Showing posts with label Mystery Weekly Magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mystery Weekly Magazine. Show all posts

28 February 2021

Come Along for the Ride


So, I'm sitting with my buddy Mike(Huey pilot and one-time deputy sheriff) on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, treating ourselves to rum and Cokes while brainstorming storylines for mystery short stories. I know what you're thinking. If I could make more money from writing and selling short stories, then I could try writing some of those cruise expenses off on my income taxes. Unfortunately for me, those deducted figures would probably fall into the category of real fiction. Truth be known, only  a small percentage of  these brainstorming sessions ends up becoming a completed and salable story.

Anyway, if I'm going to write a standalone or what I hope will be the first story in a series, I prefer to pick a setting or an idea that hasn't been done before or at least, to my knowledge, not very often. Because of my two years, nine months and twenty-nine days in the Army, plus more than twenty-eight years in federal law enforcement,  I tend to enjoy the antics of incompetent criminals. Most of these characters seem to be knocking on the prison door screaming, "Let me in," while their screwups generally fall into the category of "What were you possibly thinking?"

So, when the wheels start turning, it's easy to reach into the past and find characters and/or events and put them in a what if situation. It was circumstances like these on that cruise ship brainstorming session that produced "The Clean Car Company," published in the January 2021 issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine.

It went something like this. What if a junior league criminal is sitting in the back booth of a very dark bar waiting for his partner in crime to show up, so they can figure out how to make some money. And, while he is nursing the dregs of his drink, three males slide into his booth and don't realize that someone else is sitting in that booth. These three new arrivals commence to continue planning the heist they have in mind.

Time to give these characters some names in order to avoid confusion with who's doing what. Danny is our protagonist and the alleged brains of his junior league criminal partnership. Leroy is the slim killer sitting beside Danny in the booth. Caps, nicknamed for his penchant for knee-capping people who get sideways with him, is sitting across from Leroy. The Kid, sitting across from Danny and beside Caps, is Caps' teenage nephew and a screwup when it comes to crime.

When Caps suddenly realizes they have an unwanted visitor sitting in the darkest corner of the booth, and that this visitor has just listened in on their heist plans, he becomes noticeably upset. Leroy takes out a switchblade and offers to take care of the problem. 

Faced with a dire situation, Danny must quickly come up with a solution to everyone's problem. Working with the facts available to him:

  1. Danny has just inherited his Aunt Rosie's car
  2. The car's license plates are now registered to a deceased person
  3. He and his partner are trying to figure out how to make some money
  4. The heist gang's 4th member, who was to steal a getaway car and be the getaway driver, is currently in jail on a different charge
  5. The gang can get an other driver, but they still have getaway car
  6. Danny has to think fast else his lifeless body will be left behind in the booth

Danny tells the gang that he is starting a new business and the heist gang can be his first customers. He offers them Aunt Rosie's car as a "rental getaway vehicle." As he explains it, it is a "clean car," much the same as a criminal could obtain a "clean gun" from a clandestine weapons dealer on the street. It's a cash only and no paperwork deal. 

The heist goes forward, but there is no honor amongst criminals. Danny and his partner end up with an unexpected problem when they are double crossed by one of the gang members.

To see the problem and read the outcome, obtain your copy of the January 2021 issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine. There's some good reading in that issue.

04 December 2019

I, Robot (Author)


I am delighted to have a story in the December issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine, my first appearance there.  "Robot Carson" is, I guess, the second time a story of mine began with what you might call a vision.  Not a dream, because I was wide awake.

The image that popped into my head was a woman answering the door and finding a chest freezer on her stoop.  Not literally a freezer, just an object of that size and shape.  Turned out to be a robot, working for the cops.

And as you may deduce, its name turned out to be Carson.

That's pretty much all I have to say about the story.  It's short.  Go ahead and read it and see what you think.  You can read the first page here.

My first encounter with robots (well, barring Lost in Space and similar kiddy stuff) was in the ninth grade when I bought a paperback of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. It's a collection of short stories   (The movie of the same name, by the way, has very little in common with the book.)

The stories are loosely connected by an interview with Dr. Susan Calvin, who appears in some of them.  She is the chief robopsychologist for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc.

Perhaps the most famous thing about these stories is the Three Laws of Robotics.  (And by the way, Asimov coined the word "robotics."  He assumed it already existed.)   Many other authors have silently adopted the Laws or otherwise played with the concept.  Here they are:

 First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
The worst from dozens of available covers.
Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
 
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Asimov found many clever ways to play with these rules (Example: If a robot could read minds, would hurting feelings count as harming a human being?)

Asimov went on to write a series of mystery novels featuring a pairing of human and robots, beginning with The Caves of Steel.

His robot cop appeared to be human.  As far as I know, none of his robots were ever mistaken for a freezer.  So I can claim at least that much originality.