Thursday, May 28, 2015

Little Big News: My 25th encounter with Alfred Hitchcock

The July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine is on newsstands now (and available for purchase on the web).  It starts with "Shooting at Firemen," my 25th appearance in that distinguished journal.  You can read the backstory here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Theory of Murder, by Dennis Palumbo

"A Theory of Murder," by Dennis Palumbo, in And All Our Yesterdays, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books, 2015.


Mea culpa: It took me so long to get around to reading this book that I forgot how I received it.  I should say it was a gift from the publisher.

Wish I'd thought of that.

It's Bern, Switzerland, 1904.  Hector, a clerk in the patent office, is suspected of a series of grisly murders.  Luckily a friend of his, also a patent clerk, is looking into the crimes.  And Albert Einstein is a pretty bright guy...

You may know that 1905 was the "Annus Mirabilis" in which Einstein published four papers that turned Physics on its head.  In this story we see him pondering on some of these points, providing some of the most amusing moments.

For example, he shows up at Hector's house in the middle of the night:

"My God, Albert, do you know the time?"

"More intimately than most, I promise you." 

A very clever story.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Beethoven House, by Albert Tucher

"The Beethoven House," by Albert Tucher, in And All Our Yesterdays, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books, 2015.  

Mea culpa: It took me so long to get around to reading this book that I forgot how I received it.  I should say it was a gift from the publisher.

Last year I noted in this space how cold war spy stories tend to center on Berlin.  In the highlight, so far, of this collection of historical mysteries,  Mr. Tucher moves southeast to another hotbed of espionage: the capital of neutral Austria.

It is 1955, three years after Vienna ceased to be a divided city.  Benjamin is a CIA agent and a local cop calls to inform him that one of his contacts has been found murdered.  Apparently Wolfi Stendl had acquired two tickets to the hottest show in town - the grand reopening of the Opera, after many years of reconstruction after the war.  Why did someone want those seats enough to kill for them?

There are wheels within wheels here, betrayals of betrayals, which as Benjamin notes, is the Viennese way.  An entertaining story of the bad old days.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Borrowed Time, by Mat Coward

"On Borrowed Time," by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2015.

I'm a big fan of Mat Coward's funny stories about muddled and desperate  criminals.  The hero, if that's the word I'm looking for, in this story is Nash, a British public servant, of sorts.  He is paid by the government but he is frank that he works for big business.  The job of the Section is to spy on labor leaders, and non-profits, anyone who might upset the corporate status quo.  His personal tasks include secretly opening the mail of a major union boss.

And one day he finds a very expensive watch in the man's mail. Being desperate for money - we don't find out why until much later - he swipes it.  Then he gets worried that - well...

There were several people he might need to kill, and the way he saw it, if all of them were still alive a week from now, that'd be the nearest thing to a proper result he'd have achieved in years.  

It's always good to have goals.
 
Indeed it is.  You might not think a civil servant would be well-equipped to kill people, but you wouldn't know about the special training sessions the Section provides for it's worker bees. 

Nash had once attended an upskilling weekend on The Rudiments of Self-Defence, which included rudiments such as how to sneak up behind someone in the dark and self-defend yourself against them with a garrotte.

 A very funny tale with a lot of pointed comments on the world we find ourselves living in

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Anthony nominees

The head honchos of Bouchercon 2015 (Raleigh, NC in October) have announced the nominees for the Anthony Awards.  Congratulations to all!  Here are the ones that matter to us short story freaks.



Best Short Story
"Honeymoon Sweet" Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 - Craig Faustus Buck [Down & Out]
"The Shadow Knows" Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays - Barb Goffman [Wildside]
"Howling at the Moon" Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - Paul D. Marks [Dell]
"Of Dogs & Deceit" Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - John Shepphird [Dell]
"The Odds Are Against Us" Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - Art Taylor [Dell]

Best Anthology or Collection
FaceOff - David Baldacci, ed. [Simon & Schuster]
Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 - Dana Cameron, ed. [Down & Out]
Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen - Joe Clifford, ed. [Gutter]
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon - Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger, eds. [Pegasus Crime]
Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Love, Lust, and Longing - Karen Pullen, ed. [Wildside]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

An Invisible Minus Sign, by Denise Mina

"An Invisible Minus Sign," by Denise Mina, in Deadly Housewives, edited by Christine Matthews, HarperCollins e-books, 2015.

Many of the stories I have read in this collection have been jollyish tales of women trying to kill errant husbands, so this detour to noir stands out for contrast.

Moira is a housewife, sick of making no impression on the world.

She no longer knew if she liked strong cheddar or the boys did, whether France was somewhere she wanted to go on holiday or David's choice.  And she didn't even think she liked the hidden Moira enough to send out a search party.

After trying to revive herself with an affair "and a hundred other suburban redemptions," she decides to kill herself.

Of course, she doesn't.  Something else happens and I can't tell you what, but it is worth finding out.  But the main attraction in this story is the language, as demonstrated above.

Agatha Awards

The Agatha Awards were given out last night at Malice Domestic.  Here are the nominees for short story, with the winner on top.  Congratulations to all!

Best Short Story:
“The Odds are Against Us” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell
“The Blessing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Edgars are announced

And the winner for Best Short Story is:


"What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn
(Penguin Random House Publishing – Bantam Books)


Congratulations!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

We On The Train! by Margaret Maron

"We On The Train!" by Margaret Maron, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2015.  

If you have ever read a book to a small child you know that the highest possible accolade they can offer is an immediate "Read it again!"  The first thing I did after finishing this story is start it over.

Of course, it helps that the story is very short - flash fiction or close to it - but it is so clever that I had to take another look at.

Greg McInnis is a DEA agent who prefers to do his business traveling by train.  On a trip up the east coast he is amused by a young African-American woman who is gleefully phoning everyone she knows to tell them that she is going to visit New York with an older man she says is her Uncle Leon.

Sounds innocent enough, but this is a crime story, so something else must be going on here.  Will our hero figure it out in time?  He only has four pages...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Arthur Ellis Award Nomination

The Crime Writers of Canada have announced the nominations for the Arthur Ellis Awards.  Congratulations to all the short story nominees, eh!

Best Short Story
Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, McClelland & Stewart
Melodie Campbell, Hook, Line and Sinker, Your McMurray Magazine
Peter Clement, Therapy, Belgrave House
Madona Skaff, First Impressions, The Whole She-Bang 2, Sisters in Crime
Kevin P. Thornton, Writers Block, World Enough and Crime, Carrick Publishing

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson, by Robert Mangeot

"Two Bad Hamiltons and a Hirsute Jackson," by Robert Mangeot, in Alfred Hitchcock's mystery Magazine, May 2015.

Mr. Mangeot makes his second appearance here.  This story is all about language and character.

The character is Vi Celucci, and she is an Optimizer, which means she specializes in making your life and workplace more efficient, healthier, and better organized.  Obsession is either funny or tragic, depending on how close you are standing to the fallout, and Ms. Celucci is obsessive about her field, and maybe about everything else.

She received two counterfeit ten dollar bills and  feels the authorities are not up to the job of finding the counterfeiters.  "The Secret Service guy asked me to repeat myself, which did not bode well for either his cognitive or listening skills."

So she decides to crack the case herself.  And this is a formidable lady, determined, and very sure of herself.

I shook my head, and I only shook my head one way: hard right, soft return.  Anything more was wasted motion.

Hilarious.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Continental Opposite, by Evan Lewis

"The Continental Opposite," by Evan Lewis, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2015.

This dude Lewis is turning into a major threat.  First there were his stories about Skyler Hobbs,who thinks he is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes.  Then tales of Davy Crockett's ghost, who harasses his descendents into solving crimes.  And now he has revived Dashiell Hammett's famous character the Continental Op.

Brief pause for confusion from the readers.  But Hammett's family owns the copyright!  And Lopresti doesn't like fan fiction (Author B writing new stories with the characters of Author A)!

True.  But I am sometimes a sucker for reboots, in which Author B rethinks the original and comes up with a new twist.

This story takes place in the fifties, decades after the Op's last appearance.  The main character is a young detective named Peter Collins (he notes bitterly that his father deliberately gave him a name that is gangland slang for "nobody").  Peter works for the Portland, Oregon branch of a national detective agency and when he accuses his boss of corruption the company sends in a retired op who used to work for the San Francisco branch("sometime in the forties Continental had put him out to pasture, and he'd spent the years since killing a vegetable garden, sneering at golf course, and not catching fish.") .  Peter finds him sinister and refers to him as the Old Man.

Hmm.  In Hammett's stories the Op's boss was the Old Man, but it is clearly not the same person.  In fact, this new guy strongly resembles Hammett's hero, much older and, if possible, more cynical.

Now let's address the copyright issue.  Does Lewis use the name of the characters?  No, because the Op never had one.  (And Old Man is hardly a unique moniker either.)  The Op worked for the Continental Detective Agency.  Peter works for Continental Investigations, which recently changed its name from something or other.

A brilliant story, and the first of a series.  I can hardly wait.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Fedora, by Terrell Lee Lankford

"The Fedora," by Terrell Lee Lankford, in The Private Eye Writers of America present Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, edited by Robert J. Randisi, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2015.

The first story I reviewed form this book was a private eye story.  Now we're into noir. The nameless narrator makes a living doing low-level investigatory work for his uncle, a P.I.  Then uncle's friend Milo explains that he is going overseas for six months and wants someone to keep an eye on his wife, make sure she isn't fooling around.


And of course, she's gorgeous.

If you have read any noir at all I don't have to tell you what happens next.  And the ending will bring bad news for somebody.  

A well-written, moody little story.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

International Thriller Award nominees

The International Thrillers Wirters has announced their nominees.  Congrat to all!

BEST SHORT STORY

Richard Helms - Busting Red Heads, EQMM
Stephen Ross - Pussycat, Pussycat, EQMM
Gigi Vernon - Show Stopper, ICE COLD
Ben Vincent - The Honey Trap, ICE COLD
Tim L. WIlliams - The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky, EQMM

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

And one more Derringer

I am delighted to report that the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in the mystery short story went to the great James Powell.  Congratulations, Jim!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Derringer Winners!

The Short Mystery Fiction Society just announced the Derringer Award winners for 2015.  Mucho congratulations!



 
FLASH
How LIL Jimmie Beat the big C   Joseph DAgnese 
 
SHORT
The Kaluki Kings of Queens    Cathi Stoler  

LONG
 A Hopeless Case                  Hilary Davidson               
 
 NOVELETTE
The Snow Angel          Doug Allyn