, but not a classic fair play mystery. What it is is a really fine book. It grabs the reader, holds the reader’s attention, and then deposits the reader, at the end, a slightly different person. The narrative is so compelling at times that the reader may even begin to perceive the world differently -- I know that I did -- simply as a result of having read the story.

       But Night Film also employs a startling gimmick -- when evidence appears in a magazine story the narrative stops and the magazine takes its place. The same is true of police reports, college newspapers, slips of paper, a CD album cover -- all are reproduced between the covers of the book.  And not content with this, the book goes further -- if you read it equipped with a smartphone loaded with the Night Film app (free for the downloading) additional content appears on your phone when various pages of the story are scanned. The result is a near complete immersion into the world created by Pessl. 

       The Links and Wheatley mystery dossiers of the 1930s similarly wrapped the reader into the narrative, but were often criticized as being too much gimmick and too little story. That cannot be said of Night Film, which is a near perfect blend and weighs in at over 600 pages of mesmerizing story. The addition of forays into the actual evidence only serves to heighten the reader’s involvement. 

       You probably get the idea that I think Night Film is a sensational read. As I have said many times, I am loath to dish out spoilers in a review.  So, beyond what I have said already, you will just have to take my word for it!

       Oh, yeah. And when you buy it at a bookstore, or download it for your e-reader, why don’t you also pick up a copy of the December issue of EQMM!

21 August 2013

Five Red Herrings V

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Sherlock and key

Got a from Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine in early March describing a fascinating event in their lives.  Like good citizens they had purchased the right to use the Master's name on their magazine.  Unfortunately the person who sold them said rights apparently didn't own them.  Oopsies.  Do a search for Andrea Plunkit and Doyle estate if you want the gory details.

2.  Insecurity Questions

Wondermark is one of the most delightfully bizarre comic strips on the web.  Monty Python goes cyberpunk, sort of.




3.  Harlan Coben, here is the plot for your next novel

When Lori Ruff died in Seattle she left a strongbox full of secrets.  They made it clear that the wife and mother was living under a stolen identity.  But who she was originally and why she changed her name, well, her husband would sure like to know.  From the Seattle Times.






4.  James Powell is going to happen



I don't know if you follow Something Is Going To Happen, the blog at Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but they recently published a wild piece by Jim Powell who demonstrates that at an age even more advanced than my own he has a crazier imagination than any teenage gamer every dreamed of.  Watch him free associate...

Though it isn’t a mystery story, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man in the Crowd” may be the short story at it’s best, for there are really only two characters, the man and the crowd. (Speaking of Poe, it has been a long time since the Sherlock Holmsing pigeon drove the Raven “nevermoring” all the way, from its perch on the bust of Pallas just above Poe’s chamber door only to come back to us again as a good part of Johnny Depp’s Tonto headgear in the new Lone Ranger movie. Sherlock’s pigeon would be replaced a few years later by the Maltese Falcon. I wonder what kind of bird will come next to roost on that well-encrusted and put upon piece of statuary?)

5.  They were steampunk before steampunk was cool.

Have you seen the website Murder by Gaslight?  True crimes of Victorian England.  Quick, Watson!  Call C.S.I.! 

10 May 2013

May in Manhattan

by R.T. Lawton


When I was on the MWA Board of Directors, they would pay my freight twice a year (once in January and once in May) to attend board meetings in Manhattan. I always took Kiti along so she could see NYC. While I sat in meetings, she got to run around the city and see the sights. Turned out she enjoyed the place and wanted to go back again, but I went off the BOD about five years ago and thought I was safe. Then in a rash moment, I happened to utter one of those throwaway statements to the effect that if I ever got nominated for an Edgar (didn't happen) or got a story accepted into one of the MWA anthologies I would take her back to New York City for another trip, this time completely on our own dime. I don't know who she bribed, but Brad Meltzer and the five submission judges accepted my short story, "The Delivery," for The Mystery Box anthology. Next thing I knew, reservations were made and airline tickets got bought. We were going.

Mysterious Bookstore
United landed us at La Guardia mid-afternoon on Tuesday and a race car taxi whisked us to the Grand Hyatt before I could change my mind. Since the book launch was in Lower Manhattan, we had to figure out the subway system in order to get to there. A very helpful sales lady in a bookstore down in the bowels of Grand Central Station explained the necessary procedure and told us to catch the 6 Train. Thanks to her, we didn't end up in the Bronx or even Georgia by mistake. The 6 Train screeched up to the Grand Central stop and we squeezed in. Kinda had a sardine feeling to the whole operation. Nice thing was I didn't have to worry about my wallet because there was no room in that crowd  for a pickpocket to bend his elbow far enough to get it out of my hip pocket. I'm not saying we were close in that container, but I may now be related to some of those people in that train car.

Brad Metzler on ladder
With the use of a good folding plastic map from Barnes & Noble, we managed to locate Otto Penzler's Mysterious Bookstore. What a large turnout for the book signing. Otto climbed up the store's ladder for a pulpit to address the crowd, then Brad Meltzer got on the ladder and had all the anthology authors introduce themselves. James O. Born made it a point to take me over and introduce me to Otto and Brad before everybody got too busy. A very friendly group. Not sure, but I think I signed about 70-80 anthology books. Even ended up signing my own copies in all the mass confusion.

Signing books inside the Mysterious Bookstore
On Wednesday morning, we again caught the 6 Train south to the same area and met with Linda Landrigan (AHMM) and Janet Hutchings (EQMM) for breakfast at a nice little restaurant named Edwards. The editors were kind enough to buy, so we all ate well. Also got to converse with Steven Steinbock and Doug Allyn. (Note to David G.: If your ears are ringing, it's because Doug and I talked about you.)

Spent the rest of the day riding the double-decker Red Bus like common tourists, from the new World Trade Center building under construction on the south end and up to Central Park in the north. That night, we went to our first Broadway play, something we hadn't been able to schedule during prior trips. Newsies is a high energy musical with great singing, excellent dancing and acrobatics, plus fantastic use of constantly moving stage props. If you get the chance, go see the play. www.newsiesthemusical.com/

Brooklyn Bridge
Thursday morning was a hike on the Brooklyn Bridge. Surprisingly, no one tried to sell it to me. Probably just as well, it wouldn't have fit in my back yard anyway.

That afternoon was the AHMM/EQMM cocktail reception for their authors. I got to talk with fellow Sleuth Sayer Dale Andrews again, plus meet with fellow bloggers David Dean, Janice Law and Liz Zelvin for the first time. Nice people. At this get-together, David Dean  received a plaque for 2nd Place in the EQMM Reader's Award for "Mariel' and Doug Allyn got his tenth First Place plaque, this time for his "Wood-Smoke Boys." Me, I just feel grateful that Linda buys some of my stories for AHMM.

Breakfast: Janet Hutchings, Steven Steinbock & Linda Landrigan
Since we still had 48 hour passes in our pockets, we hopped the Red Bus north to 49th Street and went up to the top of the Rock (Rockefeller Tower) to watch the sun set from on high. After that, it was time for some liquid refreshment back at the Grand Hyatt bar and pack our bags for the return leg to Colorado. Fortunately for us, we had flown out of Denver on one side of Snow Storm Achilles and come back on the other side, thereby missing the closing of Denver International Airport due to all the white stuff on the ground. Not sure when the weather people started naming big snow storms, but since this one's name began with an "A" it may have been the first.

Now that we're home, Kiti says she would like to go back to New York City one more time. Guess I'd better get to writing something new just as soon as I hear what the next anthology theme will be.

04 September 2012

Jersey Fresh

by David Dean

Not being a native of the place one lives in can sometimes offer a fresh perspective.  And even though I have dwelt in the Garden State for over twenty-five years, I do often find the place fascinating.  First of all, let's face it, Jersey takes an awful beating as a result of Snooki and the Gang, corrupt politicians, and the view from the infamous Turnpike of oil refineries, chemical factories, and rubber plants.  To some, these may look unappealing ( and I include Snooki and friends with this).  But there is a whole other New Jersey out there that is largely hidden away from the tourists on their way to NYC.  It is a place in which I often set my stories, and bears little resemblance to Soprano Land: a place of leafy suburbs and rolling farmland; salt marshes and barrier islands; pineland forests and windswept beaches.

The county I live in is called Cape May, and named after a Dutch explorer by the name of Mey who sailed by sometime in 1623.  He was too busy exploring, apparently, to bother landing on this new cape that he had discovered.  Of course, he had only discovered it for the Europeans who were to follow.  Native Americans had fished and hunted the area for thousands of years before Captain Mey bobbed by in his little ship.  The historical tribe was known in their own tongue as Lenape, an Algonquin peoples.  The Whites would call them the Delaware after the river, which was in turn named after Lord de la Warre, who saw to it that the English, and not the Dutch or Swedish, would dominate this part of New Jersey.  The poor Dutch got stuck with Soprano Land and NYC; the Swedes just went home.

The first European settlers to the area came mostly from New England, Virginia, and Long Island, and they came for the whaling.  In those early days, whales often traveled along the Atlantic coast side of what would become Cape May County, and even into the vast Delaware Bay that washes the western half of the peninsula.  The locals would simply row out to harpoon the great beasts and tow them back to shore.  Even back then, with only a sparse population of whalers, it didn't take long to deplete the animals and virtually kill the industry.  The English turned to farming and fishing, and for the next several centuries this was what they did.
Pirates frequented the region as Jonathan Dickinson wrote in 1717, "We have been perplexed by pirates on our coast and at our Capes, who plundered many of our vessels."  Captain Kidd, that most unfortunate of pirates, spent some time in the area, as did Edward Teach, of "Blackbeard" fame.  Naturally, tales of buried treasure abound.  Most of these are baseless, but try telling that to all the folks with metal detectors walking the beaches… fugedaboutit!  It never made much sense to me that pirates would risk hiding their treasure on land.  After all, sometimes they might be gone for months or even years.  But then it was explained to me that this was mostly done when the boys in pantaloons were planning a visit to a large town, such as New Amsterdam, to replenish their stocks and provisions.  There was always the chance that they might be recognized as pirates and arrested.  The treasure trove on board could be damning.  Hence the lightening of the load prior to docking.

The Jersey Devil legend sprang up in this period as well, and comes out of the haunted pine barrens.  It seems that the dirt-poor and miserable Mrs. Leeds of that neighborhood, upon learning that she was pregnant with her thirteenth child, cursed him; wishing the devil would take him.  Apparently, she had some pull in hell, for her son was born with wings and hooves and flew out the window to begin a reign of terror over that dark and lonely region.  He does so to this day.           

Cape May became a county in 1692, via a charter from the Crown. In those days there was a West and East Jersey--Cape May County being in the west.  There is a cemetery at the county seat, Cape May Court House, that dates to 1766; prior to that people were buried in their back yards, a custom still observed for former business partners in North Jersey.  By the way, nearly everything in the county is named Cape May Something: There is the aforementioned Court House, wherein sits a several hundred year old (you got it) court house, there is also Cape May City, West Cape May, Cape May Point and North Cape May.  There was even once a South Cape May, but the sea claimed it as its own some time ago.  God's judgement, perhaps, on one Cape May too many.  Enough already with the Cape May.

New Jersey became known as the "Cockpit of the Revolution" during the War of Independence because of all the important battles fought on her soil.  Washington slept everywhere, and New Jersey named not one, but several towns, after the father of our nation.  Having a maritime economy, the southern half of the state was affected by the War of 1812.  This region also produced one of our nation's earliest naval heroes in the person of Richard Somers.  This young man was to lead what amounted to a suicide mission against the Barbary pirates in Tripoli.  Sailing directly into their harbor under cover of darkness, he and his crew boarded a captured American vessel and blew it up in spectacular fashion.  Though the resulting explosion and fire damaged and destroyed many of the pirates' ships, it also took the lives of the brave American sailors before they could get away.  Their graves still lie in a small plot in Libya.  His home exists as a museum in Somers Point, the town named for his family.  I have had the privilege of visiting it.

As the northern half of the state embraced the industrial age, the south remained agrarian, not unlike the nation as a whole at that time.  The capitol even boasted the proud motto, "Trenton Makes, The World Takes," in huge letters across a bridge spanning the Delaware River.  It's there to this day.  South Jersey, meanwhile, continued to make the Garden State just that.  Most of the "industries" practiced in the south related to the exploitation of natural resources: cedar mining (the reclamation of prehistoric cedar trees from the fresh water swamps for shingles and ship building), bog iron collection from the streams of the Pine Barrens (this naturally occurring iron tints the water the color of tea), harvesting salt hay from the marshes for both animal feed and lining coffins, the production of glass from the fine sands of the region, etc... Then came the trains.

By the late 1800s, the great population centers of both Philadelphia and New York had discovered what would be forever more known as the Jersey Shore.  Trains made it possible.  The industrial era had given the working man both stable wages and a few days off a year.  He spent both at the shore.  The tourist boom was on and the great shore towns began to spring up--Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Wildwood, Avalon, and yes...Cape May.  Of course, many decided to stay, and the local population took a decidedly Irish and Italian turn.  Catholic parishes began to pop up amongst the Baptist and Methodists.  The small town of Woodbine was founded as a Jewish colony, while the town of Whitesboro became the the county's first predominantly African-American municipality--a by-product of the Underground Railroad, not the one from Philly.

By the mid-1970s tourism was king.  Though farms remained, they had grown smaller and began to adapt to specialized crops in order to survive.  Commercial fishing survived, as well, by both downsizing and growing more efficient.  The waters off New Jersey continue to be one of the greatest producers of scallops and clams along the eastern seaboard and oyster farming is making a comeback in the Delaware Bay.  But the tourist dollar, and vacation real estate, are the mainstays of the current economy--battered by the recession, but still king.  Unemployment here in Cape May County during the off-season (roughly from November to April) can reach 12% or worse.   But you take the good with the bad, and this is the place I happily call home.  My literary characters, Chief Julian Hall and Father Gregory Savartha, both live here, as does a ponderous and troubling little girl named Mariel, who is the subject of my next story in EQMM (Dec. 2012 issue).  The bewildered protagonist of "Tap-Tap", though he meets his fate in Belize, worked for a tourist agency here, while Kieran, the young kleptomaniac of "The Vengeance of Kali," lives just around the corner.  There are many, many more.

So, as you can see, after twenty-five years in a place, you make some friends; form some ties.  And luckily for me, having a fresh perspective, a "Jersey" fresh perspective on my adopted home, made it all possible.

23 October 2011

Friends and Family

black orchidby Leigh Lundin

Five weeks ago, SleuthSayers launched from a core of five committed (in multiple senses of the word) writers to a greater family of fourteen. Coordinating fourteen members might seem a difficult task, but my colleagues are patient with me and their fun, enthusiasm, helpfulness, and professionalism worked miracles.

I list fun first because humor flourished early and easily. For example, Neil's ironic wit and the gentle humor of Jan and Fran melded like ivy in the brickwork of our joint project. I knew Dixon and RT were tough, cigar-chompin', kick-ass guys, but who guessed how riotously funny they are? A writer could do worse modeling characterizations after the criminally sane among us.

But there's more. Behind the scenes, SleuthSayers family members exchange crime notes, music CDs, tobacco tips, and successes. More about this last item in a moment.

Friends in Sly Places

We also depend upon friends such as Jon Breen, Bill Crider, and Women of Mystery, but especially our editors, Janet Hutchings of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Linda Landrigan of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Andrew Gulli at The Strand, and Darlene Poier from Pages of Stories.

Buying your favorite magazines pumps lifeblood into the imagination incubators of our genre. If you're not familiar with Pages of Stories, it's an eMagazine available in eBook format (Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc), PDF, and on-line, where you'll find works by Fran Rizer, John Floyd, and me, to name a few. If you want to taste a classic approach, Steve Steinbock has mentioned Arthur Vidro's Old-Time Detection and Geoff Bradley's Crime and Detective Stories, affectionately called CADS in its British homeland.Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2011

Readers Choice Award

Speaking of magazines, if your December issue of Ellery Queen hasn't arrived, rush to your local bookstore to grab a copy now! It contains the ballot (last page) and list (page 83) of stories eligible for the EQMM Readers Choice Award. Listed is English by Leigh Lundin (that's me!), the parable James Lincoln Warren wrote about. Also featured is Elizabeth Zelvin's lauded Navidad. You'll find Neil Schofield's Detour and our friend David Dean listed. You'll notice other names like Doug Allyn and William Dylan Powell. I can't speak for the others, but if you comment with your eMail address, Elizabeth and I will make our stories available to readers upon request.

Wolfe Pack Black Orchid Banquet

The Wolfe Pack, an organization devoted to mystery writer Rex Stout and his most famous creation Archie Goodwin, er, Nero Wolfe, will hold its 34th annual Black Orchid Banquet Weekend December 2-4. Held at the Vanderbilt Suites in New York City, the Black Orchid Banquet will feature television personality and mystery writer Al Roker, introduced by novelist and past Nero Award-winner Linda Fairstein.

The bacchanalia features presentation of the Nero Award for the year’s best mystery novel and the Black Orchid Novella Award for best unpublished mystery novella, presented in conjunction with AHMM. The winning BONA story will be published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Black Orchid Perfume
Black Orchid Perfume– a beautiful excuse for a noir dame
Rumors and Rumours

After only a month on-line, one of our colleagues credits SleuthSayers with a major professional offer. Details are sketchy, but to the envy of Entertainment Tonight and People Magazine, we're promised a scoop if a major deal is inked.

Mark your calendar for a special guest article. On 4 December, we expect to feature a, ahem, wolfish announcement.

Next week, Louis Willis returns with a fascinating family story about bootlegging.