by Robert Lopresti
Back in December I promised that
when my Black Orchid Novella Award winning story was published, I would
tell you a little bit about how it came to be written. I am delighted
to report that the July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine has arrived, featuring "The Red Envelope," so here goes.
years ago our old friend James Lincoln Warren told me he was writing an
entry for the BONA competition, and asked if I would be one of his
early readers. I was happy to comply and voila, he won.
the cheap joke is that I concluded "if James can do it, it must be
easy," or words to that effect. I had no such illusion. But as a
great fan of Rex Stout and AHMM I thought I had a chance. I
spent most of a sunny day on my PlotCycle, pedaling around town and
trying to think of a setting that would carry a 15- to 20,000 word piece
of fiction. In short, what did I know enough about to discuss, even in
fictional terms, for that long?
Didn't want to go there. Archaeology? A passion, but I'm no expert.
Folk music? Already wrote a novel about that.
say... That aforementioned novel was set in Greenwich Village, 1963.
What if I jumped back a few years to the peak of the Beat movement? My
detective could be a beat poet. And the inevitable
gather-all-the-suspects-and reveal-the-killer scene could be done as
improvised beat poetry!
As the old saying goes,
it's so crazy it just might work. And since the rules for the contest
say "There needs to be some wit," crazy might be a real advantage.
To find out how I named the novella's characters you will have to look at the article I wrote for the Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine website, Trace Evidence.
I want to tell you about two things that I pulled from my memory to add
to the plot. One was an anecdote I read in one of those "Humor in
Real Life" columns from Reader's Digest back in the 1960s, about a
young woman introducing her date to her father. The other was
something I learned while working on a non-fiction book about the
Pacific Northwest. How do they fit into a story about 1958 New York? I
can't tell you without spoiling the plot.
Which I sincerely hope you read. Otherwise, what was all this for?
15 May 2013
05 December 2012
Last week I mentioned that the Wolfe Pack was having their annual Black Orchid Banquet on Saturday in New York City. One of the highlights of that event is always the announcement of the Black Orchid Novella Award. Last year the winner was James Lincoln Warren and we published his acceptance speech here.
This year the winner happened to be, well, me. "The Red Envelope" will be published in the July/August 2013 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. My acceptance speech is below.
I grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, back when the city had a lovely old Carnegie Library. But there was a problem: by the fifth grade I had used up the children's room, wrung it dry of everything I wanted to read. And that was a problem because children were not allowed in the adult section.
So I would make guerilla raids down the narrow book-lined hallways that led to the cathedral-ceilinged main reading room, keenly aware that if I were caught the librarians would banish me back into exile with Dr. Seuss and Mary Poppins.
I quickly figured out that the best place to hide was the area directly behind the reference desk, because the librarians there seldom turned around. That happened to be the mystery section.
And so it happened that among the first adult books I read were The Mother Hunt and Gambit. Of course over the years I read all of the Rex Stout corpus. And reread it.
The results was that I became a lifelong mystery reader and a mystery writer as well. Which brings us to tonight. So I would like to start by thanking Rex Stout, without whom, as they say.
And I want to thank the library staff in Plainfield, New Jersey. I don't hold a grudge, you see. I even became a librarian myself.
I want to thank the Wolfe Pack, and especially the awards committee, which has shown such excellent taste.
And my favorite editor, Linda Landrigan of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Linda, I believe three of my stories are waiting in your slushpile.
Also, the librarians and staff of Western Washington University, where I did my research. "The Red Envelope" is set in Greenwich Village in 1958, so there was a lot to check up on.
I need to thank my first readers, last year's winner James Lincoln Warren, and R.T. Lawton. Who knows? Maybe he will be next year's winner. Couldn't have done it without you guys.
Finally there's my wife, Terri Weiner, who puts up with my work even though she really prefers science fiction. Thanks, honey.
And to all the rest of you, please keep reading mysteries.