Sunday, August 6, 2017
This is Bracken's fourth appearance in this space, which puts him in the top five repeat offenders, I believe.
Beau James had built a nice life for himself, operating the Quarryville Smokehouse, and living with a girlfriend and her daughter. When his restaurant is featured in a magazine with his picture he knows that the good times are over. He is in the Witness Protection Program and the motorcycle gang he turned state evidence against are bound to see the picture...
The story takes place in modern Texas but it has the feeling of an old-fashioned Western, with the bad guys getting closer and the townsfolk having to decide where they stand. A good story.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
What a long story title. This, by the way, is Bracken's third appearance in this column. It takes place in Waco, Texas, where Blake is a former cop (he arrested the son of the wrong millionaire) turned private eye. Mrs. Watkins hired him to get proof that her fat rich husband is cheating on her. She might want more from Blake than just that.
And so might Ashley, a wealthy blond he meets in downtown, near the food trucks. For one thing, she would like to accompany him on a case... We will leave it there, I think. It's a good story.
But let's talk about the art of building an anthology. There is a story earlier in this book that, shall we say, runs from Point A to Point B, with B being the revelation of a particular plot device.
Bracken's story includes the same device, but it runs past it to Point C. (Which does not automatically make it a better story, by the way.)
If the editors had put Bracken's story earlier on than the other tale would be a disappointment. But by running it first the alert reader says "Ah, I see where Bracken is going" - and is pleasantly surprised when he goes past it. So, good job, editors.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
I would say any writer who appears in this space twice in a year can think he's having a good year. That's not ego on my part; I would be happy if any non-relative thought I scored twice in one spin around the sun.
Mr. Bracken is making his second appearance at Little Big Crimes this month.
This story is about Samuel "Sugar" Cane, a Texas thug who has worked, since he was a crooked high school football player, for a crime boss named De La Rosa. As he goes about his daily work of collecting debts for the big man he meets a woman whose mother used to be his lover. Hmm..
A popular topic in writing circles is first person versus third. This story would be much less powerful if it were in first, or if we could tell what'd going on in Sugar's head. We ave to figure it out, which keeps the suspense high.
This story reminds me of Michael Koryta's "A People Person," which I wrote about here back in 2013. Both are about a thorough-going baddie who finds himself unexpectedly facing a line he may not be willing to cross.
And both are terrific stories.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
A very touching story by this year's winner of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in the mystery short story.
Picture a small town in Texas, one so set in its ways that the whites and blacks still use seperate cemeteries. Cody is a gay man, deep in the closet. His secret lover, Chase, on the other hand, was "leading one-man Gay Pride parades."
When Chase disappears, Cody has to decide what is more important: finding out the truth, or staying safe?
"Nobody's filed a missing person report," Junior said. "Not sure anybody around here cares one way or the other."
"I could file a report."
Junior lowered his ice cream-laden spoon and stared straight into my eyes. "You might could," he said, "but are you sure you want to do that, Cody? People will talk."