Sunday, June 29, 2014

It'll Cost You, by Neil Schofield

"It'll Cost You," by Neil Schofield, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2014.

Lawrence Block once wrote that "A story must have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order."  The current fashion is to start as far into the action as you can and then explain what went before in flashbacks.

But what about starting at the end?  I don't mean telling the story in reverse like, for example, the movie Betrayal.  No, I am thinking of stories that begin by revealing how they will end, and then jump to the start.  Two more classic movies come to mind: Sunset Boulevard and American Beauty,  both of which start with the narrator informing you that he gets killed (and one of them still manages to provide a surprise ending).

My friend Neil Schofield has provided a witty and very clever story of this type. Georgie Hopcraft starts out by cheerfully telling us that he is in prison and his cell mate is "another murderer," which is a little misleading because Georgie has been convicted of a murder he did not commit.

Then why is he so cheerful?  Well, it  has to do with that cell mate, and I will leave it at that.

But Georgie goes on to explain the whole story.  He was a somewhat shady owner of a "slightly better-class second and bric-a-brac shop" in London.  But when his soon-to-be ex-wife was dissatisfied with the upcoming settlement she found a way to get him framed into prison.  And we get to watch the whole framing process.

And yet, Georgie remains cheerful.  Hmm. This leads us to...

SPOILER ALERT. 

This story is, oddly enough, a fair play mystery.  That usually means the reader has all the clues needed to figure out the identity of the murderer.  In this story that is a given, but you have all the clues to figure out how Georgie will prove he didn't do it. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Big Little News: Macavity Nominations

The Mystery Readers International have announced the Macavity Award nominations.  Congrats to all!



Best Mystery Short Story 
“The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
“The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
“The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
 “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013) - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/06/macavity-award-nominations-2014.html#sthash.DKuKS366.dpuf

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Crimes of Passion, by Michael Guillebeau

"Crimes of Passion," by Michael Guillebeau, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2014.

So, when is a stereotype okay in writing?  I don't mean an offensive racial or whatever stereotype, I mean a character who is so perfectly a type that you know what they are going to do before they do.

I guess, as usual, the answer is: it's okay when it works. 

Guillebeau's story is full of characters like this.  Within a few pages you can predict, not precisely what will happen, but who will end up with the dirty end of the stick and who will walk away clean as artisan soap.

Josh is a poor boy who lives in the Florida panhandle.  "Poor" is the keyword because his family's shack is between two mansions, where his best friends live.  Those over-privileged, entitled friends, Waylon and the just-blooming Melody, are the main cliches in the story.

As it begins, the three of them find a dead body in the water.  Waylon finds a stack of money in the man's coat and promptly takes it.  Josh -- the thoughtful member of the three -- has to decide whether to go along with this or tell the truth.  And everything that follows is as inevitable as a Greek tragedy, writ small.

Apparently Guillebeau has a novel about the same character, Josh Somebody.  Might be worth a look-see.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Plow Guy, by Brendan DuBois

"The Plow Guy," by Brendan DuBois, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2014.

Henry Conway has a somewhat eccentric plan for his retirement.  He wants to move to a small town in New Hampshire, buy a dog for company, and plow people's driveways.  Seems easy enough, but he runs into a couple of problems, especially a man who beats his wife, a problem Henry isn't willing to ignore.

But Henry has an interesting skill set.  Did I mention what work he retired from?  Neither does he, exactly.

I chose my retirement home like I was planning for an overseas op.  Oops, I meant to say, setting up a budget spreadsheet.  Or a request for proposals.  Or something innocent like that.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed the story more before the inevitable conflict came along.  Henry is an interesting  fellow and, honestly, the bad guy just wasn't enough of a challenge for him.  But the writing is lovely.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Little Big News: Shamus Nominations

The Private Eye Writers of AMerica have spoken.  Congratulations to the nominees!

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY
“So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane in The Strand Magazine
"The Ace I" by Jack Fredrickson in EQMM
“What We Do” by Mick Herron in EQMM
“Extra Fries” by Michael Z. Lewin in EQMM
“The Lethal Leeteg” by Hayford Peirce in EQMM 

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY
“So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane in The Strand Magazine
"The Ace I" by Jack Fredrickson in EQMM
“What We Do” by Mick Herron in EQMM
“Extra Fries” by Michael Z. Lewin in EQMM
“The Lethal Leeteg” by Hayford Peirce in EQMM - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/06/shamus-award-finalists-2014-private-eye.html#sthash.YqFKRsOp.dpuf
BEST P.I. SHORT STORY
“So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane in The Strand Magazine
"The Ace I" by Jack Fredrickson in EQMM
“What We Do” by Mick Herron in EQMM
“Extra Fries” by Michael Z. Lewin in EQMM
“The Lethal Leeteg” by Hayford Peirce in EQMM - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/06/shamus-award-finalists-2014-private-eye.html#sthash.YqFKRsOp.dpuf


BEST P.I. SHORT STORY
“So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane in The Strand Magazine
"The Ace I" by Jack Fredrickson in EQMM
“What We Do” by Mick Herron in EQMM
“Extra Fries” by Michael Z. Lewin in EQMM
“The Lethal Leeteg” by Hayford Peirce in EQMM - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/06/shamus-award-finalists-2014-private-eye.html#sthash.2wRaM6Cn.dpuf

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mary's Shallow Grave, by Phillip DePoy

"Mary's Shallow Grave," by Phillip DePoy, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2014.

If I am reading the editor's note correctly, this is intended to be the first in a series.  I look forward to the next. 

It's 1975 and the state of Florida has hired our narrator, Foggy, to operate Child Protective Services (for the whole state?  I hope not.).  And he shows up at the bar with the unprepossessing name that gives the story it's title, to tell the cook that his ex-wife in in a coma, her boyfriend is dead, and his eleven-year-old daughter is on the run.

That part of Florida had always been to me, the land of people who gave up.  They piled empty cardboard boxes on the front porch, rolled the broken fridge out onto the lawn; always thought it was too hot to paint the house.  And the flies didn't come in if you just put a piece of plastic over that tear in the screen.  Maybe it was the heat.  Even in October they could get days in the nineties.

There is stolen money, crooked cops, a wealthy Indian with nefarious plans, and a bunch of people using assorted ill-advised self-medication plans.  If there is any hope for an eleven-year-old girl in this mess it is going to have to be carved out of extra-legal maneuvers and deals with assorted devils. 

Fortunately, Foggy is up to the challenge. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

When I'm Famous, by Dara Carr

"When I'm Famous," by Dara Carr, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 2014. 

This is the best first story I have read in some time. Clever setting: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, among the hipsters. Exhibit A is our narrator, Mindy. She is, she tells us, a visual person. She has a "make-believe boyfriend," Marcus, who phones her late at night for "booty calls" and she always goes over.

One might diagnose low self-esteem. Here's another example. When Mindy spots a beautiful woman at a party, a "wallpaper artist," she writes:

...Brooklyn royalty and she knows it, the men twitching like they've been tased, the female viewers emitting a soft electric hum, brains working hard, calculating the age they were when they could have last worn shorts that length in public, let alone to a party; beaches don't count. Age seven would be my answer.

That's good writing.

Pretty soon the wallpaper artist is dead and there is no shortage of suspects.  In fact, they show up one after another like city buses.

But before I go here is one more line from our heroine:

One of the less commonly reported dangers of chronic marijuana use is buying decrepid old houses and thinking you can fix them up.

 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hooch, by Bill Pronzini

"Hooch," by Bill Pronzini, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 2014.

I know I have said this before (and after you blog for a few years you suspect you have said everything before): the best endings are surprises that feel inevitable.  You want the reader to say "I never saw it coming but that was the only way the story could end."

And that, my friends, ain't easy.

Pronzini's story is about some thugs smuggling booze in from Canada during Prohibition.  Two of them are hardened criminals; the third one, Bennie, is a bright-eyed youngster who got everything he knows about crime from places like Black Mask Magazine.  In fact, he tells his colleagues cheerfully, he's writing a novel about the rum-running business.  All fictionalized of course..  Nothing for them to wrory about...

Well, you can see where this story is heading, can't you?  But there is a twist along the way, one that made me say "that's the only way the story could end."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Little BIg News: Anthony Nominees, 2014

The Anthony Award nominees have been announced.  They will be voted on by those who attend the
Bouchercon Conference in Long Beach, and announced there in November.

Best Short Story Nominees
Craig Faustus Buck, “Dead Ends”
John Connolly, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository”
Deni Dietz, “Annie and the Grateful Dead”
Travis Richardson, “Incident on the 405”
Art Taylor, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpufsss
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf


Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Splitting Adams, by Percy Spurlock Parker

"Splitting Adams," by Percy Spurlark Parker, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2014. 


Terry Adams is a very unhappy man.  He's not good with women and he blames it on his big brother Jerry.  Jerry is slick and smooth and always moves in on Terry when he is trying to get started with a new lady. 

It has just happened again and Terry, well, Terry is about to lose it.

A clever piece of flash fiction.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Second Sight Unseen, by Richard Helms

"Second Sight Unseen," by Richard, Helms, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2014.

Helms offers us what is intended to be the first in a series of stories.  The concept here isn't new (hey, Sherlock Holmes wasn't the first genius detective either) but the characters are intersting and the writing is amusing. 

The narrator is Boy Boatwright, a cop who should have retired but is living on booze and adrenalin.  (When the story starts he is waking up with his face on the toilet rim.)  But the hero, for lack of a better word, is the remarkably-named Bowie Crapster.  Crapster is "five and a half feet tall, with a figure like a Bradford pear."  He dresses in flashy clothes and "looked like the vanguard of a midget Elvis parade."

Crapster claims to be a psychic detective but he graciously gives the cops all the credit for his work.  He just wants the reward money.  Boatwright loathes him, but the fact is, he is a pretty shrewd sleuth.  In this case he deals with the apparent kidnapping of the young heir to a wealthy family. 

Will he solve it?  Will he drive Boatwright back to the booze?  "Some days it just doesn't pay to get up out of the toilet."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Little Big delay

Today's review will be a few days late.  To make it up to you, here is a webpage where you can find free links to  two of my own stories, one of them brand new.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Anchor Baby," by Shauna Washington

"Anchor Baby," by Shauna Washington, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

Write what you know, so Shauna Washington, a Las Vegas-based fashion stylist, writes about Stacey Deshay, a Las Vegas-based fashin stylist. It's so crazy it just might work. 

And it works fine in this caper in which Stacey makes a special trip to Arizona to deliver a client's maid and baby to the mansion of the client's soon-to-be-ex-husband.  She gets their just in time to witness a murder and after that, things get worse.

Best thing about this story is the writing.  First person narrator is character.  "It was a long time since I'd traveled this far on a job, but since the recession hit, my new motto was 'Go where the money is, since it sure isn't coming to me.'


Sunday, April 27, 2014

International Vogue And The Pajama Fiasco Weekend, by Rosalind Barden

"International Vogue And The Pajama Fiasco Weekend," by Rosalind Barden, in Mardi Gras Murder, edited by Sarah E. Glenn, Mystery and Horror, LLC, 2014.

One of those subjects that literature professors like to discuss is the unreliable narrator.  That can be a person who is deliberately lying, like the narrator of a famous Agatha Christie novel.  But it can also be someone so deeply in denial or self-disception that he or she can only give us the most warped view of what is going on.

Among the latter you will find Josh McConnley, or at least we can call him that.  "That last name is one I've been trying out lately.  Goes with my persona.  Very strong, masculine, yet, sympathetic."

Josh, or whoever he is, is an actor, or is trying to be, and so obsessed with himself that the world is just a static backdrop to his running commentary.  Here he is chatting to an unwilling listener, of sorts:

I told him about my time studying Shakespeare in Pasadena, about my time in my high school drama club where no one appreciated how much more talented I was than them.  Of course I highlighted the airline commercial and pointed out how stupid the airline was.  When the airline dumped me, the agent I had back then dumped me too.  She said she was keeping my bad luck from "spreading."  That led me to discussion of my father.

All the characters are similarly pathetic types trying desperately to take advantage of each other.  Good luck with that.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hunters, by John M. Floyd

"Hunters," by John M. Floyd, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

So, where do you get your ideas?  That's a question writers hear a lot.

One place is news stories.  Sometimes I will run across some bizarre thing that actually happened and file it away, thinking, hmm, yes, that could turn into fiction. 

My friend and fellow SleuthSayer, John M. Floyd, made something out of one of those news items that I never got around to, and more power to him.

Occasionally you hear about someone going on trial because they tried to hire a hitman, often in a bar, to kill someone.  It seems to me that it is usually a woman trying to bump off her husband, but that might be selective memory.

And this story is about Charlie Hunter, who owns a bar in a bump-in-the-road town in Mississippi and has an envelope full of cash ready to pay the hitman he is hiring to solve his marital problem.  As you can guess, things don't go according to plan.

What makes this story different is that it is not the usual bad-guy-tangled-in-his-own-web tale, but more of a mediocre-guy-with-second-thoughts affair.  No heroes, not a lot of villains, and a lot of gray lines.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Teddy, by Brian Tobin

"Teddy," by Brian Tobin, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

No fireworks in this one, no groundshaking concept or twist ending.  Just a solid story about two men, both of whom turn out to be a little better than they/we thought. 

Sean is a homeless man, a guy whose trail of bad luck runs from childhood, through service in Iraq to his current miserable life.  The one bright point is Teddy, the puppy he rescued from drowning two years ago.  In return Teddy has given him companionship, protection, and a reason to get up in the morning.

Andy, on the other hand, is making a lot of money in a quasi-legal business, but is willing to go further over the line to make more.  His problem is that he believes in the Sam Spade code: When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it.  When that happens, Andy steps up like a good citizen, and disaster follows.  

What ties these two men together is Teddy, the dog.  And maybe all three of them can find a way out of their mutual mess. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's So Peaceful In The Country, by WIlliam Brandon

"It's So Peaceful In The Country," by William Brandon, in Black Mask Magazine, 1943, reprinted in The Hard-boiled Detective, edited by Herbert Ruhm, Vintage Books, 1977.

I have been reading a lot of old hard-boiled stories lately, mostly from the Black Mask school.  A lot of them read like photocopies of Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op stories, some blurrier than others.  It made this story stand out by contrast.

Brandon's hero is Horse Luvnik, just out of jail on burglary charges and feeling unhappy because his beloved wife has decided she doesn't want him back until he goes straight.  And she has decided that going straight means buying a cigar store.  How he is supposed to gather enough coin to do that is his problem.  (I guess he can go straight after that.)

Things look bad but then Horse gets an invitation to Vermont.  A gentleman scholar there named Dingle is working on what he hopes will be the definitive book on Edgar Allan Poe's first editions.  The problem is that some of the information  he needs is in the home of his hated rival, a woman who lives a few miles away.  And since she refuses to share Dingle hires Horse to steal her notes every night -- and then smuggle them back into her house every morning.

As you can imagine, things quickly get silly.  It is as if Damon Runyan and P.G.Wodehouse collaborated on a hard-boiled tale.  The Continental Op might spin in his grave, but I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Little Big News: Derringers 2014

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the winners of the Derringer Awards for 2014 and I am somewhat stunned to report that I am one of them.  You can read more about me me me here.

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)

  • "Final Statement" by Robert Bailey (The Flash Fiction Offensive, July 18, 2013)
  • "Not My Day" by Stephen Buehler (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "The Needle and the Spoon" by Allan Leverone (Shotgun Honey, November 15, 2013)
  • "Luck is What You Make" by Stephen D. Rogers (Crime Factory, May 2013)
  • "Terry Tenderloin and the Pig Thief" by John Weagly (Shotgun Honey, June 21, 2013)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)
  • "Pretty Little Things" by Chris F. Holm (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)
  • "The Present" by Robert Lopresti (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013)
  • "The Sweetheart Scamster" by Rosemary McCracken (Thirteen by the Mesdames of Mayhem, August 2013)
  • "The Little Outlaw" by Mike Miner (Plan B Magazine, August 9, 2013)
  • "The Cemetery Man" by Bill Pronzini (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)
  • "Myrna!" by John Bubar (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Bloody Signorina" by Joseph D'Agnese (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2013)
  • "GIVE ME A DOLLAR" by Ray Daniel (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Dance Man" by Andrew Jetarski (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "A Dangerous Life" by Adam Purple (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)
  • "The Serpent Beneath the Flower" by Jack Bates (Mind Wings Audio, April 2013)
  • "The Goddaughter's Revenge" by Melodie Campbell (Orca Rapid Reads, October 2013)
  • "For Love's Sake" by O'Neil De Noux (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2013)
  • "The Antiquary's Wife" by William Burton McCormick (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2013)
  • "Last Night in Cannes" by James L. Ross (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 2013)

EDWARD D. HOCH MEMORIAL GOLDEN DERRINGER FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
  • Ed Gorman

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Knock On The Door, by Jas. R. Petrin

"A Knock On The Door," by Jas. R. Petrin, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2014.

I have written before about my admiration for Jas. R. Petrin's stories about Skig Skorzeny, an aging Halifax loanshark with a gut full of cancer and a heart of, well, not gold, but something more than the rock he pretends to possess.

I'm not going to dwell on the plot of this story (late wife's niece, missing person) but instead I want to concentrate on the writing.  As I went through the tale I found myself marking passages I like (perhaps the only benefit  of my not having a story of my own in this issue.  I don't need to save it).  So, with no further ado:

Skig to a delinquent customer who is suffering from a protection racket: 

"Those partners of yours bleed you again before I get paid, I'm gonna attend their next shareholders meeting.  In fact, I might anyway."
"Please don't do that."
"Could be fun.  A hostile takeover.  Tell 'em."

Skig about to have an MRI:
"So, Mr. Skorzeny, is there any metal, iron, nickel, or cobalt on or in your body?"
"Cobalt?  What the hell is cobalt?"
"A metal--"
"Inside me?"
"Yes."
"How would I know?  This body's been through some pileups.  Do bullets have cobalt in them?"

The narrator explains why Skig moved into an old filling station:
After Jeanette died, the house had seemed too empty during the day, and too full at night, all the ghosts peering out of the woodwork.

A cop asks Skig for help:
"Help you?  Listen, I'm responsible for half the overtime you get."

And, at random:
"Nobody knows nothing anymore," Skig said.  "The information age."

Treat yourself.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Lord of Central Park, by Avram Davidson

"The Lord of Central Park," by Avram Davidson, in The Investigations of Avram Davidson, St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Well, it has happened again as it occasionally does.  I did not read any stories this week I liked enough to report on so instead I am bringing up one from my top fifty.  I remember reading this novella when it originally appeared in the October 1970 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, under the dreadful name of "Manhattan Night's Entertainment."  Frederic Dannay was a great editor but a horrific tinkerer with titles.

Avram Davidson had one of those staggering imaginations, like John Collier, James Powell, or Terry Pratchett.  You just never knew what would pour out of his typewriter.  In this case it the simple story of a young lady from New Jersey and her encounters with a pickpocket, the Mafia, the Nafia, an Albanian Trotskyite who wants to blow up the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hudson River pirates, and, of course, the Lord High Keeper of the Queen's Bears, who lives in a cave in Central Park.

Okay, maybe I lied about it being a simple story.

The main character is really the titular Lord, alias Arthur Marmaduke Roderick Lodowicke William Rufus de Powisse-Plunkert, 11th Marques of Grue and Groole in the peerage of England, 22nd Baron Bogle in the Peerage of Scotland, 6th Earl of Ballypatcooge in the Peerage of Ireland, Viscount Penhokey in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, Laird of Muckle Greet, Master of Snee, and Hereditary Lord High Keeper of the Queen's Bears.

By now you have probably figured out that Davidson loves words, for their own sake.  He also uses them to tell a wonderful story. 

The Marquess is broke and dishonest, which explains why he lives in a cave, cadging most of his meals from meat his trained falcon steals off grills on the surrounding balconies.  He is a sharp fellow and when he spots rope in a store window that could only have been swiped from the British Navy he finds himself confronting the aforementioned river pirates who vehemently deny that they are pirates.  You see, Peter Stuyvesant gave the family the right to collect taxes in 1662, just before the Dutch surrendered to the British.

For a moment no word broke the reverent silence.  Then, slowly, Lord Grue and Groole removed his cap.  "And naturally," he said, "your family has never recognized that surrender.  Madam, as an unreconstructed Jacobite, I honor them for it, in your person."  He gravely bowed.

I won't attempt to explain how everyone else fits into this mad mosiac.  Just get your hands on the story and read it.  Why it hasn't been made into a movie is one of those inexplicable mysteries.  It's practically a film right on the page.