Tender Love

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed this year about this year’s Bouchercon anthology (Florida Happens) is that three of this year’s contributors (Hilary Davidson, Barb Goffman, and Susanna Calkins) are also finalists for the Anthony in the Short Story category. (I am hoping to find the time to read the stories and talk about them on here as well; along with my on-going talking about the nominees for Best Original Paperback and the stories in Florida Happens.) Not a bad pedigree for my anthology, wouldn’t you say?

Next up in terms of our short stories in Florida Happens is Hilary Davidson’s “Mr. Bones.”

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Hilary’s bio reads:

Award-winning novelist and travel writer Hilary Davidson got her start in journalism in 1995, when she moved to New York for five months to intern at Harper’s Magazine. Afterwards, Hilary joined the staff of Canadian Living magazine in Toronto as a copy editor. Her first freelance article, “Death Takes a Holiday” — about a New Orleans cemetery — was published by The Globe & Mail. She left her day job to write full-time in June 1998. She went on to write 18 nonfiction books (17 of them for Frommer’s Travel Guides) and articles for wide array of publications including Discover, Martha Stewart Weddings, American Archaeology, Chatelaine, and CNN Travel.

Hilary’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The book was also a finalist for a Macavity Award and an Arthur Ellis Award. The novel’s main character, Lily Moore, is, like Hilary, a travel writer. While their personal lives have little in common, they do share a few things, such as a love of vintage clothing, classic Hollywood movies, and Art Deco design. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises. Hilary’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014 and released as a trade paperback in March 2015. Her next novel is One Small Sacrifice, which will be published by Thomas & Mercer in spring 2019.

Her short fiction has won the Derringer Award, the Spinetingler Award, and two Readers’ Choice Awards from Ellery Queen. Hilary’s story “The Siege” was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Short Story. Her stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, Crimespree, All Due Respect, Crime Factory, Spinetingler, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. Her work is featured in many anthologies, including Beat to a Pulp: Round One and Round TwoCrimefactory: First ShiftThuglit Presents: Blood Guts, & WhiskeyPulp InkD*CKED; and Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

Hilary has served as an At-Large Director on the National Board of the Mystery Writers of America from January 2012 to January 2016. She has previously served on the Mystery Writers of America’s New York Board as well.

Pretty impressive, eh? Not mentioned in the above is her collection of short stories, The Black Widows Club, which you can buy here. I have it, and I need to get back to it; the stories I’ve read are pretty awesome.

You can visit her website here.

And so, without further ado, is the opening of her contribution to Florida Happens, “Mr. Bones.”

I’d be the first to admit that Mr. Bones wasn’t going to win any prizes for Pet of the Year. He was a pugnacious alley cat with mouse breath and an anger-management problem, but I loved him. So when I got home from a three-day dermatology conference in New York and discovered he was missing, I was devastated.

“Tell me exactly what happened,” I pleaded with my boyfriend.

“Nothing happened. Your cat just hasn’t come home,” Andrew said.

We were standing in the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but turn and look at the door to the backyard. Mr. Bones’ three bowls were there — dry food, wet food, and water — and they were all full.

“He didn’t eat anything today?” I asked. “Was he sick?”

 “Come on, Monica. There’s always something wrong with that cat.”

“What time did he go out this morning?”

 “I don’t know. It was early. He woke me with his screaming to get outside.”

“Are you okay?” I asked him.

“What do you mean?”

 “Your hand is bandaged up.”

 “Oh, that’s nothing,” he said. “I was cutting an avocado. Should’ve known not to try that without you around.” He gave me a sweet smile, which made him look even more like Tom Hiddleston than usual. “I picked up takeout from Moe’s for dinner. I know you love their Southwest Salad with tofu.”

Andrew and I had been living together for almost six months, and it was going well. But I was too wound up about Mr. Bones to think about eating. “Thanks, but I need to look for Mr. Bones. He’s probably sulking right now.”

I stepped outside onto the patio behind the house. “Honey, I’m home!” I called out. Something rustled in the warm stillness of the night, but my cat didn’t come running. If he heard me, he would have, because he was more like a dog in that way. I called for him and waited.

Andrew rapped on the storm door. “Come on, Monica. He’ll be back when he’s ready.”

Oh, pets.

We love our little furry buddies, don’t we? And losing them is always heartbreaking; something you never get over but just learn to live with. (I still get sad remembering my childhood dog, or our previous cat, Skittle, whom we lost eight years ago.)  The bond between pet and owner is always powerful. I’ve never written a story about a pet–not sure why that is; I just never have. (I gave Scotty and the boys a cat in Garden District Gothic, though.) There are also some great pet short stories by crime writers–“Ming’s Biggest Prey” by Patricia Highsmith and “Less Than a Dog” by Agatha Christie are two particular favorites of mine–and Hilary Davidson’s “Mr. Bones” certainly belongs with those two classic tales. Monica a dermatologist, returns from a convention to find that her cat has gone missing in her absence, and her live-in boyfriend’s antipathy to the situation as she searches the neighborhood for her missing pet is notable–as is the nastiness of the old cat-hating woman who tears down her fliers. So, what happened to Mr. Bones?

And now, back to the spice mines.

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