Sunday, November 29, 2015
I have a story in this anthology. This photo, taken by Gigi Pandian and used with permission, shows me sitting with Toni Goodyear at the mass signing for the book at the Bouchercon. We happen to be next to each other in the book, and therefore sat together on the assembly line.
Last week I wrote about a tale in it that I described as sweet and twisted. You might say we're back in that territory again.
Greta is an eighty-year-old widow with a problem: Andy Griffith keeps trying to arrest her.
That's right, the dead actor. He's dressed as Sheriff Andy Taylor from the old sit-com, but Greta realizes that that was only a character he was playing. Heck, she's not crazy.
So naturally she had to set her sofa on fire to escape him. Wouldn't you have?
The doctor says she is suffering "transient paranoid disturbances," but she is more bothered by what she calls "occasional invisibility," as cops, doctors, and relatives find it convenient to talk over and around her.
Okay, Greta clearly has a clinker in her thinker, but this is a crime story. What crime could involve a sweet old lady who empties into her .22 Ruger into the wall of the laundry room, gunning for the sheriff of Mayberry?
A wild and satisfying ride.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
I have a story in this anthology.
Ms. Pullen's tale is a heartwarming story of disease, robbery, blackmail, and other disasters. Trust me.
Martha Sue's life is a mess. Failing business, runaway husband, furious ex-best friend. Everything changes when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her neighbors, all of whom have financial problems of their own, come through in a big way for her.
So, it seems like the least she can do for them is rob a few banks. After all, what's the worst the law can do to her: Put her in prison and give her free medical care?
Funny and sweet, in a twisted way.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
A funny story on a sad subject: people who obsess about serial killers. Jonas Williker is on trial for multiple murders and his correspondents (almost all women) can't get enough of him.
There is a twelve-year-old who wants him to embrace Jesus. His mother assures him that she is confident he is innocent. (She is watching Oz to keep informed of his situation.) Staci, well, Staci is very blunt about what she wants but I can't repeat her requests here. Then there is Ginny who tells him about the two kids she adopted ("The approval process is faster for [special needs children], because no one wants them," and says "Whenever I get a letter from you I turn on Court TV and turn the volume down, so I can read it out loud and pretend you're talking to me." And then there is Candace, a PhD student who wants to study women who are sexually attracted to criminals. Purely for academic reasons, of course.
Horrible people. Damned funny story.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
"The women of Fox Point wore black because someone was always dying."
Nice opening line for a noir story, or a book of the same, true?
This is a tale about making a deal with the devil. Not literally, but about setting a cat to catch a rat, which always leaves you with a cat to cope with.
The narrator is an artist. "I worked in shorts and my bra, making portraits with the bodies of angels and the heads of local politicians. I received good commissions but it didn't matter because my boyfriend was a lobbyist. He paid my rent."
But when she gets jealous of her lover's wife, she starts plotting a murder. And that involves finding someone willing to kill. If you have read any noir at all, you know this ain't gonna end well...
Very nice writing in a clever story.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
I have a story in this book, but let's talk about Mr. Gould's. If Yiddish writer I.B. Singer collaborated with my pal R.T. Lawton on one of the latter's Holiday Burglar stories, the latter might be something like "Everything is Bashert." Lawton's heroes are a couple of burglars whose brilliant plans always go to sheol. Gould's Franny and Larson are two petty lowlifes who like to spend their days at Aquaduct.
And it is at that race track one day that they run into a hasidic gentleman they call the rabbi (he isn't). The rabbi has a Bible-based system for betting on the horses, a sure thing of course, and yet somehow he is short of money. Go figure. Our heroes lend him some cash and, well, a wild ride commences that involves among other things, breaking into a morgue, and ends with a sort of spiritual enlightment.
"We're committing a mortal sin."
"Not our first. Might as well get rich doing it."
A treat from start to finish.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.
It's hard to write funny well. It's hard to write grim well. Do both at the same time and you've got something.
Al's family moved from Long Island to Jacksonville, Florida, when he was in third grade, because of his stepfather's import business. Now he is thirteen and has begun to figure out exactly what is being imported.
But that's not his immediate problem. There are a couple of anti-Semetic rednecks in his class and when they hear about Passover (which the sensitive teacher helpfully describes as "Jewish Easter,") they decide to invite themselves forcefully to the seder. Let all who are hungry come and eat, right?
Sounds like a Manischewitz-fueled version of Key Largo. But what I loved about the story is not the suspense but the surprising choices the characters make (especially the grandmother). Al kept me guessing right up to the last paragraph.
More hardboiled than noir, but a fine piece of work.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
This is a complex story, told in multiple flashbacks. I had to go back and read parts of it a second time to see exactly what happened. But the ending made it worthwhile.
Carin is a new mother and she blogs a lot about her joy in the experience, and her brilliance at the task. Also she hands down her dictates as to what is and isn't fashionable. And writes about her handsome husband.
Sounds insufferable, huh? But she isn't the main character. Celestine lives nearby, and she watches Carin, online in real life. But mostly Celestine obsesses over the death of her little brother when she was a child, for which she was partly responsible.
Did I mention that Carin leaves her baby, Gabriel, snoozing in his perfect stroller in the lovely fresh air outside her charming window while "Carin, with her shades drawn, is advising clueless mothers on how to best take care of their offspring. And Celestine is standing on her balcony right across the street..."
Celestine has plans for Gabriel. They don't go exactly right. But what happens is quite astonishing, and worth a read.