All 4 Love

So, yes, it’s my birthday. I took the day off from work and am staying home for the most part. But I do have to go to Costco AND the grocery store today; living large, right? This might be my wildest birthday ever! (Sarcasm.)

I mean, do I know how to celebrate a birthday or what?

But this is the fifty-seventh, and I wasn’t really raised to be overly sentimental about birthdays; I’ve never really made a big deal out of mine, and now all it really is, is simply an excuse to take a day off from the office. I didn’t get nearly as much done this weekend as I would have liked; yesterday was lovely–I don’t think I went outside even once, which to me is of course a lovely lovely day.

I really  do want to become a recluse. I remember someone asked me on a panel once to describe what my dream success would be, and I replied, to make enough money to  not only not have to have a day job but to be able to pay someone to run my errands for me so I’d only have to leave the house to go to the gym.

Is that really so much to ask? Apparently. Ah, well.

I hope to do some writing today as well. We shall see how that goes.

Next up in Florida Happens is Neil Plakcy’s “Southernmost Point.”

Neil S. Plakcy is a U.S. writer whose works range from mystery to romance to anthologies and collections of gay erotica. He has twice been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men’s Mystery Novel.

Plakcy began his professional publishing career with the first of his Hawaiian mysteries, Mahu, acquired and edited for Haworth Press by mystery author Greg Herren. With the second book in the series, Mahu Surfer, Plakcy moved to Alyson Books, which continued the series with Mahu Fire and Mahu Vice, and published their own edition of Mahu in 2009. After the close of Alyson, MLR Books picked up the series, publishing new editions of the first three and then continuing the series.

Plakcy and long-time friend Sharon Sakson co-edited a collection of stories by gay men about their experiences with their dogs, entitled Paws and Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog. A frequent contributor to gay anthologies, Plakcy has also edited numerous collections of gay erotica.

With the publication of GayLife.com in 2009, Plakcy entered the M/M romance genre, basing the book on his own experiences in software and web development and his familiarity with Miami Beach.

Plakcy has been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award three times: twice in gay mystery, and once in gay romance. He won the “Hawaii Five-O” award given by attendees at the Left Coast Crime fan conference and his work has been enthusiastically reviewed by mainstream and specialty publications as well as by many fans.

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It started with a selfie, and the drag queen who photo-bombed my boyfriend Lester and me.

Lester represents single-batch whiskeys, based out of Fort Lauderdale, where we both live. His region extends all the way to Key West, and one weekend in January he had a couple of promotions set up at bars on Duval Street, in the center of the entertainment district. I had a couple of days’ vacation coming to me from the FBI, where I work as a Special Agent attached to the Violent Crimes Task Force, so I took them and went along for the ride.

And a beautiful ride it was, once we ran out of highway, then cleared the urban congestion of Key Largo. All of a sudden there was water on both sides of the road, the dark blue-green of the Atlantic to our left, the lighter green of the Gulf of Mexico to the right. The long emptiness of the Seven Mile Bridge was liberating, even with the skeleton of the old railroad bridge beside us.

We made it to Key West late on Sunday afternoon, and after we checked into a bed-and-breakfast on Duval Street, we rented bikes and cycled over to the Southernmost Point, a big marker striped in yellow, orange and black that indicated we’d reached as far as you can go on the US mainland.

“Imagine living down here,” Lester said. “Only ninety miles to Cuba, and nearly twice that back to Miami.”

“I think there’s a kind of person who likes to live at the edge,” I said. “So far from everything else. Like you can leave all the troubles you had wherever behind you and kick back with a margarita and a pair of flip-flops.”

“Thank you, Jimmy Buffett,” Lester said. “Come on, let’s get a picture of us with the marker in the background.”

This is a fun, suspenseful tale about, interestingly enough, what happens when you get photobombed by a stranger and post the picture on social media; a sly commentary, really, about how social media has reduced the size of the world and shows us, sometimes daily, how many degrees of separation we really are all from each other–which isn’t as separated as one might think. Neil does a deft job of keeping the action moving, as well as developing his vacationing gay male couple with just a few quick lines here and there, and their relationship as well through the couple-dialogue speak they share. It’s a fun story, with lots of Key West color, and I’m very glad to have it in the book.

And now, off to the spice mines.

Under the Bridge

 Sunday morning, and I must confess that other than doing the errands and some slight cleaning yesterday, I fear the day was mostly a bust for getting things done. But that’s fine; I am off today and tomorrow as well–tomorrow should include both the gym and a Costco run–and I intend to get a lot of writing done today. The kitchen and living room are still in need of some straightening as well, and I assume that I shall get to that as I pass the day. I was thinking about going to the gym this morning, but I think I shall go tomorrow instead, and then have a Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout schedule to try to stick to; with perhaps going in on the weekends simply to stretch and do cardio. I have now discovered a new show to watch for cardio–The Musketeers, and there’s at least three seasons, I believe–which will makes things ever so much easier. I certainly did a lot of cardio while I was watching and enjoying Black Sails, so The Musketeers might just do the trick. (I had high hopes for Netflix’ Troy: The Fall of a City, but it was so boring I had to give up. HOW DO YOU MAKE THE TROJAN WAR BORING?)

While I was goofing off yesterday and watching things on Amazon/Netflix/Hulu/Youtube–yes, I know–I was also reading through Bertrand Russell’s brilliant and informative The History of Western Philosophy, and I came across this:

The last dynastic pope was Benedict IX, elected in 1032, and said to have been only twelve years old at the time. He was the son of Alberic of Tusculum, whom we have already met in connection with Abbot Odo. As he grew older, he became more and more debauched, and shocked even the Romans. At last his wickedness reached such a pitch that he decided to resign the papacy in order to marry. He sold it to his godfather, who became Gregory VI.

I do find it interesting that Russell chose to word it that way: that the height of his wickedness was his decision to resign and marry.

This led me into an Internet wormhole, looking up Benedict IX, the dynastic papacy, and the Tusculan popes. As you know, Constant Reader, history always has fascinated me; I would love one day to write historical fiction, as there are so many historical figures that fascinate me, from Catherine de Medici to Cardinal Richelieu to the Byzantine empress Irene to now, Benedict IX; and the century before him, where a woman named Marozia had enormous influence not only over the papacy but on who was elected pope (Marozia, in fact, founded the dynasty of popes called the Tusculans; which concluded with Benedict.) The Fourth Crusade, which wound up sacking Constantinople, also interests me, as do the histories of Venice and Constantinople.

And one can never go wrong with the Borgias and the Medici.

Anyway, one of the debaucheries of Benedict IX was sodomy, and it appears that the historical record holds that he was homosexual; how can I not be fascinated by a gay Pope, the way I am interested in Louis XIV’s gay brother Philippe duc d’Orleans?

So, of course I am making notes for a historical fiction novel called Benedictine, the tale of the gay pope.

Am I nothing if not predictable.

Next up in Florida Happens is Eleanor Cawood Jones’ “All Accounted For at the Hooray for Hollywood Motel”.

Eleanor Cawood Jones began her writing career in elementary school, using a #2 pencil to craft short stories based around the imaginary lives of her stuffed animal collection. While in college at Virginia Tech, she got her first paid writing job as a reporter with the Kingsport Times-News in Kingsport, Tenn., and never looked back. Eleanor now lives in Northern Virginia and is a marketing director and freelance copywriter while working on more stories as well as her upcoming mystery novel series. She’s an avid reader, people watcher, traveler, political news junkie, and remodeling show addict. She spends her spare time telling people how to pronounce Cawood (Kay’-wood).

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Mona, lingering over a third cup of coffee, flipped through her collection of vintage postcards while the all-consuming sound of crunching cereal across the table grated increasingly on her nerves.

She took a sip of lukewarm coffee, gritted her teeth, and reminded herself of her husband’s many good qualities—of which turning mealtime into crunchtime was not one. Things were easier when she had to dash off her to accounting job. In those days, there was never time for another cup of coffee, much less prolonged crunching noises.

“Rodney!”

Rodney looked up from the Racing Times. “Mmmm?” At least he wasn’t speaking with his mouth full.

“I wonder if this hotel is still around?” She held up a ’50s postcard with a modestly clad bathing beauty posing in front of a diamond-shaped, brightly painted sign advertising the Hooray for Hollywood Motel. In the photo, an appealing, pink-painted building featuring a bright blue swimming pool practically beckoned vacationers. A single story structure in a horseshoe shape provided easy access to drive in and unload luggage. The fine print mentioned another pool in the back of the motel as well, as well as an onsite restaurant. Nothing about ocean front, but Mona knew the area well enough to know the motel would be right between the coastal road A1A and highway 95 in the heart of Hollywood, Florida.

Rodney perked up. “Alexa, phone number for Hooray for Hollywood Motel in Hollywood, Florida.”

Mona shuddered, once again, at having to share her vintage, mid-century kitchen with Alexa the interloper. But Rodney had retired two years before her and had spent his spare time acquiring gadgets, of which this conversational internet talkie was the latest.

This charming little story tells the tale of Mona and Rodney, a retired couple from Ohio who impulsively decide to take a trip to Florida, based on finding an old postcard. They’d honeymooned in Florida years earlier, and now that they’re retired, why not? But once they arrive at the vintage old motel, Mona finds herself helping out the crotchety owner, and soon Mona and Rodney are helping revitalize and bring the old motel back to life…until one morning they find the owner floating in the swimming pool.

And then things get interesting.

Very pleased to have this charming tale in Florida Happens, and now I must get back to the spice mines.

My Loving (No You’re Never Gonna Get It)

Saturday morning, and I am feeling rested and relaxed as I sit here by my windows with my second cup of coffee. It looks very still outside, and there’s no condensation on the glass, so I tend to think (wishfully) that it may not be that humid outside. Of course it’s wishful thinking; when I run to the post office and the grocery store later this morning I will no doubt be slapped in the face by the hot damp.

Hurray?

I didn’t get as much cleaning done yesterday as I would have liked, so I am going to try to focus on getting that done today as well as some short story work. I may even continue my voyage through Royal Street Reveillon, making notes and figuring out how to straighten up and tighten that whole mess.

And I’d love to spend some quality time with James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone today. Bouchercon is looming on the horizon, and I have to finish it and one more before I am finished with my Bouchercon homework.

So, once I am finished here, it’s time to make a to-do list for the day and get a move on.

I may even make it to the gym today–I know, right? Madness.

Next up in Florida Happens is “The Unidentifieds”, by J. D. Allen.

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J.D. Allen’s Sin City Investigations series launched with 19 Souls earlier this year. She is a Mystery Writers of America Freddie Award-winner. She has short stories in the Anthony Award-winning anthology, Murder under the Oaks as well as Carolina Crimes: 20 Tales of Need, Greed, and Dirty Deeds. She’s the chair of the Bouchercon National Board, a member of MWA, PI Writer’s of America, and president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She’s an Ohio State Univ. Alum with a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor.

J. D. says: I attended The Ohio State University and earned a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor.

Writing Mysteries was not my first career or my second.

Life’s journey meanders.

I feel it’s never too late to reach for the brass ring. With the publication of the Sin City Investigation Series, my dreams of publishing gritty mysteries have been realized.

I believe in giving back to the writing community that has supported me through the years. I’m a member of the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention National board and president of the Triangle Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I speak on the basics of crime scene investigation, voice, and public speaking.

And here’s the opening to her story:

~Saturday 2 p.m. – The Funeral

For Jim, a funeral was about as appealing as removing his own appendix.  Two funerals in as many weeks had him planning a stop at the liquor store on the way home and a look at his choice of occupation. Jim Bean squinted as the Vegas sun reflected off his cousin’s silver casket. Jim had picked it out the coffin and planned the service. With the recent experiences, he’d learned obituaries should be 75 words, and lives could shatter in a moment.

He now stood over the proceedings. He fought Vegas sweat and tears as Alexis’s casket thumped to the bottom of the rectangular gave. She was the only person left from his old life he still called family. The girl in that box had been shot in the chest and burned to cover the identity of her remains.

Jim glared across the casket as the words meant to soothe and heal drifted over to the deceased. He hoped they helped her.

Andrew Zant stood opposite that death divide. His dark glasses and darker suit complemented the smirk on his pale, pointy face. Jim read victory in that smug look. Maybe it didn’t show his eyes, but it was displayed in his presence. Jim wasn’t surprised to see someone from his organization here to confirm the death. The shock was Zant showed up in person. He even let himself be photographed on the way to the graveside service.

A hum of rage and hostility was ready to bust from Jim’s chest as he openly stared at the Vegas tycoon. The man thought himself superior. Thought he’d gotten away with it.

He thought wrong.

Excellent opening, no?

The main character, Jim Bean, is a private eye in Las Vegas, whose cousin Alexis has become involved with a very dangerous and powerful man–and needs to get away from him, with Jim’s help. So they devise an elaborate ruse. Will they get away with it? Allen carefully builds the suspense to the inevitable yet still surprising ending. Great fun, and terrific suspense. I do look forward to reading more of her work.

And, since my errands flatly refuse to run themselves, I am off to the spice mines.

Tears in Heaven

Friday, and this slightly odd, off-kilter week is finally coming to an end.

 I slept deeply and well last night, but am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Because of the flea situation, I spent most of yesterday laundering things and cleaning and vacuuming, so the weekend’s chores are already finished before the weekend rolls around, which is absolutely lovely; and also means that, if I am feeling ambitious, I can do more advanced cleaning; i.e. the cleaning I never get to because I only have time for a surface clean–so baseboards, cabinets, ceiling fans, etc–can be gotten to this weekend.

I am still revising “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” which I hope to read aloud this weekend and thus be finally finished with the story. I am pleased with how the revision is going; how the story and the character are taking shape on my computer screen; we shall see how it turns out. I also want to finish a strong revision/read-aloud of “This Thing of Darkness,” and I also want to work on “Please Die Soon” and maybe even get back to “Never Kiss a Stranger” this weekend. “Never Kiss a Stranger” is longer; it’s going to end up as a Kindle single, which is the entire point of writing it, and it’s terribly freeing to not have that word limit that limit short stories. I am also working my way through the manuscript of Royal Street Reveillon, and may even get to work on inputting edits and revisions and changes this weekend.

We shall see.

Next up in Florida Happens is a lovely story called “Muscle Memory,” by Angel Luis Colon.

Angel Luis Colón is a Derringer and Anthony Award shortlisted author. His published works include the titles: Pull & Pray,  No Happy Endings, the BLACKY JAGUAR series of novellas, the short story anthology; Meat City on Fire (And Other Assorted Debacles), and the upcoming Hell Chose Me(2019).

His short fiction has appeared in multiple web and print publications including Thuglit, Literary Orphans, and Great Jones Street. He also hosts the podcast, the bastard title.

Keep up with him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife

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You don’t like it.” Katie gives me this look I’d swear her mother used to give me whenever I lied but it’s been so many years that a passing glance could evoke the same memory.

Got a laundry list of reasons why I don’t like it here but I keep my mouth shut. I’m sitting on a bed that reeks of old piss and medicine—room’s about the size of a nice bathroom, so it makes sense. Better than a jail cell but not much better. I don’t feel this old. I don’t like Florida.

Single window behind me with faded curtains. Laminate floor. Don’t think there’s a word for the color but if depression had a color, this floor would suffice. Wood panel walls. Framed photographs of people I love without me in them. I shift on the bed. Back hurts. Knees hurt. Head hurts. All the pills I take and not a one seems to dull things enough for me to focus.

I raise a hand and find myself wondering if I always so slow or if my perception’s fucked from the new pills. “It’s fine,” I slur, “Besides, this is where I sleep. They got a bunch of tables and shit out there where I can occupy myself.”

Katie frowns. “I tried to find a spot at the nicer place a few miles up the highway, you know, by the girls’ school. They—”

“Muscle Memory” is, as I said, a lovely story that deals with several issues, but never in a preachy way. The main character is Sean Clarke, a former criminal who did some time for manslaughter, whose wife is dead and is now reaching the end of his life. His daughter Katie has found a senior facility for him to live in, where he befriends an old gay man named Manny and he spends times missing his daughter and granddaughters and wishing life had turned out better for him–but there’s a weary acceptance there. Something is going on with Manny, and Sean is the only one who can do anything about it–or thinks he is. Poignant and sad without crossing into sappy sentimentalism, Colon captures Sean’s voice perfectly. I’d actually like to read more about him, to be honest.

And now back to the spice mines.

Save the Best for Last

Thursday!

My Bouchercon homework continues, with me now reading James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone. I am very excited to read this; I’ve heard nothing but great things about his books, plus he’s a pretty good guy. I had bought the first in his series–still in the TBR pile, alas–so am kind of glad that this book became a homework assignment. I am really enjoying it thus far, and if it’s going where I think it may be going–well, that would be awesome, but I am sure I am going to love it even if it doesn’t.

I started watching the BBC series The Musketeers on Hulu this evening. I did a half-day today; one of my co-workers and I tested at a conference at the Riverside Hilton for four hours, after which I walked home on an afternoon in August. Heavy sigh. Any way, ’tis a good thing I did work only half-a-day, because alas we are having to clean everything in the house because Scooter had a couple of fleas. His medication is working–the fleas we’ve found were dying or dead–but it’s August and we live in a swamp, and so while there have been no signs of infestation thus far, we aren’t going to take the risk. So I’ve been cleaning all day ever since I got home; taking breaks now and then to watch something on the television, and having it on as I launder things and vacuum things and well, it needed to be done, didn’t it?

That’s a rather tired and round about way of getting to the point, isn’t it? Long story short: I’ve always been a big fan of The Three Musketeers, ever since I was a kid, and I’ve been meaning to watch this BBC series for years…but kept forgetting about it. Someone posted somewhere on Facebook last night asking people to name their favorite d’Artagnan, and as I always do, whenever I get the chance, I replied Always Michael York. Always. But someone else posted a picture of the young actor who plays him in the television series and I thought, yes, I’d been meaning to watch that, hadn’t I? So I watched a couple of episodes as I cleaned–and am intrigued. More watching is most definitely called for.

Next up in Florida Happens is “A Postcard for the Dead”, by Susanna Calkins.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives outside Chicago with her husband and two sons. Holding a PhD in history, Susanna writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries as well as the forthcoming Speakeasy Murders, both from St. Martin’s Minotaur. Murder Knocks Twice, set in Prohibition-Era Chicago, will be out Spring 2019. Her first short story, “The Trial of Madame Pelletier,” featuring a 19th century poisoning case, is up for an Anthony Award (and can be read on her website at www.susannacalkins.com).

Susanna says: “A POSTCARD FOR THE DEAD” is my second published short story. When I saw the call for the Bouchercon anthology, on a whim I began to read through 1920s Florida newspapers, since I was already researching the Roaring Twenties for my Prohibition-Era novels. There, I stumbled across the rather odd story of Lena Clarke, a postmistress who had embezzled huge amounts of money from the Post Office and then framed a local playboy for the crime. What struck me most about this story was how Lena gave her testimony in court using a crystal ball, having been part of a wild West Palm Beach Bohemian set, before being declared insane. Although I altered the case substantially in my version, I retained the embezzlement aspect and of course the crystal ball. After a little more digging, l discovered that Lena’s brother had died of a snakebite, which just seemed too Florida of a detail not too include. I thought about setting the story in a courtroom, but given that my FIRST short story, “The Trial of Madame Pelletier” featured, well, a trial, I thought I’d better frame it a little differently.

Calkins author photo outside

West Palm Beach, Florida

July 1921

Lily Baker peered inside her mailbox before reaching in to retrieve her mail. Back when her half-brother had been West Palm Beach’s postmaster, he had delighted in leaving snakes in mailboxes as pranks. Of course, the last laugh had been on him, when he had died of a snake bite last Christmas.

There was only one piece of mail today, though—a postcard featuring a swanky hotel in Orlando, a city she’d never been. She turned it over to read the message but was surprised to find it blank. Only her name and address had been printed on the postcard, in careful block letters.

Curiously, she studied the card. The stamp had been cancelled in Orlando two days before. July 27, 1921. Flipping the card back over, she looked at the picture more closely. The hotel was the San Juan, which the postcard informed her had been built in 1885 by C.E. Pierce. Built for the filthy rich, from the looks of it.

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Lily was still by her mailbox when she saw Officer Danny Jamison coming down the street on his bicycle.  She had known Officer Jamison since they were kids—he’d been just one year ahead of her in school. After high school they’d gone in different directions, although on occasion their paths crossed. She was about to wave as he passed by, when instead he stopped in front of her and dismounted his bike in one easy move.

“Hey Lily,” he said, leaning his bike against her palm tree. “Your sister around?”

Lily shifted from one foot to the other. Why was Danny asking after Junie? Though she and her older half-sister had lived together since their parents had passed away a few years before, Junie tended to be tight-lipped about her goings-on. But Lily would catch whispers about illicit gin, late night séances, Ouija parties, and other secret doings connected with West Palm Beach’s furtive Bohemian scene. A far cry from her day job heading the town’s Post Office, which Junie had taken over from their brother some eight months before.  “She must have left for work early,” Lily said.  “I didn’t see her this morning.”

“I see. But you saw her last night?”

Great beginning, right? It’s a terrific story, but what I think I enjoyed the most about it was the narrator’s voice; I really liked the character of Lily, how Calkins gradually let us into Lily’s life, and through character, built a very clever crime story.

Baby-Baby-Baby

John D. MacDonald is one of my favorite authors. Period.

I first read MacDonald when I was about thirteen: The Dreadful Lemon Sky. I didn’t care too much for it on my first read; I was coming off reading Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and Erle Stanley Gardner and Charlotte Armstrong, and was deep into my Victoria Holt/Phyllis Whitney phase, so I was confused–this isn’t a mystery at all, I remember thinking as I read it…and ironically, it was this enormous disappointment that led to me moving away from reading mystery/crime novels for a very long time.

When I was about sixteen, I bought a couple of ratty old MacDonald paperbacks for a dime each at a flea market: Murder in the Wind, The Crossroads, and The Drowner. These were three of his stand-alones from his pulp days, before he started writing the Travis McGee series, and I loved all three of them. This was my first experience with pulp fiction/noir; it was shortly after this that I went on my James M. Cain kick, and slowly came to an appreciation of the less-traditional style  of  crime novel. Years later, when Grafton, Muller and Paretsky brought me back into reading crime, I remembered how much I’d enjoyed those pulpy MacDonalds and decided to give Travis McGee another try. I bought another copy of The Dreadful Lemon Sky, and this time, the character caught on with me–and soon I was tearing through the entire series. The earlier MacDonald novels had all mostly gone out of print, but he periodically was still writing stand-alones; still dark and twisty and noir and pulpy, but these novels had more heft–Condominium, One More Sunday, Barrier Island–and I think those later three don’t get the credit they deserve.

In the last few years I’ve been acquiring used copies of those old MacDonald pulp stand-alones–and while they are dated, they are still compelling reads. And yes, as I have said before, Chanse MacLeod owes a lot to Travis McGee.

So, you can IMAGINE my thrill that the MacDonald Estate allowed me to reprint one of his stories in Florida Happens.

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From his website: This website is devoted to John D. MacDonald, author of 78 books, including the famous Travis McGee series.  JDM is well-known in mystery fiction writing, especially for his books with Florida as a setting.  Most of the current Florida mystery writers acknowledge JDM’s impact on their writing.

Born In Sharon, Pa., MacDonald , as a young boy, wished he had been born a writer, believing that they were a separate “race,” marked from birth.  But two years of  writing 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week, in 1945 and 1946, convinced him otherwise.

By the time he died he had published 78 books, with more than 75 million copies in print.

He married Dorothy Prentiss in a secret ceremony in 1937 in Pennsylvania  and a public wedding was held in Poland, N.Y.  in 1938.

He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in business in 1939 and then went to Harvard to work on an MBA. His son, Maynard, was born that year.

He worked at several menial jobs after earning his MBA in 1939.

MacDonald then served in the Army beginning in 1940 at the Rochester N.Y Ordnance station.  He was sent to  India in late 1943, and was accepted in the OSS in late 1944 . He  was sent  to Ceylon  where he was the Commander of Detachment 404.  He was not a spy, however, but served in the Ordnance areas.

He wrote nearly 450 short stories, and published his first novel ,The Brass Cupcake, in 1950 (complete bibliography here) He continues to earn praise from millions of readers and lasting respect from fellow authors. He was given the Grandmaster Award in 1972 by the Mystery Writers of America; the Ben Franklin Award (1955);and was Guest of Honor at Bouchercon in 1983. Numerous other awards and Honorary Doctorates were given to him as well.

Perhaps the greatest testament to his writing, now decades  after his death in 1986, is that his books continue to sell, movies continue to be planned, and the internet continues to serve as a place to discuss his work and related matters.  See the Facebook Busted Flush group.

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The story is “Hangover.”

He dreamed that he had dropped something, lost something of value in the furnace, and he lay on his side trying to look down at an angle through a little hole, look beyond the flame down into the dark guts of the furnace for what he had lost. But the flame kept pulsing through the hole with a brightness that hurt his eyes, with a heat that parched his face, pulsing with an intermittent husky rasping sound.

With his awakening, the dream became painfully explicable—the pulsing roar was his own harsh breathing, the parched feeling was a consuming thirst, the brightness was transmuted into pain intensely localized behind his eyes. When he opened his eyes, a long slant of early morning sun dazzled him, and he shut his eyes quickly again.

This was a morning time of awareness of discomfort so acute that he had no thought for anything beyond the appraisal of the body and its functions. Though he was dimly aware of psychic discomforts that might later exceed the anguish of the flesh, the immediacy of bodily pain localized his attentions. Even without the horizontal brightness of the sun, he would have known it was early. Long sleep would have muffled the beat of the taxed heart to a softened, sedate, and comfortable rhythm. But it was early and the heart knocked sharply with a violence and in a cadence almost hysterical, so that no matter how he turned his head, he could feel it, a tack hammer chipping away at his mortality.

His thirst was monstrous, undiminished by the random nausea that teased at the back of his throat. His hands and feet were cool, yet where his thighs touched he was sweaty. His body felt clotted, and he knew that he had perspired heavily during the evening, an oily perspiration that left an unpleasant residue when it dried. The pain behind his eyes was a slow bulging and shrinking, in contrapuntal rhythm to the clatter of his heart.

He sat on the edge of the bed, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut, cool trembling fingers resting on his bare knees. He felt weak, nauseated, and acutely depressed.

This was the great joke. This was a hangover. Thing of sly wink, of rueful guffaw. This was death in the morning.

Great, terrific writing.

And now I can say I edited an anthology with John D. MacDonald as a contributor.

I may never stop being thrilled.

Jump

Wednesday!

The week is at its halfway point. I am also taking a three day weekend to honor my fifty-seventh birthday (it’s on Monday; there’s still plenty of time to shop for a gift–although cold hard cash is always welcome), and who knows what else I’ll get up to this weekend? We shall see, but if anything I am looking forward to just having three days off from work.

I’ll probably end up cleaning a lot, which is what I always tend to do.

Last night I broke down and took a sleeping pill, so today I feel amazing and rested. I’ll try to sleep tonight again without one.

Next up in the Florida Happens short stories would be Craig Pittman’s “How to Handle a Shovel.”

Per  his website: Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him “the most destructive force on campus.” Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998, he has covered environmental issues for Florida’s largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. He has won the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida four times, and twice won the top investigative reporting award from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Stories he has written for Sarasota magazine have won three first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association.He’s the co-author, with Matthew Waite, of Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, (2009), which won the Stetson Kennedy Award from the Florida Historical Society. His second book was Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida’s Most Famous Endangered Species (2010), which the Florida Humanities Council named one of 21 “essential” books for Floridians. His latest book The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World’s Most Beautiful Orchid, was just published. His latest book, Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, hit stores in July 2016.

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The green Ford pickup truck jounced along the washboard road, a cloud of dust swirling in its wake. The radio was on. Carrie Underwood faded in and out of the static like she was about to disappear.

Billy, the skinny kid sitting in the passenger seat, peered over his shoulder into the bed of the truck to check on their load. As the truck rumbled on, the twelve gopher tortoises were all of bouncing around in their shells and probably wondering what the hell happened to them.

The driver, a heavyset man everybody called J.T., noticed what Billy was doing and smiled to himself.

“It ain’t fair,” Billy said, turning back around.

A sunburn blossomed on Billy’s cheeks. The wind from the open truck window plucked at his straw-colored hair. Sweat had bled through his  T-shirt, and globs of dirt stuck to his ragged sneakers and the sweaty parts of his shirt and faded jeans. It even adhered in spots to the sweat that had run down his face, creating splotches of salty mud.

“What ain’t fair?” asked J.T. He wore a sweat-stained camo cap pulled down low his bald head. His short-sleeve shirt strained at its buttons. It had once been dark blue but it had faded until it matched the sky. J.T. kept the shirt tail untucked to accommodate his bulk, and now it lay across his lap like a table cloth, parted in the middle for the spit cup he held between his meaty thighs. J.T.’s graying beard started around his earlobes and hung down to his belly like a pennant, and around one side of his mouth were a few stray flecks of tobacco. He kept his sun-baked elbow leaning on the truck window, steering with two fingers on his left hand. With his right, he grabbed the cup and held it up so he could spit a stream of brown juice into it, still keeping his eyes on the road. Then he shoved the cup back where it had been.

“What ain’t fair is how I’m doin’ all the work and takin’ all the risk, and you keep about all the money, that’s what,” Billy said. He knew he sounded like a whiner. He didn’t care. He was just trying one more time to persuade J.T. to hand over his money before he was forced to off the fat man.

This is a fun dark little story about two small-time crooks–redneck Floridians, which are a breed apart from other rednecks–poaching gopher turtles and the rise of conflict between them; a charming if grim little tale. Craig gets both characters pitch-perfect, and the voice is also terrific. I read his Oh, Florida book and loved it; full of insights about Florida and how the crazy state came to be the way it is, it also brought back a lot of my own memories about summers in Florida when I was a kid–back in the 1970s, before it turned into the beachfront condo hell it is now.

And now, back to the spice mines.