Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mr. Kill-Me, by David Dean

"Mr. Kill-Me, by David Dean, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2015.

With this story by my SleuthSayers blogmate David Dean, it seems unnecessary to ask: where did you get your idea?  Anyone who has ever had a close call on the road will probably think they can guess.

Larry is a real estate agent in a shore town.  One day he backs his BMW out of a driveway and almost hits a man on a bicycle; a strange homeless-looking guy with angry eyes and a weird smile.  The biker disappears before Larry can confront him. 

A few days later, driving down the road, the biker pulls out in front of him again, seeming to demand to be run over.

What the hell is going on?  Is Larry imaging things?  Is someone plotting against him?  If so, what the hell is the purpose?

I should say I saw the end pages before it arrived, but it's a hell of a tale, and worth the trip.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Knock-Out Whist, by David Levien

"Knock-Out Whist," by David Levien, in in Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block, Three Rooms Press, 2015.

This is a story about the levels of life in New York City, and those going up versus those going down.  Jerry Riser - a riser is, of course, one who rises; it is also the part of a step that doesn't get stepped on - is a disgraced ex-cop, reborn as a shady private eye. 

He has just finished a big case for one of the people at the top, causing major trouble for another one, a mayoral candidate.  The politician sends thugs around to find out who hired Riser, and they offer his choice of a beating or a payoff.

He could also use the cash.  On the other hand it was a question of honor, the old vintage.  There were still a few bottles of it left around, and once it was uncorked, it was sticky stuff.

One of the best P.I. stories I have read this year.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Red's White F-150 Blues, by Scott Montgomery

"Red's White F-150 Blues," by Scott Montgomery, in Murder on Wheels, Eleven Tales of Crime on the Move, presented by the Austin Mystery Writers, Wildside Press, 2015.  

The editors sent me a free copy of this book.

Red Clark spends a lot of time taking care of his baby son, because the factory put him on half time and Britney has had to take on more nursing shifts at the hospital.  One day his old friend Billy Ray - part-time drug dealer and non-stop trouble -- shows up to ask a favor.  The bank wants to repossess his truck.  Can he hide it in Red's garage for a while?

Of course, Red says yes.   Of course, Britney gets mad.  While they're arguing about it - and about meatloaf and other affairs of state -- the TV announces that a guard was killed in a bank robbery.  Police are looking for a certain truck.

Uh oh.

What follows are a lot of bad decisions, some startling secrets and - oh yes - a beheading.  This is pretty much what Texas noir means to me. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bowery Station, 3:15 A.M., by Warren Moore

"Bowery Station, 3:15 A.M.," by Warren Moore, in Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block, Three Rooms Press, 2015.

A little snippet of  a story, but a memorable one.  The nameless narrator is hanging around one of the least used subway stations in the middle of the night, when...

I saw the girl standing on the Brooklyn bound side of the platform.  You might not have noticed anything, but I saw the firsts clenched at her sides and I saw her lips moving, and I knew what she was gearing up to do.

Can he prevent her from taking her own life?  And if he does, what will happen next?

Worth finding out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Macavity Award nominations

This is weird.  Last November at Bouchercon I was on a short story panel with Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, Paul D. Marks, Travis Richardson, and Art Taylor.  Today the Mystery Readers International announced the nominees for their Macavity Awards, and look at the short story category below.  Should I feel insulted?  More like: I thought that was a pretty good panel.

Best Mystery Short Story.
Buck, Craig Faustus.  "Honeymoon Sweet."  Murder at the Beach.
Goffman, Barb.  "The Shadow Knows." Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays.
Best Mystery Short Story
“Honeymoon Sweet” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014, edited by Dana Cameron (Down & Out)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley (Wildside)
“Howling at the Moon” by Paul D. Marks, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“The Proxy” by Travis Richardson, in Thuglit #13, Sept./Oct. 2014.
“The Odds Are Against Us” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2015/06/macavity-award-nominees-2015.html#sthash.RjfBpuKg.dpuf
Best Mystery Short Story
“Honeymoon Sweet” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014, edited by Dana Cameron (Down & Out)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley (Wildside)
“Howling at the Moon” by Paul D. Marks, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“The Proxy” by Travis Richardson, in Thuglit #13, Sept./Oct. 2014.
“The Odds Are Against Us” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2015/06/macavity-award-nominees-2015.html#sthash.RjfBpuKg.dpuf
Marks, Paul D. "Howling at the Moon," Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. November 2014.
Richardon, Travis.  "The Proxy."  Thuglit, #13.
Taylor, Art.  "The Odds Are Against Us."  Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. 
November 2014.

Congratulations to all!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Drone, by Rob Hart

"Drone," by Rob Hart, in Thuglit, Issue 16.

I can't find the name of the comedian who complained, approximately: "You always hear on the news about drug deals that went wrong.  Why don't they ever talk about the thousands of drug deals that went right?"

Because they aren't newsworthy, of course.  And they wouldn't make very good fiction.

So you can be pretty sure something is going to go pear-shaped in this tale of three crooks who come up with a brilliant new way to move cocaine around the city.

Melinda is the bright one, and she has built a drone capable of flying five pounds of product.  Billy the narrator, and his short-on-impulse-control brother Richie have the connections with a major drug dealer with the not-at-all-ominous name of T. Rex..  All they need is to demonstrate what inventors call "proof of concept" and they are in for a very profitable partnership.

What could go wrong?  Oh, something or other.  Take it away, Richie:

"Well, there was a wrench up on the roof, and I hit him with it, and that all turned into a thing."

Yeah, I hate it when that happens.  Good story.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dyed to Death, by K.G. McAbee

K.G. McAbee. "Dyed to Death," in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2015. 

Last week I said my favorite story was all about setting.  And here we are again.

McAbee's story won the Black Orchid Novella Award, given each year bu AHMM and the Wolfe Pack for a novella that best carries on the Rex Stout  tradition.  The winners usually have a Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin format, meaning a great detective and an assistant narrates the story.  This is true in "Dyed to Death," but as I said, it is the setting that is the true main character.

It is the late twenties in a company town somewhere in the south.  Our narrator is Sam, a boy in his late teens.  He never recovered from an injury in the cotton mill when he was fifteen (the same mill killed his father) so he works at the company store.  His boss is Guy Henson who, beside running the store is also the village constable.  He also is a former millworker, but  experiences in the Great War left him unable to tolerate loud noises.

When Sam finds a woman drowned in the river, dyed purple from the weekly dumping of a mill vat, Henson has to find out what happened.  Sam, a dedicated reader of Black Mask, is thrilled to be able to participate.

I should say I didn't think the ending of this story was as strong as the rest of it.  But McAbee gives us a strong sense of what life was like in a town where the mill owner set the rules and could throw you out of your home on a whim.  I hope to see more of Guy and Sam.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Shamus 2015 finalists

The Private Eye Writers of America have announced the finalists for the Shamus Awards.  Congratulations to all the nominees!

Best P.I. Short Sory
  • “Clear Recent History” by  Gon Ben Ari in Tel Aviv Noir
  • "The Ehrengraf Fandango " by Lawrence Block  in  Defender of the Innocent
  • “Fear Is The Best Keeper of Secrets ” by Vali Khalili in Tehran Noir
  • “Mei Kwei, I Love You” by Suchen Christine Lim in Singapore Noir
  • “Busting Red Heads” by Richard Helms  in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Monkey's Ghost, by Rosalind Barden

"The Monkey's Ghost," by Rosalind Barden, in History and Mystery, Oh My!, edited by Sarah E. Glenn, Mystery and History, LLC, 2015.

The publisher's sent me a copy of this book for free. 

This story is mostly about setting, if you stretch setting to include the minor characters, which I think you can.

The narrator grew up during the depression in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles.

To live there was the height of fashion in the Gay Nineties of the previous century,.  The prominent families of the day decorated Bunker Hill's steep streets with colorful candy-like fantasies of Victorian homes.

But by the 1930s the area had fallen on hard times and the narrator and her family live in an apartment building surrounded by these old homes and some old, eccentric neighbors.  One of them (according to a local gossip, an elderly magician) was the only child of a wealthy man, and she married a scoundrel who abandoned her.  But first he bought her a monkey, and the story goes, one day she threw the ape out the window, killing it.  Or maybe the monkey was already dead. Or maybe it wasn't a monkey...

Naturally the local kids become obsessed with this strange story.  I did not expect the outcome.  This was a fun read.

Little Big News: Arthur Ellis announced

The Crime Writers of Canada announced the winners of their Arthur Ellis Awards this week.  The ones that concern us here are:

Best Novella *
Jas. R. Petrin, A Knock on the Door, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Best Short Story 
Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, McClelland & Stewart

*CWC announces the Lou Allin Memorial Award of $200 for the Arthur Ellis Novella Category
Sponsored by the 2011 Bloody Words Conference Committee, this award will be given in honour of Lou Allin.  Lou was a board member of CWC, a co-chair of the 2011 Bloody Words Conference, an award-winning writer, and a mentor to many.  

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