Showing posts with label Three Strikes--You're Dead!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Three Strikes--You're Dead!. Show all posts

07 May 2024

Three Strikes--You're Dead!

I have a bad cold, so my good friend and fellow editor Donna Andrews has agreed to step in and write today's post. Thank you, and take it away, Donna!

--Barb Goffman

Three Strikes--You’re Dead!
by Donna Andrews

Thank you, SleuthSayers, for giving me a chance to apologize to SJ Rozan, basketball fan extraordinaire. Marcia Talley, Barb Goffman, and I didn’t exactly promise her a hoops story when we recruited her to do the introduction to our sports-themed anthology. But you’d think at least one of our contributors would have been captured by the thrill of a fast-paced court battle, the lure of the layup, the drama of dribbling and dunking. But no.

And now it can be revealed for the first time--I tried, SJ, I really did. I tried so hard to convince at least one of the contributors to revise their story to feature basketball instead of whatever sport they’d chosen instead.

I started with Robin Templeton, who’s always eager to listen to good editorial input. But she reminded me that “Eight Seconds to Live” was about bull-riding, and a dangerous bull being used as a weapon. She very rationally pointed out that basketballs rarely go on murderous rampages, and did we want to lose all her carefully researched rodeo local color? She had a point.

I made the same pitch to Kathryn Prater Bomey, whose “Running Interference” features high school football. Why not high school basketball instead? She reminded me that a marching band also plays a
part in the plot, and when was the last time you saw one of those invading the court between quarters?

Sherry Harris pointed out that while it was perfectly plausible for her hard-working PI to get roped into a coeducational game of ultimate Frisbee while working undercover, basketball teams rarely need to draft spectators from the stands when one of their teammates goes AWOL, so adding hoops to “The Ultimate Bounty Hunter” was a no-go.

I could have made a good pitch to the authors of the three baseball stories in the collection--“hey, we’ve got other baseball stories . . . don’t you want to stand out as the only basketball tale?” But Alan Orloff’s “Murder at Home” features such a unique method of dealing death on the diamond. F. J. Talley’s “Cui Bono” captures so nicely the pressure of a minor leaguer wanting to move up to the majors. And Rosalie Spielman’s “Of Mice and Murdered Men” reminded me of those bygone days when I spent many long summer afternoons watching my nephews’ Little League games. I left them alone. We did call the book Three Strikes--You’re Dead! We needed a good dose of baseball.

I didn’t even ask Sharon Taft to consider changing “Race to the Bottom,” her story about zorbing, which is a sport invented (some say) in the 1980s by England’s Dangerous Sports Club. Alas, when you zorb, you’re traveling inside a giant transparent plastic ball, not bouncing one around a court.

And I knew better than to suggest to Barb Goffman that she have the out-of-shape protagonist of “A Matter of Trust” take up basketball instead of biking. For one thing, basketball isn’t something you can ease into gently to regain fitness. And for another, she’d probably have told me that she knows a little about biking and absolutely nothing about basketball.

Nor did I suggest Maddi Davidson bring “Off the Beaten Trail” indoors, when the whole point of the story was to pit a solitary biathlon competitor in training against danger in a challenging wintry setting.
The same with Smita Harish Jain’s “Run for Your Life,” which sets an ingenious murder plot against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon.

By this time I’d gained a new appreciation for what our contributors had accomplished. Joseph S. Walker’s “And Now, an Inspiring Story of Tragedy Overcome” takes our collective memory of the attack on ice skater Nancy Kerrigan and asks a compelling “what it?” William Ade’s “Punch-Drunk” brings to life the seedy 60s milieu of a world-weary detective and a has-been boxer. Lynne Ewing’s “The Last Lap Goodbye” takes such perfect advantage of the plight of a solitary swimmer practicing late at night at a deserted pool. And Adam Meyer’s “Double Fault,” with its slow, insidious build as two tennis opponents exchange verbal volleys along with balls . . . all our contributors did a wonderful job of weaving murder into their chosen sports.

I gave up. When I was discussing the draft manuscript of Murder with Peacocks with Ruth Cavin, my first editor, she asked me why I’d done something or other that she didn’t like. And after I’d explained that I’d done it to comply with what I thought was one of the unwritten rules of writing a mystery, she said something that lived on in my memory: “Let it be the story it is.”

So I stopped trying to guilt-trip any of our wonderful contributors into adding basketball to their stories. Let them be the stories they are. They’re fine as is. In fact, they’re pretty darned great.

Sorry about that, SJ!

(And thanks again to Lucy Burdette, Dan Hale, and Naomi Hirahara for serving as judges for Three Strikes--You’re Dead!)

You can buy the paperback of this recently released book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher. Ebook version should be available soon.