Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Surviving Spouse - Doug Allyn

This story was published in the October 2006 Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine right alongside my own story, and it makes me proud to have been included in the issue. It concerns a college professor whose life is quickly crumbling in his hands. In order to save the pieces of his life that still remain, he squeezes harder (to continue the metaphor) and turns those bits to dust. The main concern is with the lives of Professor Alex Creighton and his wife, Thelma. Among other things, we learn that their marriage is on the rocks and the good professor has been caught on tape doing things with a co-ed that he shouldn't have been doing. This is no secret. In fact, it's why he's getting fired in the first sentence of the story.

The plot twist concerns a gun and an insurance policy that one of the spouses has on them, but the plot twist is not what interests me most in the story*. What I most enjoyed about the story was the fact that I was completely drawn into the train wreck that the marriage was. Their reasons for falling apart were human ones. Allyn was able, in a short space, to draw characters that seem fully human. They don't just walk and talk as humans do, they love and hate as humans do. I've read several Allyn stories and quite enjoyed them, but this is the one that has had the greatest emotional impact, I think. And that's saying something.

To return to the plot for a moment, I will say that the ending surprised me most. After all, when there's a gun and an insurance policy, the reader is entitled to expect a certain outcome - the actual outcome in the story frustrated those expectations, but surprised and went a long way toward completing the roundness of the two main characters.

All in all, I'm very happy to have read the story and think it worth the price of admission: $3.99.

* See my introduction below.

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