Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The Public Hero" by Robert S. Levinson

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018, p. 168-177

Linda Landrigan of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers International spread the word that Los Angeles reporter, public relations executive, producer, and crime fiction writer Robert S. Levinson died March 13 from pneumonia.

Having enjoyed Bob's Neil Gulliver & Stevie Marriner novels, I got to know him as a fellow member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, where his stories received three Derringer Award nominations and one win.

His most recent EQMM story follows 1979 Hollywood P.I. Rufus Reed, his quick shooting having foiled a bank robbery. Notoriety gets him hired as security for Sky Diver and the Sky Dwellers. He's with the band when an armed intruder gets to them, charging plagiarism. Though that incident lands Rufus in the hospital, he's approached by a man who offers to make him the subject of a movie.

Like much of Bob's fiction, "The Public Hero" is steeped in Hollywood lore. Its outcome particularly shows that even the savviest person can be taken with such glamorous promise.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"The Lighthouse and the Lamp" by William Dylan Powell

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018, p. 31–42

William Dylan Powell
Unlicensed Corpus Christi, Texas P.I. Billy is intrigued when his elderly friend Clarabelle Mayhew claims to have a true-to-legend, wish-granting magic lamp. Despite Clarabelle's certainty her wishes came true by magic—including $1 million cash on her doorstep—Billy remains skeptical. He talks Clarabelle into letting him observe covertly when she makes her next wish.

Though, as Billy suspects, there's no magic involved, "The Lighthouse and the Lamp" stands out to me because there's no crime, either, but quite a mystery.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

"The Avenging Angel" by John Lantigua

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March-April 2018, p. 91–100

Remembering journalist Lantigua's Willie Cuesta P.I. novels, I'm pleased to see Willie in the pages of EQMM. In this case, he's hired by Carlos Miranda, a former El Salvadoran gang member who has fled to Miami's Little Havana to reform, but who is paranoid the gang has sent an "avenging angel" to kill him.

Finding that Carlos's suspect also claims he only wants to reform, Willie brokers a meeting between them, but remains wary of trusting either, as must readers.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"Victory Garden" by G.M. Malliet

G.M. Malliet
photo by Joe Henson
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March-April 2018, p. 69-72

The current issue of EQMM includes a number of very short stories that pack surprising punch.

For much of this one, set in the middle of World War II, protagonist Carol presents herself the type of woman who would never divorce overweight, overbearing Silas, despite years of mistreatment.

Her veil of concern for the societal norms of the time obscures Carol's feelings and plans from other characters and readers alike until the very last word.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Cleopatran Cocktails" by William Burton McCormick

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March-April 2018, p. 88-91

In two-and-a-quarter pages of first-person present tense narration, author McCormick gets into the mind of a woman obsessed with world records as she works up the nerve to break a museum display case and steal a pearl necklace worth $30 million.

Her goal, though, isn't to keep the prize but to dissolve the pearls in vinegar and drink them—surpassing Cleopatra VII of Egypt's drinking a single $15 million pearl, which the narrator calls "the world's most expensive breakfast."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Double Deck the Halls" by Gretchen Archer

Henery Press, 2017

The annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic has announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

Gretchen Archer's nominated story takes place in the world of her Davis Way series. Davis is the lead undercover investigator for a Mississippi resort and casino, but this particular story is told by Davis's grandmother, Dee, who finds herself captured by a Santa's elf who has strapped a bomb to Davis's friend, Bianca.

Archer's previous short stories have gone into the viewpoints of various characters in Davis's circle, and Granny proves quite the character, resourcefully trying to save Bianca while a captive herself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bill Crider (1941-2018)

Our own Bill Crider died yesterday, having battled cancer since July 2016. From his brother, Bob, who's been updating his Facebook friends:

My brother, Bill Crider, passed away this evening at 6:52 PM CST, Monday February 12, 2018. It was a peaceful end to a strong body and intellectual mind. Services pending and will be announced later.

I chatted briefly with Bill at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, where he was his usual good-natured self on panels. We met in person at my first Bouchercon, 2008 in Baltimore. Meanwhile, virtually, he always commented on my birthday blog posts. The smallest gestures can be the kindest.

I regret we won't share another con, but his wisdom, wit, and friendship will remain with me and all of us here at Nasty. Brutish. Short.