A rare late night of bar testing has left my day free; I am going to go to the gym, do some cleaning, and maybe even some writing before I head into the office. We’ll see how it goes, shan’t we?
I am still reading Nadine Nettman’s Uncorking a Lie, and am really enjoying it thus far. I have to say, one of the most interesting thing (to me) about this year’s Anthony nominees for Best Paperback Original is how different all the books are–something I will talk about more when I’ve finished reading them all. (I am also making notes of questions to ask each writer as I read their books; best way to prep for moderating a panel!)
Next up for The Short Story Project is the next story in Florida Happens, which happens to be “There’s an Alligator in My Purse” by Paul D. Marks.
“She makes a beautiful corpse, doesn’t she?”
“You just kill me.”
“No, I just killed her.”
“You know what they say, live fast, die young and leave a good lookin’ corpse.”
“Or at least a dead one,” I said, with a wink.
I’m a pro. I like to do a competent job. I like to have my marks look presentable, both for themselves and for my clients. It’s good for word of mouth and getting killed is hard enough, on both the mark and their family, so at least they should leave a suitable lasting impression.
I also take a lot of pictures. Much easier in these digital days. Back in the day, it was hard to take pictures of dead bodies to your local photo store to get developed—some of them even called the cops. And I like to add a little art to my work. Give the client a little something extra for their money, so I try to shoot from interesting angles, in low key light, like in an old film noir. I find it works on two levels. It gives me satisfaction and, of course, it gives my clients some kind of closure.
Let me fill you in on some of what led us here. Someone has to tell the story and it might as well be me. I’m probably the only one who can see the big picture. True, I wasn’t there for everything, but I was there for enough of it and I heard about the rest from first person sources. How much of it you should trust, well, that’s another story. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I like to think I’m a pretty reliable source. So, this is the tale as best I know it.
Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-winning mystery-thriller White Heat, which Publishers Weekly calls a “taut crime yarn,” and its sequel Broken Windows (dropping 9/10/18). Publisher’s Weekly says: “Fans of downbeat PI fiction will be satisfied…with Shamus Award winner Marks’s solid sequel to… White Heat.” Though set in the 1990s, both novels deal with issues that are hot and relevant today: racism and immigration, respectively. His short stories appear in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines, among others, and have won or been nominated for many awards, including the Anthony, Derringer and Macavity. His story “Windward,” has been selected for the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, edited by Louise Penny & Otto Penzler, and has also been nominated for both a 2018 Shamus Award and Macavity Award for Best Short Story. “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. He is co-editor of the multi-award nominated anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea. You can find him on-line at his website, link right here!
When asked about how he came up with his story, he replied:
The genesis of my story, “There’s an Alligator in My Purse,” was inspired by the theme of the Bouchercon anthology, which was originally “Sunny Places, Shady People”. So I wanted plenty o’ sun and plenty o’ shady people. I could have gone one of two ways with the story: a serious noirish mystery, which is more what I’m known for…if I’m known. Or, since people seem to make fun of Florida so much the other choice was humor and satire. I chose the latter. I thought it would be fun to get a little crazy. And though I mostly write serious crime stories, I have done some humorous and satirical stories in the past, so it was time for another shot at that.
I started with the title, which just came to me out of nowhere, as these things often do. I thought it was funny. Okay, funny. Now what? Now I have to build a story around it. And hopefully make the rest of the story have at least a chuckle or two. So I had to figure out who would have an alligator in their purse – yes, there really is one! – and why. I just let my mind wander. And had fun with it. This story was a hell of a lot of fun to write and I hope others enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The story, though he claims otherwise, is both noirish and funny. It’s very clever in the way it takes a classic hard-boiled/noir trope and spins it on its head, while turning it inside out at the same time. It’s also kind of written like a film; there are quick cuts between scenes, so the story flows in a cinematic way, which was a lot of fun. I greatly enjoyed this story–and have enjoyed Paul’s work in the past as well (we were both nominated for the 2017 Macavity for Short Story, which gave me the occasion to read his “Ghosts of Bunker Hill”, which is quite marvelous), and I am looking forward to reading his novel White Heat when it works its way up in my TBR pile.
And now, back to the spice mines.