Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts

29 May 2022

The Boyz


The Boyz

The long journey actually started on January 19th when MWA announced the six short stories nominated for the Edgar, but you've already heard about that from various people, so let's start this rendering of events on Tuesday, April 26th. Ready?

The airplane landed at LaGuardia, the wife and I took a $50 taxi ride into Manhattan and arrived at the Marriott near Times Square. Right off, I knew things were gonna be different.

I had never stayed at a hotel where the Lobby was on the 8th floor. The first obstacle to getting registered for a room was the giant revolving door on the ground floor, plus they must've had trouble paying the electric bill because the lights were dim in this particular area. I promptly got lost in the revolving door. In my defense, the door's pivot column had long slender mirrors on it, and with my failing vision, I should have never looked into the mirror. It was like being in the Fun House at the county fair and seeing no way out. With no regard for me or my large roller suitcase, the door marched on. I had no choice but to follow… until my wife reached in and rescued me.

Our room was very nice and there was a restaurant named Junior's right across the street where we ended up eating at least five of our meals while in residence.

On Wednesday afternoon, we attended the matinee performance of a Broadway play, Moulin Rouge. My wife had bought tickets months ago when I lost a bet on January 19th and then I had to agree that yes, since I had been nominated for an Edgar, we could go back to New York City one more time. And, here we were. The music, the cast, the stage settings were excellent. The audience gave a standing ovation at the conclusion.

Even the intermission was entertaining. I fought my way through the mass of bodies crowding into the refreshment lobby as they pursued quantities of popcorn and glasses of wine. At my advancing age, I instead went for the line headed to the Men's Room. A couple of people behind me, this is what I heard.

David, Liz & R.T. at DELL Reception

Attendant: "Ma'am, where are you going?"

Woman: "I am in the line."

Attendant: "But that's the line to the Men's Room."

Woman: "I am in the line."

She must've won the philosophical discussion, because for several minutes afterwards, I could hear her voice behind me, all the way in.

That evening, we dined at Junior's for the second time. As the hostess wound her way through the restaurant to show us to a table, Michael Bracken recognized Kiti and me and called us over to his table. The hostess, not realizing she had lost her cargo, continued all the way to the back of the restaurant.

Edgar Nominees
2022 Edgar Nominees for Best Short Story

Michael graciously introduced us to his wife Temple, his co-author nominee James Andrew Ahearn and his wife Dawn, and to Stacy Woodson. We all conversed until the hostess made her way back to us and asked if we would like a closer table.

Thursday afternoon was the DELL Publishing (AHMM & EQMM) Publishing Cocktail Reception at a nearby library, which Liz has already written about quite well.

At 6PM that evening was the MWA Nominee Cocktail Reception at the Marriott. Here all the nominees got their group photo taken by the category they were in. At 6:30 PM, the Edgar Banquet Cocktail Reception began, and at 7:25, the doors opened for admittance into the room for the Edgar Award Banquet itself.

R.T., Edgar & James

At Table #1 were Linda Landrigan, Kiti, myself, Brendan DuBois, Michael Bracken, Temple, James Andrew Ahearn, Dawn and two ladies from DELL Publishing, Chris Bagley and Abby Browning. Chris bought a $53 bottle of red and a $53 bottle of white wine for the table, and I do thank her for the very good libation.

All too soon, the presenters went to the podium, the nominated stories and the names of their authors and publications were flashed up on the large screens up front, and the name of the winner in each category was then announced. When they called my name, Kiti suddenly had tears running down her cheeks, Brendan pounded me on the back in congratulations and I gradually realized I was supposed to stand up and go somewhere.

Having spent most of the 25 years of my federal law enforcement career operating in the shadows, I have not been comfortable in the spotlight, yet the light had found me. Fortunately for everyone else, I had a typed copy of my acceptance speech, just in case. Be Prepared was the motto in my youth.

Actually, I had two copies in my suit coat pocket, one in 18 point font and one in 20 point font, figuring that depending upon how much light there was at the podium, I would be able to read one of them. The rest of the night was spent in conversation with various attendees, and then it was midnight and back to the room.

Friday was tourist day, Times Square and Central Park in the cold wind and low temperatures. Don't know how Naked Singing Cowboy keeps his teeth from chattering. We saw homeless people in layered clothing who appeared to be colder than he was. Don't know if he is the same Naked Singing Cowboy we saw working Central Park years ago. If he is, then he must really love his job. Since our legs and feet were now tired, we hired one of those three-wheeled-bikes-with-a-cab-for-two-people-on-the-rear for a ride back to the hotel and supper at Junior's for one last time.

Early Saturday morning, Kiti wrapped and packaged Edgar in a MWA canvas bag and hand-carried him to avoid breakage on the flight home. A $50 taxi ride put us back at LaGuardia. When Edgar rode the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine, TSA took us over to a private table. Then the TSA guy removed Edgar from the bag, unwrapped him and swabbed him down for explosives, while Kiti kept trying to explain he was an award. All the TSA guy could say was, "Lady, keep your hands off the bag." I sneaked a peek at the x-ray screen, and yep, Edgar did kinda look like a warped bomb in all that packing. We did make it all the way home and now Edgar sits on the computer desk with his little brother, Bobblehead.

Oh New York, New York, you are an experience, entertaining, but expensive.

I told Kiti we couldn't go back again unless I got nominated for an Edgar.

Of course, you see how that turned out the last time I said the same thing.

Who knew?

02 March 2021

Entering Modern Publishing with Madame Selina



I entered the modern age of publishing this week when I pushed the publish button and committed ten Madame Selina short mystery stories and her only novella to Amazon Kindle. It was not a terribly difficult process but it would have been easier if I had not decided to simultaneously make an ebook on Apple's Pages, lured by the thought that the Pages file could be easily converted to an ePub file. Not exactly easy was my experience, although I did wind up making the ebook cover for Kindle on Pages.

That was an interesting experience, too. A number of years ago, I sketched Madame Selina, New York City's premier spirit medium in the years after the Civil War. While the many fine illustrators who depicted her have stressed youth or eccentricity – flying hair being a favorite device –  I drew her as she usually saw herself, as Mrs. Hiram Bingham, respectable widow and business woman. However, even someone as poor at promotion as I am realized that this image would be a selling point. 

I tried making her younger and Nip a tad weirder but that didn't suit either, although he does frequently get to carry her baggage. Finally, thanks to my new iPad and Procreate, a fine paint program, I reworked the original sketch, making Madame younger, darker, and more exotic and giving her an elaborate hat and an inky backdrop. I hope she'll do!


Madame Selina is a favorite character of mine, although she was not the focus of the original story which is narrated by Nip Thompkins, formerly resident in upstate New York orphanage. He is sprung from this sad and unhealthy institution when she comes looking for a likely boy, small, smart, and agile. Nip, underfed but otherwise healthy, is declared suitable. Whisked away to the city, he assists in creating Madame's theatrical illusions and narrates what became her many adventures.

It is popular now to have unreliable narrators. I've tried that and it can be fun, but in writing the Madame Selina stories I realized that my real preference is for the innocent eye that, lacking adult preconceptions, appreciates wonders and spots pretension. Nip, clever, practical, and definitely lacking any mystical bent, proved to be ideal for describing Madame, who, as Nip tells us, is 'willing to lie in small things' such as special effects to enhance a seance, but who absolutely and completely believes in Aurelius, late emperor of the Romans, her spirit contact in the other world.

All this was not pure invention on my part. Victoria Woodhull, pioneering feminist, candidate for president, advocate of both free love and votes for women, conducted conversations with Demosthenes, the great orator of Ancient Greece, and, like Madame Selina, advised the bulls and bears of Wall Street. In Woodhull's case, the clientele included Commodore Vanderbilt. Apparently gentlemen who gamble are not averse to spiritual guidance.

The period immediately after the Civil War with its staggering death toll, ghastly injuries, and traumas of all sorts for troops and civilians alike, was the great era of spiritualism and of mediums, as the desperate bereaved sought to know their loved ones' fates. That was the setting for "Madame Selina" and there she would have stayed if Rob Lopresti had not suggested she would make a good series character.

I was skeptical – or maybe Nip was – but I came around to the idea and made use of many years of teaching romantic and Victorian literature to find plots for Madame in inheritance tangles and vulnerable child heirs, the politics of the Irish immigration, the difficulties of Freedmen post war, the new Italian arrivals, and the suffrage movement. 

Madame proved fit for all until changing times and the vulgarity and avarice of the high Gilded Age weakened the public's appetite for spirit communication and led to the final entry in my little book, " A Fine Nest of Rascals", where Nip, grownup and a cub reporter on a paper aiming "not to instruct but to startle," proves to have learned a lot about investigations from assisting Madame Selina. 


Madame Selina, The Complete Stories is available as an ebook on Amazon.


23 May 2019

Only the Dead Know Brooklyn




A friend who knows me well sent me the following article -  Weegee's New York City by Christopher Bonanos - in New York Magazine, chock-full of crime-scene photographs from the 1930s.  (Thank you, Betty!)


April 18, 1937: Spurned Suitor Clubs Violinist to Death!  (The trail of blood is where the body was dragged...)  

May 5, 1937: The corpse everyone is checking over is that of Stanley Mannex, a 47-year-old Turkish immigrant, found in the ivy behind the New York Public Library.  (I'd love to know that backstory.)





April 20, 1937: Tony Benedetti was a single father of four from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, underemployed in New York during the Depression. Under a newly passed New York law looking to reduce the number of public charges, his family became the first in the state to be deported — put on a train at Penn Station back to Fayette County, where they were received by local welfare officials.

Two points:  the kids are crying, but dad is smiling.  Is that to cheer them up or what?  And I'd love to know what the local welfare officials did with him and his kids when they got there...



Date unknown, person unknown, location unknown.  But it's New York.  Everyone's wearing hats, and no one looks surprised.  I'm still amazed at how the corpse's hat ended right side up and in apparently perfect condition...

These are a few of the photographs taken by Weegee, a/k/a Arthur Fellig, the legendary crime-and-mayhem photographer of mid-century New York. In 1938, he became the only New York freelance newspaper photographer with a permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio. Weegee worked mostly at night; he listened closely to broadcasts and often beat authorities to the scene. When other photographers asked him about his technique he supposedly answered, "f/8 and be there".  By the '40s he had pictures in the Museum of Modern Art and had been curated by Edward Steichen.  (Wikipedia)

Weegee's first book of photographs was Naked City. Film producer Mark Hellinger bought the rights to the title from Weegee and made the movie The Naked City in 1948 - which I have not seen - and the police drama of the same name - which I have seen.  I remember all the episodes ended with "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."  BTW, here's the opening of the episode "The Fault in Our Stars" starring a very young Roddy McDowall:


But back to Weegee's photographs - they're everywhere on the internet, from the above to this site where they have been colorized to add to their gruesomeness:  

Pre-Weegee, someone also took these photos from 1910s New York City, and if you continue to scroll down, more Weegee:  

And Paris has more than Murders in the Rue Morgue here:

Now, I'm not into gore, I admit it.  I don't watch autopsies, gory movies, or read torture porn.  But there's more than one way to look at a photograph.  Like the last photo above, the hat lying by itself, looking perfectly fine despite the fact that the dead guy's face was either bashed in or shot and there's blood everywhere.  The other thing that struck me about it, was how the uniformed cop and the detective (?) with the flash camera are leaning, trying to see what the other detective is showing them as he straddles the body.

Straddles:  "See?  Someone came up on him, and shot him, point-blank range, and he took a step or two before he fell."
Uniform:  "What're ya talking about?"
Straddles:  "Look at the trail of blood.  He moved after he was shot, ya blind bat!"
Flash:  "Want me to hit it with a little more light?"

Another aspect of all the dead body shots I've shared here is that there's a lot of bending over in police work.  None of this Sam Spade looking down at his partner's dead body and pointing around.  No, these guys are all getting their faces right in the action, talking with their hands and their mouths.  I'm sure that at least one of them has a flask in his hip or coat pocket, and that they're all smokers.  And I still can't get over how they all manage to keep their hats on.

There also aren't any women standing around.  Which makes sense, because back then, the only woman around at the scene of the crime would be the victim.  And there are a lot of those.  From the woman lying in bed, back to her beloved (?) who just blew her brains out before killing himself, to the girl who was found lying looking calm and drained as if a vampire had shown up moments before...

All of these snapshots are a trip back in time - except that the only thing that's changed is the clothes.  Murder stays the same.  The motivation stays the same (love, jealousy, greed... same old, same old).  The blood stays the same.  The fascination with the crime stays the same.  And that's why we're all here.

BTW, click here to read "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn" by Thomas Wolfe, the New Yorker, June 7, 1935.  Maybe the big guy was Weegee.









16 May 2015

Dinner With the Poe Folks



by John M. Floyd


A couple of weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 29, Mystery Writers of America held its annual Edgar Awards ceremony in New York City to honor this year's nominees and to announce the winners. I should begin by stating two facts: (1) I was nominated, and (2) I didn't win.

But I attended, and I had a great time. As many of you know firsthand, the awards banquet is accompanied by several days of other events, parties, and receptions that encompass what has come to be known as Edgar Week. My wife Carolyn and I flew up that Monday morning and returned home Thursday night, and while we weren't able to attend every single function, we did show up for most of them. It was a unique opportunity for me to see some old writer friends and meet new ones. And to thank some magazine editors who have been extremely kind to me these past few years.

My only official duty all week was to participate in a panel of nominees Tuesday morning, the first event of an all-day Edgar (short for Edgar Allan Poe) "Symposium." The topic of our panel was "Crossing Genres," but it morphed quickly into a discussion of mystery subgenres, which was of course appropriate for a group of crime writers. Our moderator was Greg Herren, and my fellow panelists were Adam Sternbergh (nominated for Best First Novel), Kate Milford (up for Best Juvenile), and William Lashner (up for Best Paperback Original), all of whom did a great job. Kate, a delightful lady, turned out to be the only one of us four who would take home an Edgar this year, for Greenglass House (Clarion Books).

Later in the day more panels were featured, on settings, research, and the art of juggling a writing career and a day job. The sessions that I visited were well done, but I confess that I wandered in and out of them--like any other gathering of writers, most of the fun came from roaming around the hotel to chat with the other attendees--and my wife and I took advantage of the great weather to explore the city for a few hours. The afternoon ended with an interview of 2015 Grand Master Lois Duncan by Laura Lippman and an interview of co-Grand Master James Ellroy by Otto Penzler. I especially enjoyed listening to Ellroy--an interesting guy, to say the least. One of the most surprising things I learned about him was that he didn't like the film adaptation of his novel L.A. Confidential. (Personally--what do I know?--I thought it was one of the best crime movies ever.)

That night I attended an "Agents and Editors" party, where Mary Higgins Clark announced the winner of the annual award given in her name and where I finally met Otto Penzler--he and I had been corresponding via e-mail lately regarding one of my stories he's selected for an upcoming anthology. This was the only event, I believe, to which spouses/guests were not invited. I also got a chance to catch up a bit with editors Linda Landrigan and Janet Hutchings and former SleuthSayer Elizabeth Zelvin. On several occasions I heard Liz trying to explain to others that what I was speaking wasn't a foreign language, it was just Southern.


I was able to spend even more time with Linda, Janet, and Liz the following afternoon, at a cocktail party sponsored by Dell Magazines. Also in attendance at the Dell party were fellow SleuthSayers David Dean and Dale Andrews, as well as old friends Terrie Moran, Barry Zeman, Bill McCormick, and others. (In the lopsided photo above, I'm the guy in the green tie, talking with Barry.) It was a thrill for me to put faces to some of the names that I'd seen so often in the pages of AHMM and EQMM, to meet many of Linda's and Janet's colleagues at the magazines (Peter Kanter, Jackie Sherbow, Carol Demont, etc.), and to introduce everyone to my far better half.

After a cab ride back to the hotel and a change of clothes, Carolyn and I went downstairs to the Edgar pre-ceremony reception. Much of our time there was spent getting photos taken and visiting with my competitor-in-the-Best-Short-Story-category Doug Allyn and his wife Eve. Doug has long been one of my favorite writers, and since my wife's maiden name is Allyn the two of them fell into a deep discussion about their family history while his wife and I discussed people who like to discuss their family history. I also had an opportunity to meet and visit awhile with my hero Stephen King, who was nominated for Best Novel this year. I'm sure SK was overjoyed to meet me, although he somehow forgot to ask me for my autograph. (The photo here is of Doug and me, with the Kingster in the background.)

The banquet itself was great. Carolyn and I were seated at the table with Strand Magazine editors Andrew and Lamia Gulli, who were kind enough to have published the story that got me there, and I spent much of the meal listening to another tablemate, Mike (Francis M.) Nevins, tell fascinating tales about the old days of writing, publishing, and copyright law. When the steaks and desserts were finished and the award presentations rolled around, Doug and I lost out to Gillian Flynn, who in true Gone Girl fashion did not make an appearance that night. King won for Best Novel (Mr. Mercedes), which I thought was well deserved. A newfound friend, J. W. Ocker, won for Best Critical/Biographical, and later wrote a great piece about this year's awards ceremony. I think the most memorable quote I heard that evening came from R. L. Stine. He told the group that a lady in the lobby had said to him, "You look like R. L. Stine--no offense."

The next day we flew home--in my case older, poorer, and Edgarless but truly grateful to have been allowed to come to the festivities at all. It was my first time in NYC in years and the very first time Carolyn and I had been there together, and we'd had a wonderful stay in the company of talented and interesting people. I owe heartfelt thanks to the good folks at the Strand; to any of you who might've read and enjoyed my nominated story; and certainly to anyone who might've been involved in choosing my story, out of so many worthy contenders, to be one of the finalists.

Maybe next year . . .