Showing posts with label Groundhog Day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Groundhog Day. Show all posts

15 September 2015

Nothing Like Holidays to Prompt Joy ... and Murder

by Barb Goffman

Today is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  (Happy new year to my Jewish readers!) So it seems a perfect day to consider how often crime stories are set during holidays.

82 days until Hanukkah begins!
Crime on holidays? Particularly religious holidays? How blasphemous, some of you may be thinking. But the rest of you, admit it, you're thinking that holidays involve family, and family members not only know each other's buttons, but they love to push them. Of course there's crime during the holidays.

But how much crime? If you follow Janet Rudolph's Mystery Fanfare blog, www.mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com, you'll have an inkling. Janet loves holidays, and on every one, she posts a list of mystery books/stories she knows about that are set on that day. But reading these  lists piecemeal won't give you the full picture. That's why I've reviewed all her lists from the past year (you're welcome!) and learned that the most dangerous holiday is ...

Drum roll ...
Christmas! Yes, the culmination of the season of joy is the most crime-ridden day of the year, at least according to mystery-fiction writers. Last year Janet listed nearly 600 novels with Christmas crime. That's enough to make Santa go on strike.

What was the next most-dangerous holiday? Take a guess. It's kind of tricky. Ha! It's ... Halloween. The holiday of ghosts and goblins and children begging for candy is perfect for moody, scary stories. Janet's list last year had nearly 200 Halloween mysteries.
Far fewer mysteries have been set on today's holiday, Rosh Hashanah, but there are some. My Macavity Award-winning story "The Lord is my Shamus" references both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), thought it's not set on either of these holidays. Last year Janet's blog listed eight novels and two short-story anthologies set during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days in between (the Days of Awe). I'll be heading over to her blog today to see if she's added any new books or stories to the list this year.

I've always been a fan of holidays myself. It's fun to dress up in costumes or to torture my dogs by dressing them up. (Check out the photos on the side.) I've written a number of short stories set during holidays, too, with Thanksgiving and Christmas being used most often (four stories each). (My website, www.barbgoffman.com, has a complete list of my published stories.) It's really a no-brainer: family in close quarters with lots of food and drink? Call the cops, baby, 'cause you know what's coming.

Indeed, knowing how ripe holidays can be for inducing murderous thoughts, a few years ago, authors Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley, and I decided that it would be fun to make holidays the theme for the seventh volume of the Chesapeake Crimes series (which we edit). We envisioned an anthology with short stories set on the standard big holidays, but we also hoped for stories set ones used less often in crime fiction. Our authors came through. The resulting book, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, has stories set on Groundhog Day (my story), Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Christmas, and (out of chronological order), Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrr. Author Cathy Wiley gets mad props for coming up with a story set on this fabulous holiday, which occurs annually on September 19th. That's this Saturday, folks.

And in honor of this holiday, on this Saturday afternoon, five authors with stories in Homicidal Holidays--Donna Andrews, Clyde Linsley, Shari Randall, Cathy Wiley, and I--are scheduled to appear on a panel at Kingstowne Library in Alexandria, Virginia, to talk about using holidays in crime stories. The free event is open to the public. If you're in the Washington, DC, area, we hope you'll attend. You can get more details and register here: http://tinyurl.com/oh2h2kv. (The link will take you to the Fairfax County library website. The link was super long, so I shortened it.)

Cathy Wiley at our launch party.
We've had good luck with this book. My Groundhog Day story, "The Shadow Knows," is a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity awards, and it was a finalist for the Agatha Award in the spring. (You can read it here: www.barbgoffman.com/The_Shadow_Knows.html). Our own Art Taylor also has an Agatha Award-nominated story in the book ("Premonition," a Halloween story), and Cathy Wiley's pirate story ("Dead Men Tell No Tales") was up for a Derringer Award last spring.

So if you like holidays--and who doesn't?--I hope you'll attend this Saturday's panel to learn about using holidays in mysteries. It will be fun for readers and writers. And word has it that Cathy Wiley will be dressed as a pirate. Shiver me timbers, you can't get more fun than that.

Do you like reading mysteries set on holidays? If so, which is your favorite and why?

03 April 2015

Made the Cover

by R.T. Lawton

The May 2015 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. And, just like last year's copy of the May publication, their humor issue, both our John Floyd and I had stories in it. John's story, "Dreamland," was a funny piece about a man who might have watched too many movies. Uh, wait a minute here, John. About this watching too many movies thing, the circumstances are starting to sound pretty familiar. By any chance is your main character patterned after someone we all know?

As for my story, "Groundhog Day," it's the seventh out of eight purchased by AHMM in my Holiday Burglars series. In short, my two burglars, Yarnell and Beaumont, had the misfortune to be caught red-handed in the midst of opening a man's safe and are now trying to dig their way out of trouble and into another man's mansion in order to steal a treasured item the first guy says really belongs to him. Seems you just can't trust criminals these days. However, if it wasn't for dumb luck, Yarnell and Beaumont would be pushing up daisies. Naturally, The Thin Guy, their protege, usually manages to sneak into the situation, whatever it is. No worries, the main characters have to survive so they can appear in the eighth story, "May Day," to be published in some future issue of AHMM.

What I really liked about this issue was the cover. "Groundhog Day" made this May cover with artwork depicting two men with shovels in hand. One man is helping the other man out of a hole in the ground. I can't say that the artist's perception of Yarnell and Beaumont is the same as mine, but then like John and I discussed in recent e-mails, he and I tend to follow Elmore Leonard's way of describing story characters when writing. We use minimum description and let the reader form his or her own picture of the characters. So, I'll say nice artwork and I'm really happy to have my story on the cover of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.


Also about the middle of March, my short story, "A Private Matter," came out in a paperback anthology entitled And All Our Yesterdays. For this story think Leo Tolstoi and the Cossacks. Here, a wandering Armenian trader of goods gets pulled into becoming a gentleman's second for one of two Russian officers preparing to fight a duel in the Wild Country south of the Terek River in Chechen territory. Treachery abounds and the trader ends up holding the bag, but he has his own solution to rectify matters.

A couple of years ago, our David Dean mentioned he was writing a short story about a duel. Since I too had a duel story in progress, we exchanged e-mails. (I really like that communication factor in this group.) As it turned out, I didn't have to worry about two stories featuring duels being submitted to the same market in the same time period. David's story, "Her Terrible Beauty," went to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2015 issue and mine came out in the above mentioned anthology.

Nice story in EQMM, David. It'll probably get another place in the next EQMM's Reader Awards.

Side Note: All three of my above mentioned stories were critiqued by our Rob Lopresti prior to submission for publication. Thanks, Rob.

Hey guys, keep on writing.