Sunday, February 19, 2017
This is the fourth time my friend and fellow SleuthSayer has made it into this column.
Raymond Wilde is a private eye in a small town in Connecticut where high school football is a big thing. His client is Harold Bain, a wealthy and abrasive man, who wants Ray to prove that the school quarterback is a ringer, not really living in the town. He says that he's concerned about the taxpayers being ripped off, but he really wants to get the outsider out of the way so his own son can move up to quarterback.
Ray investigates but quickly gets distracted by another house on the same block where mysterious goings-on are, uh, going on. Some of them involve Harold Bain, Jr.
What I liked best about this story is the ending, in which several characters show unexpected sides of their personalities. You might even call it a happy ending.
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.
Monday, November 14, 2016
This story reminds me of a classic by Jack Ritchie, "For All The Rude People." Both start a guy getting ticked off at inconsiderate folks and deciding to fix the problem. The solutions they come up with are very different, and of course, that's the wonderful thing about fiction: two writers can take the same idea in two wildly different directions.
Morrell's star is Barry Pollard and what he likes to do is beat up rude people; put them in the hospital. He figures this attitude adjustment is good for people and they ought to be grateful for it. So one tipsy night he puts an ad on the internet offering to punish anyone who is suffering from a guilty conscience.
If you are brighter than Barry - not a high bar - you can see where that plot is going to wrong, and so it does.
The victim winds up in the hospital but his wife's best friend, Jamie Travers and her husband Cavanaugh, are in the protecting business and they set out to figure whodunit and whopaidforit.
My one complaint about the story is that the solution to that last problem feels unearned and a bit week. But the tale is definitely worth a read.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Clever concept for an anthology: crime stories without guns. Profits will go to States United to Prevent Gun Violence.
As for Mr. Hart, making his second appearance in this space, while his story features a violent crime, it feels more mainstream than genre. It's a sort of character study or slice-of-life (slice-of-death?) piece about the titular character.
The big man they call Creampuff has a job that could only exist in a city as big and crazy as New York. He is a bouncer in a bakery. You see, the chef has come up with a baked treat so popular that people line up before opening to buy one, and they are all gone before nine A.M. And since they are so trendy, a whole of Important People feel they should be able to cut in line to get theirs.
Creampuff disagrees. And he can make it stick because "[h]e was huge, like a recurring childhood nightmare."
Here is our hero at work:
There were the Richie Riches who would stride up to him and wave a bill under his nose. Usually a twenty, sometimes a hundred. Creampuff would take it, stick it in a pouch on his belt that read "donations for charity," and cross his arms.
No one ever asked for their money back.
An enjoyable and well-written piece.
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.