Showing posts with label Lawton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lawton. Show all posts

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Black Friday, by R.T. Lawton

"Black Friday," by R.T. Lawton, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November/December 2017.

I knew that if I wrote these reviews long enough I would eventually have to tell you about George F. Will.  That day has come.

In 1980 President Jimmy Carter debated candidate Ronald Reagan.  Among those asked on television to evaluate their performances was conservative pundit George F. Will.  Not surprisingly he praised Reagan's showing.  More surprisingly, it turned out that he had been one of Reagan's debate coaches.  So he was praising his own work without bothering to mention it.

And that's why you have never heard of George F. Will again.

Here's why I bring this up.  R.T. Lawton and I are first readers for each other.  Before I send a story to an editor I ask him to critique it. He does the same with me.

That means I read an earlier version of this story and made some suggestions for improving it, a few of which, I think, the author took.  So you can argue that I have no subjectivity about it now.  All I can say in reply is that the first version I read would also have been the best of the week, before I got my grubby hands on it.

This is part of a series of stories about Yarnell and Beaumont, a sort of low-rent version of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder and Kelp, marginally successfully thieves.  It is the day after Thanksgiving and Yarnell is visiting a pawn shop to retrieve his wife's wedding ring.  Unfortunately there is a robbery going on.

"Not so fast," said the robber.
Yarnell wasn't sure if that meant he was now supposed to move in slow motion or not at all, so to be on the safe side, he quit moving altogether.  In fact, he thought it best under these circumstances to have his brain check to see if his lungs were still pumping air. 

Eventually Beaumont shows up.  He is the smarter half of the team - although that is not a fast track by any means - and finds a hilarious way of settling the issue.

My favorite element of this story is Lebanese George, owner of the pawnshop who remains unflappable.  Another day, another hold-up.  Ho-hum.

This is a treat.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Little Big News: Hitchcock and I, together again


Feast your eyes on the above.  This is the second time I have been on the cover of a magazine, both times on Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  I am happy to report that my brother SleuthSayers bloggers, John Floyd and R.T. Lawton are also in the issue.  Maybe later this year the SleuthSayers can take over a full magazine!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Labor Day

“Labor Day,” by R.T. Lawton, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 2011.



Okay, ponder this for one minute: how many subgenres of mystery short stories can you think of?

Off the top of my head I came up with private eye, police procedural, amateur detective, historical, psychological, biter bit, driven-mad-by-guilt, caper, comic caper, etc. I’m sure some Ph.D. student is busily creating a taxonomy of detective stories and will soon be able to report that the story we are discussing today is an example of Motif VI.B.6.c.(ii), with thematic shifts and an interesting color scheme. We will leave him to it.

I am very fond of a variation of the comic caper known as the dumb criminal story. I’ve even written one or two myself. By their very nature dumb criminal stories tend to be one-offs, since the protagonist often gets caught, but my favorite series of d.c. stories are the Holiday Burglar stories written by my buddy, R.T. Lawton.

Yarnell is the mastermind of the crime ring (and that is, as they say, a slow track). He is a worrier, and God knows he has his reasons. His partner, Beaumont, is more phlegmatic (and his cell phone ring tone is the theme from Cops). Their apprentice, the Thin Guy (who they picked up on an earlier caper, sort of like a pet who won’t stop following them), is downright cheerful.

It is the nature of dumb criminal stories for things to go dreadfully wrong, but this time the robbery goes off with hardly a glitch. The boys have broken into an apartment whose owner is away for the holiday weekend.

But the crime isn’t over until you “un-ass the vicinity” as the military cops in Martin Limon’s novels like to say, and getaway, like payback, can be a bitch. Since the apartment is on the thirty-sixth floor that means a long, slow elevator trip, and Yarnell suffers from what he calls “closet-phobia.”

Count the things that can go wrong in an elevator and if you leave out sudden drops and zombie invasions, our heroes experience most of them.. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it more than they do.