"Please sir or madam won’t you read my book…"
Here you’ll find a list of stories I’ve had published one place or another, plus several earlier stories that I still kind of like, with notes on each one.
Bonnie And Clyde’s Last Ride
Published January 2005 on this website.
A bored deputy sheriff in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, pulls over a canary yellow 1932 Buick sedan, just for kicks. Turns out he’s the one who gets the kick, right in the jimmy, starting off a wild chase that includes the phrases:
“Deputy Howdy and Deputy Doody”…
“Don’t taunt me a second time!”
Notes: This story was written as part of a blogtholagy called The Junk In The Trunk. Dave White and Bryon Quertermous came up with the idea. The rest of the participants are listed here. This story is a slapstick farce, which I had a lot of fun writing. I also managed to stick in a few insults at Dave and Bryon, which was a plus.
Published September 2004 in Fedora III.
Every day for a week, Frederick Chapel has left home and driven off into the city, not returning until nightfall. His wife hires private detective Thomas Ross to find out where he’s been going. He discovers that her husband doesn’t know either.
Notes: One evening I was on my way to my writing group and was stuck behind a Sunday driver, slowing down at every intersection to look at the street signs. The first line of this story popped into my head: “It’s tough to follow someone who doesn’t know where he’s going.” I really learned how to plot with this story. I had a good start, but I didn’t know A) what Chapel was looking for, B) why he was looking for it, and C) why he didn’t know how to find it. At the time this was the best thing I’d written, by far.
Two mob gorillas decide to play detective and find out who ratted on their boss.
Notes: Originally this story was more or less a straight crime piece, with a few snappy wisecracks here and there. Then I added a few more jokes, and a few more, and soon it had turned into a farce. I started with the “cutting diamonds” dialog at the beginning and end, and cooked up the rest of the plot in about five minutes. When I wrote it I had been reading Joe Lansdale and Victor Gischler, two darkly comic crime writers. Gischler’s Gun Monkeys especially influenced this story, and in fact I set it in Orlando, where that book is set. I decided not to make the city too explicit since I’ve never been to Orlando.
Kevin is an urban predator, a hunter who tracks women and uses them to satisfy his primal urges. On the prowl one night, he meets a girl who could mean more to him, but he doesn’t know he’s not the only hunter in the jungle…
Notes: This story evolved over a long period of time. Originally it was inspired by the “Twist” section at MysteryNet.com, and by the stories of writers such as Henry Slesar and Fredric Brown, who always managed to provide shock endings. I wrote the first draft when I was a vendor representative at an unspeakable boring Microsoft seminar (to add insult to injury, we didn’t get any clients). The ending was a bit more conventional then, but Neil Smith at PWG suggesting I change it to be a bit more in tune with the rest of the story. I like the new ending much better than the original one.
The Wrong Briefcase
Forthcoming (?) in a short-short anthology called Bullet Points.
A con on the run leaves a briefcase full of money with his lawyer. When a stone killer named McNeil shows up to claim it, the lawyer has to figure his way out of a deadly trap.
Notes: Another MysteryNet.com story, this one written in response to one of their periodic “Mysterious Photo” contests but never submitted. Less than 500 words long, it still manages to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’m proud of this one not for overall impact, but for technical merit: the ability to cram all that into a short-short.
Lowlife Lenny is surprised by the reappearance of his ex-con friend George, supposedly inside for ten years, but out after five. Lenny knows that a showdown is coming, sooner or later, and he wants to make sure it’s on his terms.
Notes: This was one of the most difficult stories I ever wrote. It’s told by Lenny in the first person, and I had all kinds of trouble finding the right voice. It started out very baroque and self-consciously “hard-boiled”, and it took a long time to strip it down until it was still idiosyncratic, but at least understandable. The story is basically a conflict of personalities. George is a criminal, but he’s also hard-working and earnest and has dreams beyond the gutter. Lenny likes it in the gutter, though he considers it slumming and thinks he’s better than those around him. He’s a slacker who only looks forward to his next drink or his next hit. The names I took from Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck, one of the little games I played with myself to stay interested while I finished up the story.
Texas Sheriff Mike Lockhart looks into a decades-old murder when a construction job unearths evidence.
Notes: A police procedural, but more than that an exercise in voice, as the story is narrated by aging deputy John Milam (last name not given in the story). There’s more here than meets they eye, as Milam doesn’t care for the sheriff; he thinks Lockhart doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously enough, that he relies too much on brains and not enough on good police work. That’s pretty well buried, though; I used that to inform my character choices more than making it explicit in the story. I like these characters and may make this a series.
Private detective Thomas Ross is hired to look into the disappearance of a local attorney by the man’s wife. In short order he digs up a girlfriend and a drug-dealing client, but who wanted this man gone? And why?
Notes: An old-school PI tale. Too old school, really; this is one of the first stories I ever wrote, and wrote, and wrote… Over the years I did at least three major versions, reworking it until I was satisfied. It bears a strong resemblance to many Raymond Chandler stories, as I was a HUGE Chandler fan when I first wrote it. Like many of my early stories, it suffers from the Saggy Middle Problem.
Michael Gabney impulsively invites a homeless man into his home and gives him a priceless gift: a reason to live.
Notes: I’ve posted this story in a couple of critique forums, and it’s always been misunderstood. Gabney sees this guy, and wants to help, okay? So he gives him a purpose in life, something to live for, all right? Now get off my back! An early story that could probably use a rewrite, but I’ve never gotten around to it.
Donna and her brother confront the adoption lawyer who helped Donna give up her baby for adoption. They want to know where she is and how she’s doing. They’re not going to like the answer.
Notes: I have to admit, this little vignette always moves me. I’m not sure I did a good job expressing the emotions that this brings up in me, but this is one of the saddest stories I’ve ever come up with.
Jody Veers and his wife move into a new house. Jody finds himself face-to-face with a childhood he can’t return to.
Notes: Another one I like. This story was one of the first in which I used events from my own life in a fictional narrative. It gave me lots of ideas for ways to incorporate this type of thing, which I think lends verisimilitude to any story. Also, there’s a few attempts at “mordant wit” – does anyone do that anymore?
A sax player, compulsive gambler, and all-around loser confronts his bookie and his fate. Will he be able to weasel out of it?
Notes: The Swing Story. In 1998 I was heavily into neo-swing music. I wanted to do a story with this background, and this was the result. My plotting wasn’t up to par; this story also has a weak middle section.