by Robert Lopresti
I read a lot of short mystery stories. I like them, plus they are
market research. And of course I need them to create this and this.
By coincidence, in
the last week I read two tales about tough, world-weary homicide cops.
One was pretty good. The other was - meh. I didn't bother
finishing it. Naturally, I was curious about why one worked, for
me, and the other didn't.
I am not going to identify the story I didn't like - what would be
the point? But the story I did enjoy was "Rizzo's Good Cop," by Louis
Manfredo. It appears in the December issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
The story I didn't like is about an obvious murder. Manfredo's is about a
suspicious death. Did the vic jump out the window, fall, or get
But that's not the important difference between the stories. Here is what I concluded about that.
In the other story we are told the cop is weary, that the job is
soul-killing, that he's frustrated, that things don't make sense.
In Manfredo's story the two police detectives take beer out of the
victim's fridge and help themselves. Rizzo, our hero, says "We got us a
murder here, buddy. A genuine, twelve-hour-a-day pain in the ass
murder." When a female cop jokingly asks "So whatcha got for me,
honey?" Rizzo replies "Thirty years ago, plenty."
You see the point? Very similar character. But one story tells. The other shows.
It's an old rule of story-telling (uh, story-showing?). And like all
such rules, it isn't true every time. But in this case it makes all
the difference to me.
30 December 2015
02 June 2015
by David Dean
|Linda Landrigan, Editor of AHMM, Me, and Janet Hutchings, Editor of EQMM at FUN Dell Party|
I'm very happy to announce that the current (July) issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine carries a story of mine. It's titled "The Walking Path" and demonstrates how exercise is not always conducive to good health or a long life. As is common in many of my tales, the protagonist misreads events unfolding around him which leads to a surprising, though not very pleasing (for him, at least) end to his outdoor pursuits.
The theme of missed opportunities and misunderstood relationships also features in the following month's issue in a story called, "Mr. Kill-Me". The poor fellow conjured up in this tale cannot for the life of him understand why he's being stalked. His antagonist, a shabby cyclist who keeps showing up at unexpected moments, offers him no threat of violence, but is insistent that our hero kill him.
The month following (yes, it's been a very good year– see first half of blog title) I change pace with a police procedural in which a detective must come to terms with his own actions of nearly fifty years before. This novella is titled "Happy Valley". Counting "Her Terrible Beauty" that was in the March issue, that makes four stories in EQMM in a single year– a first for me. Still, I pose no threat to the late, great Ed Hoch's prolific output, or that of our own Edgar-Nominated John Floyd. Speaking of whom, I had the pleasure of meeting John, and his lovely wife, at the Dell soiree in New York this year. The only fault I could find with the man was his overbearing height, other than that he was just as charming and intelligent as we've all found him to be through his SleuthSayers articles. Still, I'm disappointed with his insufferable tallness.
|A Less Fun Party|
Since the fall of 2012 I've had three novels published, none of which have thrived. If I called a summit meeting of everyone who had read any of them I could probably forego renting a hall and just have them convene in my living room. Even there, I'm not sure that anyone would have to stand during the meeting. I find this a little distressing. My intention in writing the novels was that someone would read them. You can see my frustration here.
Part of the problem is that none of them have received very much publicity. Small indie presses have no funds for advertising it seems. The big corporation boys do, but only if you're already famous, which presents a conundrum for such as the likes of me. The other part of the problem (and this is the part I like even less than the first) is that I may not be very good at writing novels. I especially don't like this possibility because it doesn't allow me to blame anyone else. When I was occasionally asked what I did as a chief of police, I would always fire back, "I find out who's to blame and pin it on them. Now get out of my office!" My wife claims that I still do this as a private citizen. I tell her that it's paramount to blame those responsible for any faults I may possess, then tell her to get out of my office. She does not comply. I find this distressing as well.
So there you have it, the best and the worst. In case I've raised anyone's hopes that I will never write another novel, you must not know me. I'm already taking another stab at the beast and am on page 125 after only a year's labor. It's titled, The German Informant, and is coming along, though I doubt it will fare any better than the others. On the days I find the going tough, I blame the neighbors for all the distractions. If it weren't for them it would be done already!
In closing, and in order to refill the glass to half-full, I want to take a moment to thank a number of fellow writers who have been particularly kind and supportive in recent months: Brendan DuBois, Doug Allyn, Joseph D'Agnese, Don Helin, Lou Manfredo, Art Taylor, Fran Rizer (whom I miss from this site) and my fellow SleuthSayers, Dale Andrews and Eve Fisher. Each of these extremely talented and busy writers have taken the time, and in some cases, expended considerable effort, to aid or support me in my literary pursuits. I am in your debt, my friends, and honored to be so. Below is a copy of the aforementioned EQMM issue. You will find my name next to that of Joyce Carol Oats, a pretty good writer who I think shows real promise. I hope this fortunate pairing boosts her career.