Go Home

Sunday morning, with lots to do and a long, relaxing day ahead in which to do it all. I woke up relatively early this morning, which was a wonderful and pleasant surprise, and feel rested. I have a short story to work on, a reread of Royal Street Reveillon to get through, and I’d also like to make some progress on my reading of Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon. I cleaned and did errands and read yesterday; along with some note taking on various projects as well as filing. This coming week should be interesting, to say the least; I am doing some testing on Monday and Thursday at the Blacks in Government conference at the Riverside Hilton, which will be a lovely change from my ordinary routine, and I have a three day weekend next weekend in honor of my birthday.

Yes, the old man officially turns fifty-seven next weekend; although I always change my age on New Year’s. After this next New Year’s, I’ll be telling people I’m fifty-eight. Age has never mattered  much to me; for the early portion of my life I was always younger than everyone else around me; later on I was always older than everyone else I hung around with. I learned early on that age is a relative concept.

Yesterday was kind of a lovely day for me. It rained off and on most of the day, and there really is nothing lovelier than being inside and dry while it rains outside, and our rain is do torrential and tropical–so lovely to deal with when you’re inside rather than when you’re actually outside dealing with it. As the bed linens agitated in the washing machine and the wool blankets tumbled dry in the laundry room, I was filing and getting my desk area organized, listening to the rain and looking out my windows to see all the leaves outside glistening and wet, and water cascading out of the rain spout on the house next door when a phrase formed in my head, and I scribbled into my journal, standing up at the kitchen counter: It was one of those lovely summer Saturdays New Orleans gets sometimes in August–where thunderstorms roll through the city all day, the dark clouds creating an artificial twilight at three in the afternoon. Perfect for staying inside and cleaning, the washing and drying and folding of clothes. The cat sleeps lazily in the desk chair, waking up every now and then to groom before curling up again into a tight ball of differentiated ginger stripes.

I may never use that in something I write, be it a short story or a novel, but it’s a nice piece of writing nonetheless. My notebooks and journals are filled with such scraps of writing, of ideas and thoughts and fragments and character descriptions or settings.

And next up in Florida Happens, for the Short Story Project is “The Fakahatchee Goonch” by Jack Bates.

jack bates

Goonch is just another name for a catfish. A really big catfish.  Sometimes it’s called the Devil Fish or Black Demon because it lurks deep down there in the murkiest part of the Fakahatchee Preserve. Bottom feeders mostly. They eat gator leftovers or anything else that might get tossed into the swamps. Back in the mauve and neonMiami Vice days, legend had it the Everglades was a good place to dispose of a problem quick.  People think that’s how the goonch developed a taste for meat.

Of course, the guys who trawl for catfish say those fish are just as apt to eat water weeds and such if the pickings are slim.  Sometimes they feed on their own.  Had some guys drag in twenty to thirty pounders, about three feet long. That ain’t no fish tale.

Neither is this one. The catfish I’m talking about is an eight-man goonch. Know what that is? That’s when eight grown men stand in a line, shoulder to shoulder, and that goonch lays across all of their extended hands from tip to tail. That’s how big the Fakahatchee goonch was said to be. Had a mouth like the gaping orifice of hell, or so I’m told. I ain’t never seen it, but I know it’s there.

There have been nights when I’m frog hunting where the frog croaking will go quiet and the swamp gets real still. Something big enough to rock my aluminum skiff passes through the water. Up ahead in the dark there’ll be a splash and a few ticks off a clock later my skiff will rock a second time except maybe a little more treacherously on the creature’s return pass. and I’ll have to sit down, clutch the sides so I don’t tip out. Only way I know it’s safe to leave is when the frogs start croaking again.

Sometimes though, a frog will puff its chest and blowout its braggadocio regardless of the danger it’s in.

Jack’s bio reads “Jack Bates writes some pretty good crime fiction from the comfort of his loft office. His stories have appeared all around the web, in various anthologies, and in a few magazines. Three have been finalists for the Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He’s also written award-winning scripts for stage and screen including a short-lived web series. An incomplete list of his works can be found on his blog http://flashjab.blogspot.com/.   When not writing, he plots or travels or runs errands or chats it up with other old movie buffs on twitter. He pens the Harry Landers, PI, series for Mind Wings Audio Books. He’s also released several ebooks with Untreed Reads which launched the Hack Ward PI series with Monkey See, Monkey Murder. In 2012, his YA Steampunk novel, Colt Buchanan and the Weather Walkers, was released by Red Willow Press.”

This short story is quite fun, and in the classic mold of slightly off, wacky Florida noir. Set in a dive bar on the west coast of Florida in a nothing town on the edge of a swamp, a stranger walks in with a wad of cash and an air of mystery about him; two tough rednecks are playing pool with their girlfriends when the two men decide to win some of the stranger’s money off him–and things continue to spiral downward from there. It reminded me of John D. Macdonald with maybe a dash of Hiassen thrown in for good measure, and is a very fun and satisfying read; one that I’m glad is in the book.

And now, I have spice to mine.

I’ll Be Over You

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment. I have work to do, errands to run, an apartment to clean, and weights to lift. And rather than getting started on any of it this morning, I am rather sitting in my chair, swilling coffee, and wasting time on the Internet.

Meh, it happens.

Today I am going to spend some time writing, and reading–I want to get further along in Eryk Pruitt’s What We Reckon (#boucherconhomework) and last night I had an absolutely brilliant idea of how to structure that panel. Mwa-ha-ha. The panelists may not think it’s brilliant, but do, and am in charge.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

This is going to be fun.

Next up in the Florida Happens anthology is a story by Debra Lattanzi Shutika. From her website:

“Hello, I’m Debra Lattanzi Shutika, author of Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico (2011, University of California Press), an ethnography that explores the lives of Mexican immigrants and their American neighbors in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and the transformation of their home community in Mexico.  Beyond the Borderlands is the winner of the 2012 Chicago Folklore Prize.

I direct the Field School for Cultural Documentation, a collaborative project with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  The Field School has completed eight community-based documentation projects, including the occupational culture of Arlington National Cemetery, two years in the Columbia Pike neighborhood in Arlington, VA (2011-12) the Alexandria Waterfront (2014), Arlington County Community Gardens in 2016 & 2017. We have also held two residential field schools in West Virginia. One in Morgan County in 2012 and most recently in the West Virginia Coalfields in 2018.

I also write fiction. My short story “Frozen Iguana” will appear in the 2018 Bouchercon anthology Florida Happens, and “Mirrors” appeared in Richard Peabody’s Abundant Grace: The Seventh Collection of Fiction by D.C. Area Women.  I’m revising a novel, The Other Kate, a mystery about postmodern changelings.

My current academic projects include a book-length ethnography about a documentation project with the National Park Service on the 50th Anniversary of Summers in the Parks.

I teach Folklore, ethnographic writing and ethnographic research methods at George Mason University.”

Her website is here.

debra lattanzi shutika

And here is how “Frozen Iguana” opens:

Thunk

Jimmy turned off the water and stood in the shower, shivering.

Thunk

Thunk, thunk thunk.

He looked up at the ceiling tile expecting a dent from the last—

Thunk

He wrapped a towel around his waist and eased out of the steamy bathroom, the trailer floor creaking with every step.

Jimmy pulled the blinds back from the front door window. The thermometer read 36 degrees, the sixth day of the Florida freeze. The iguanas had started to fall out of the trees like junkies after a hit. Across the way a car door slammed. At midnight, Jimmy watched his neighbor Kate, wearing her scrubs, her auburn hair tied back in a ponytail, hop down from her truck and head for her trailer. For the next hour, he made the pilgrimage to the window to watch the comings and goings of the park. Three and a half Buds later, Jimmy fell asleep for the night on the couch.

There is nothing more annoying that the repetitive sound of frozen iguanas hitting the roof of your trailer, with the possible exception of a man hammering at your neighbor’s door. Jimmy stumbled out of bed and looked outside. It was six in the morning and there was a cop. At Kate’s door.

As the unofficial mayor of Paradise Lake trailer park, Jimmy Dickson knew every resident’s story. Jimmy stayed clear of the junkies and pushers, and he watched over the lost souls who somehow ended up here. Kate was one of his favorites.

He grabbed his hat and stepped outside.  Kate hollered, “Calm down!” Her breath rose in small clouds.

“You Kate Lucci?” The cop towered over Kate.

This is a terrific story, and I love so much that she chose to write a story around the south Florida iguana issue. I have a friend who lives on the Wilton River in Fort Lauderdale, and the iguanas–who live on an island just across from his property–drive him insane. They eat the fruit from his trees, they leave piles of iguana shit everywhere, and I have to say, in the morning when you are relaxing alongside the pool with your morning coffee, it’s a bit of a shock to see something moving out of the corner of your eye and then look over and see an enormous iguana just on the other side of the screen.

And yes, during a cold spell there a few years back there was, as Steve said, an ‘iguana holocaust’–most of them freezing to death. But it wasn’t permanent, and they are back.

The story is set in a trailer park in Broward County during a freeze–with frozen iguanas falling out of the trees fairly regularly. Kate works in a rehab facility, and one of her neighbors is in recovery for opioid addiction–and has overdosed. The cops dismiss it as just another relapsed junkie overdosing, but Kate doesn’t believe the story. The victim’s addiction had cost her custody of her kids, who were being brought over for a visit the next day–which means the relapse, at least to Kate, doesn’t make sense. Dismissed by the cops, with the assistance of another resident in the park Kate keeps looking into the strange relapse, continuing to find other indications that it may have been murder, and finally solves the case herself. What a great lot of fun!

And now I suppose I should get back to work.

Dreamtime

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.

The Teaser

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.

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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.

King for a Day

Ah, Monday. Blue, blue Monday, and yet the beginning of still another work week.

I worked quite a bit yesterday, and even made it to the gym. I was one of six people in the gym, and if you guessed that at one point in my workout four of the other five people had taken up all the options for my next exercise, you’d have guessed correctly. And no one apparently notices the signs posted everywhere that read Please rerack your weights when finished.

No. One.

Back when I used to work in fitness environments, I was always amazed at how people just leave their weights on the machines or dumbbells wherever they used them rather than putting them back–as though they assumed that the staff people working were there to clean up after them. It used to happen in aerobics classes I taught, too–the attendees would finish, then leave their steps, dumbbells, and sometimes their sweaty towels there for me to put away.

It would be so lovely to one day be wealthy enough to have my own workout room in my home. All I want, really–a room that’s a dedicated office space and a workout room. Is that really so much to ask for?

Lately, so many things have been getting on my nerves that I’ve wondered if I am on edge, or if something’s going on in my subconscious that’s bubbling up by making me highly annoyed and irritated with people, or something, I don’t know what; but the more I think about it, the more I tend to think, no, you’re just sick of assholes.

Seriously. And then I remembered the most important thing of why I am a crime writer: I can kill off assholes fictionally.

I also finished Lori Rader-Day’s The Day I Died, and started reading Nadine Nettman’s Uncorking a Lie.

the day i died

On the day I died, I took the new oars down to the lake. They were heavy, but I was saving myself the second trip. The blades rode flat along the ground, flattening two tracks through the wet grass.

It was morning. The air was cool, but down on the dock, the slats were already hot. I noted a lone fishing boat out on the water. Inside, two men hunched silently over their tackle, their faces turned out across the lake. Beyond them, mist rose off the water, nearly hiding the far shore.

This moment. This is what I return to.

Later, I will note the long crack on the new oar, just before my head goes under, just before the flume of blood rises off my skin under the water like smoke. I will come back to othis moment and think, if I had just gone back up the steps to the house immediately. If I had just stayed up at the house in the first place.

If I had just.

Lori Rader-Day’s Anthony Award shortlisted 2017 novel is quite excellent. Thematically, it’s about desperation–what people do when they have no other options. In the case of Anna Winger, Rader-Day’s main character, her childhood was desolate and bleak; the child of an alcoholic abuser, she moved from there to an abusive relationship with a boyfriend before fleeing for her life and that of her unborn child. Now, she lives in a wretched little town in Indiana, working as a freelance handwriting analyst. A child has gone missing in Parks, Indiana, and the local police bring her in for her expertise, bringing her into the case sideways. The case also stirs up dark memories of her own past for Anna, and her child–now thirteen and entering that rebellious stage–is becoming more and more closed off from her, difficult to know; and she has to wonder, as a mother, if this life they’ve led of constantly moving and never establishing roots anywhere, is messing up her own child. The parallels between the missing child case of the present and her own disappearance from her own life brings her to her own breaking point–and to where she can no longer ignore or deny her past, but most confront it.

Rader-Day’s strengths–her depiction of how claustrophobic yet lonely small towns can be; her ability to create sympathetic, damaged characters–are all here, and the book is structured beautifully; each incident and scene flowing into the next until the reader has to keep compulsively turning the page.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Spies Like Us

SATURDAY! Sorry, I was too tired to post yesterday.

And yes, Constant Reader, we somehow managed to make it through yet another week. I think we deserve a round of applause.

Thank you, thank you.

Thursday I had a late day at the office, so I managed to do three loads of laundry, a load of dishes, and made it to the gym before going to work. I know, right? Who am I, and what have I done with Gregalicious? 

I am looking forward to the weekend, to be honest. I want to clean the hell out of my apartment, have some errands to run, would like to get to the gym, and get some writing done. I think I unlocked the key to “Please Die Soon” last night, but I also realized I need to talk to a friend of mine for research purposes. (I actually need to talk to two friends for separate research purposes, so I should probably get going on that as well. Heavy sigh.) MAKE A GODDAMNED LIST ALREADY.

And now we move on to Florida Happens, and our first story, “The Burglar Who Strove to Go Straight”, by Lawrence Block.

(‘Excerpted from The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block, originally published in 1979, when St. Petersburg was decidedly less scenic than it is now.)

Browsers came and went. I made a few sales from the bargain table, then moved a Heritage Club edition of Virgil’s Eclogues (boxed, the box water-damaged, slight rubbing on spine, price $8.50). The woman who bought the Virgil was a little shopworn herself, with a blocky figure and a lot of curly orange hair. I’d seen her before but this was the first time she’d bought anything, so things were looking up.

I watched her carry Virgil home, then settled in behind the counter with a Grosset & Dunlap reprint of Soldiers Three. I’d been working my way through my limited stock of Kipling lately. Some of the books were ones I’d read years ago, but I was reading Soldiers Three for the first time and really enjoying my acquaintance with Ortheris and Learoyd and Mulvaney when the little bells above my door tinkled to announce a visitor.

I looked up to see a man in a blue uniform lumbering across the floor toward me. He had a broad, open, honest face, but in my new trade one learned quickly not to judge a book by its cover. My visitor was Ray Kirschmann, the best cop money could buy, and money could buy him seven days a week.

“Hey, Bern,” he said, and propped an elbow on the counter. “Read any good books lately?”

This is a charming story, and as you can imagine, I was thrilled to death to have something by Lawrence Block to kick the book off. I’m a big fan–although I’ve not read the entire backlist, I certainly have loved everything of his I’ve read–and of course, his anthologies of crime stories inspired by paintings (Alive in Shape and Color, In Sunlight or in Shadow) were also fantastic. I never thought I’d see the day when I edited an anthology that would have a story by Lawrence Block as the lead-off–so you can imagine the thrill; and it’s a story about books and a bookstore. How could I not love that?

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my life?

And now back to the spice mines.

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Your Wildest Dreams

Good morning! It’s Thursday, everyone, and with a short day at the office ahead of me and just one more day before the weekend, I am feeling good. Not as good perhaps as I should, but I slept really well last night, don’t have to be at work until later this afternoon, and I am going to even go to the gym this morning before it’s time to go to work.

I call that a winning day, don’t you?

I am reading Lori Rader-Day’s The Day I Died as prep work for my moderating duties at Bouchercon next month. I am, in case you weren’t paying attention, Constant Reader, moderating the panel highlighting the Anthony Award finalists for Best Paperback Original. After I finish Lori’s book I’ll be reading Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck, What We Reckon by Eryk Pruitt, Cast the First Stone by James Ziskin, and Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann. I’m enjoying Lori’s book–I also enjoyed the previous one of hers I’d read, Little Pretty Things, and as I’ve said before, there’s no one more fun to traverse the back roads of rural Alabama on a rainy morning with. All of these books had been in my TBR pile for quite some time, so it’s great to have an excuse to pull them out and read them.

I worked a little more on “Please Die Soon” yesterday; the story is becoming even creepier the more I work on it–although I think I may have done some overkill with it. But I am going to keep going with it, and once I am finished with the first draft I’ll figure it out in the revision process. I am also letting “A Whisper from the Graveyard” sit for a while–I know there’s some serious tweakage needed in it as well before submitting it–and I am starting to get to work on the August/September project as well. Exciting times for a Gregalicious.

And before I go to the gym this morning, I’m going to try to get the house straightened up a bit.

And while I know I’ve already talked about my story in Florida Happens (“Cold Beer No Flies”) I intend to spend the rest of this month’s focus on The Short Story Project on the stories and authors in the book, to try to whet your appetite for either preordering the book or buying it at Bouchercon. We are doing a launch for the book there on Thursday at 1; all the authors present gathering to sign and/or discuss the book and their story. And of course, it’s just easier for me to start by talking about my own.

Dane Brewer stepped out of his air-conditioned trailer, wiped sweat off his forehead and locked the door. It was early June and already unbearably hot, the humidity so thick it was hard to breathe. He was too far inland from the bay to get much of the cooling sea breeze but not so far away he couldn’t smell it. The fishy wet sea smell he was sick to death of hung in the salty air. It was omnipresent, inescapable. He trudged along the reddish-orange dirt path through towering pine trees wreathed in Spanish moss. The path was strewn with pine cones the size of his head and enormous dead pine needles the color of rust that crunched beneath his shoes. His face was dripping with sweat. He came into the clearing along the state road where a glorified Quonset hut with a tin roof stood.  It used to be a bait and tackle until its resurrection as a cheap bar. It was called My Place. It sounded cozy—the kind of place people would stop by every afternoon for a cold one after clocking out from work, before heading home.

The portable reader board parked where the parking lot met the state road read Cold Beer No Flies.

Simple, matter of fact, no pretense. No Hurricanes in fancy glasses like the touristy places littering the towns along the gulf coast. Just simple drinks served in plain glasses, ice-cold beer in bottles or cans stocked in refrigerated cases at simple prices hard-working people could afford. Tuscadega’s business was fish, and its canning plant stank of dead fish and guts and cold blood for miles. Tuscadega sat on the inside coast of a large shallow bay. The bay’s narrow mouth was crowned by a bridge barely visible from town. A long two-lane bridge across the bay led to the gold mine of the white sand beaches and green water along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Tourists didn’t flock to Tuscadega, but Tuscadega didn’t want them, either. Dreamers kept saying when land along the gulf got too expensive the bay shores would be developed, but it hadn’t and Dane doubted it ever would.

Tuscadega was just a tired old town and always would be, best he could figure it. A dead end the best and the brightest fled as soon as they were able.

 He was going to follow them one day, once he could afford it.

Towns like Tuscadega weren’t kind to people like Dane.

“Cold Beer No Flies” was originally conceived of back when I lived in Kansas, as far back as when I was a teenager. There was a bar in Emporia called My Place, which was an okay place–it had a concrete floor, just like the one in my story–and it also had one of those rolling readerboard signs along the road, and it literally read that: MY PLACE COLD BEER, NO FLIES. I always thought that was funny, and I always wanted to write a story called “Cold Beer No Flies.” I think I wrote the original first draft of the story in the 1980’s, and it languished in my files all these years. When it came to be time to write something for Florida Happens, I picked out “Cold Beer No Flies”, read the first two drafts of what I had written before, and decided to reboot the story and adapt it to the Florida setting. I’d always seen it as a noir story, and in rewriting/adapting it to fit this I needed to obviously move the setting from Kansas to Florida. I also had the bright idea to set it in the panhandle; I figured (rightly) that the majority of stories would be set in the beach communities literally the southern coasts of the state, and not many people would be moved to right about either the interior parts or the panhandle. I picked a dying, rotten little small town and placed it on a panhandle bay, similar to the little town my grandparents retired to in the early 1970’s. I also wanted to look at, and explore, what it’s like to grow up gay and working class in such a place–very redneck, very conservative, very backwards, very religious, very homophobic. The story turned out very creepy, I think, which was precisely what I was going for, and I hope you enjoy it when the time comes, Constant Reader.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Sweet Love

Wednesday morning, and it’s August. The end of summer is drawing nigh–although really, there’s at least another month and a half ahead of us–but I am also trying not to get upset with myself for how little I got done in July; it was, after all, an extremely hot and humid month and just having to go outside was draining. I also overslept this morning, and thus don’t have time for the gym; but I can make it tomorrow morning and even if I oversleep then as well, I don’t have to go into the office until two so I’ll still have time.

I worked on “Please Die Soon” a bit last night, but it dragged and I couldn’t really get into the rhythm of it. I am going to try again a bit today, but it’s a tricky story that I hope I can pull off. We shall see, won’t we?

Later this month I am going to focus the Short Story Project on Florida Happens, and every day I hope to talk about one of the short stories and provide some background on the story from the author, and some background on the author as well. It’s a terrific book, quite frankly, and you definitely should preorder it. If you are coming to Bouchercon, it will be there available for sale, and we are doing a launch event on Thursday at 1 pm that day, where you can get your copy signed by as many of the authors as humanly possible.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Intro by Tim Dorsey

The Burglar Who Strove to Go Straight by Lawrence Block

The Best Laid Plans by Holly West

There’s An Alligator in My Purse by Paul D. Marks

Mr. Bones by Hilary Davidson

Cold Beer No Flies by Greg Herren

Frozen Iguana by Debra Lattanzi Shutika

The Fakahatchee Goonch by Jack Bates

The Case of the Missing Pot Roast by Barb Goffman

How to Handle a Shovel by Craig Pittman

Postcard for the Dead by Susanna Calkins

The Hangover by John D. MacDonald

Muscle Memory by Angel Luis Colon

The Unidentifieds by J. D. Allan

All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Hotel by Eleanor Cawood Jones

Southernmost Point by Neil Plakcy

Quarters for the Meter by Alex Segura

Breakdown by Brendan DuBois

Winner by Michael Wiley

Frontier Justice by John M. Floyd

When Agnes Left Her House by Patricia Abbott

The Ending by Reed Farrel Coleman

Intro by Tim Dorsey

The Burglar Who Strove to Go Straight by Lawrence Block

The Best Laid Plans by Holly West

There’s An Alligator in My Purse by Paul D. Marks

Mr. Bones by Hilary Davidson

Cold Beer No Flies by Greg Herren

Frozen Iguana by Debra Lattanzi Shutika

The Fakahatchee Goonch by Jack Bates

The Case of the Missing Pot Roast by Barb Goffman

How to Handle a Shovel by Craig Pittman

Postcard for the Dead by Susanna Calkins

The Hangover by John D. MacDonald

Muscle Memory by Angel Luis Colon

The Unidentifieds by J. D. Allan

All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Hotel by Eleanor Cawood Jones

Southernmost Point by Neil Plakcy

Quarters for the Meter by Alex Segura

Breakdown by Brendan DuBois

Winner by Michael Wiley

Frontier Justice by John M. Floyd

When Agnes Left Her House by Patricia Abbott

The Ending by Reed Farrel Coleman

Terrific, right?

Today’s short story, for the Short Story Project, is “Vincent Black Lightning’ by Tyler Dilts,  from Crime + Music, edited by Jim Fusilli.

It was the photo that got to Beckett. An old black-and-white eight-by-ten, yellowing around the edges, in a timeworn black frame. In it, a mean wearing nothing but a bathing cap, Speedo briefs, and sneakers was lying prone on an ancient motorcycle, his arms reaching forward to the narrow handlebars, his crotch perched over the read wheel, and his legs extended back into the air while he Supermanned across the desert floor.

The old dead man had the photo on his lap when he shot himself and some of the blood spatter had misted the glass. He hadn’t done a very good job of it. The muzzle of the snub-nosed revolver wasn’t angled squarely at the center of his skull and the bullet ripped open his forehead. A flap of skin and bone hung down over his right eye. Beckett wondered if there had been enough damage to the brain to kill him, or if he’d bled out. Either way, he was still just as dead.

This is a short, quirky story, about the police looking into the suicide of a man who was a bad father and all around kind of a jerk; it’s very well written, with strong characters, with a lovely jolt of a twist at the end.

And now back to the spice mines.

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