Saturday, September 29, 2007

NBS Awards Report

As announced at Bouchercon 2007 from Anchorage, Alaska:

"The Right Call" by Brendan DuBois won the Barry Award, jointly presented by Mystery News and Deadly Pleasures.

"Till Death Do Us Part" by Tim Maleeny won the Macavity Award, as chosen by members of Mystery Readers International.

"The Heart Has Reasons" by O'Neil De Noux won the Shamus Award, presented by the Private Eye Writers of America.

“My Father’s Secret” by Simon Wood won the Anthony Award, as voted on by attendees of this year's Bouchercon.

Full coverage from The Rap Sheet.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"October", by Scott Wolven

From: Demolition, Fall 2007.

John Thorn and his partner Greg are driving south through Idaho, on the track of a missing girl with only her journal for a guide. As they drive, John thinks back to another time when he searched for clues in the journal of a young woman, hoping to find out why she'd disappeared.

He was much younger then, living in upstate New York, and his uncle Jim had been an officer with the Department of Environmental Protection, responsible for keeping the peace in East Catskill Park. That fall a young woman named Jennifer Flint disappeared. The state cops had given up, and since she'd been known to stay at her parent's vacation home in the park, they turned all their evidence over to Jim.

He and John used dogs, flyers, and shoe leather, but after a couple of months with no leads they moved on.

A month later, Patricia Fineman disappeared. She left a diary, too. And Jim and John went looking for her.

In a just world, Scott Wolven would be rich and famous. He tells stories that cover a lot of traditional noir ground, but he avoids the posturing that so many writers in the feel seem to think makes their stuff deep. Instead, his writing is full of genuine feelings of despair and regret. His stories don't always have a neat arc; they tend to be messy, like real life. And they're not always about what you think they're about. Read "October" and consider the last few lines, and ask yourself whose story this is.

As an aspiring writer, Wolven always makes me feel like a piker. I read one of his stories and think to myself, "No need to write about that, then," because he's already covered it. At the same time it's hard not to be inspired by the possibilities he shows you. If you like great writing, I urge you to read his collection Controlled Burn. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Freddie Prinze is My Guardian Angel" by Liz Martínez

From: Manhattan Noir ed. Lawrence Block. Akashic Books, 2006.

Freddie Prinze first appears to the narrator while she's praying the Rosary on the fourth anniversary of his death. "You're supposed to join the NYPD," he says.

Already infatuated with Prinze, the narrator follows his cryptic, counterintuitive advice in smaller things, persisting even when it turns out badly for her. Prinze appears unpredictably throughout her teens and early twenties, and finally she agrees to apply to the NYPD.

A morbidly funny story highlighted by the narrator's engaging voice and blind faith in Prinze.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"The Erstwhile Groom" by Laura Benedict

This was a nice, creepy little story in the September double issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Kurt and his wife Livia share a house and a quiet life. Their daughter is thinking of marriage, but is the young man in her life any good for her?

Well, Kurt is pretty sure the young man isn't a good match. Maybe it has something to do with his abusive behavior. But what is a father to do if his daughter defends a bum? Of course, there is a little hidden room in the basement of the house that isn't getting too much use and which no one but him knows about. Could be handy, no?

But if you think you know how this story is going to go, then you're just wrong...Unless, of course, you've read it already, in which case you will not have forgotten it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Public Immunity by Eve Fisher

The problem with small town policing is that everyone knows you and your business and sometimes that business takes you into the houses of dead people you knew...knew and had reason to want dead. So it is when Grant (not sure we're given a full name) goes to the home of Neil Inveig. Now, Neil had a lot of people who might want him dead. He had people from town on video tape doing naughty things...with others. And hadn't Neil taken Grant's girlfriend away? And wasn't Grant's not so quick witted brother Barry a little too friendly with Neil?

Grant, of course, knows he did nothing wrong. In fact, he knows he did nothing at all to cause Neil's untimely demise, but who in the small town would believe that? Apparently not many, and this gnaws at Grant. Still, how some of his supporters decide to make sure there is never official suspicion will surprise you. The steady voice that tells the story will draw you in and hold onto you till the final twist.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Needle" by Loren D. Estleman

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, October 2007.

For Estleman's 55th birthday, a review of his latest Amos Walker story. Walker's septuagenarian neighbor Doto, a Polish Holocaust survivor with whom Walker has only shared the occasional courtesy, stops by for coffee, invites Walker back to his house, and shows him a dead body.

It's clear that Doto fired his shotgun at the man, but he claims not to remember doing it, only recognizing the man as an intruder, noticing a Swastika tattoo on his cheek.

Walker calls the police, and Doto's story seems to hold up. At trial, Walker testifies to what he witnessed, and the jury determines Doto was within his rights to defend himself in his own home.

Once again sharing coffee, however, Walker discovers something about Doto's past that turns the story nicely on its head.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"The Guardians" by Jim Fusilli

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2007.

Fusilli fleshes out Luther Addison, the straight-arrow cop from his Terry Orr novels, with a story set in 1982. Addison finds himself under IA investigation for his suspected role in the shooting of low-level mobster. To clear his name, Luther must conduct an off-the-books investigation with the help of two of his stepfather's retired cop friends.

Featuring Fusilli's trademark vivid New York, the racial tension of the time is equally palpable in "The Guardians".

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Tennis, Anyone?" by Kinky Friedman

From: Murder is My Racquet, ed. Otto Penzler. Mysterious Press, 2005.

A review of a tennis-themed story seems appropriate for Jimmy Connors's 55th birthday (which falls in the middle of the U.S. Open).

The engaging narrator of this story begins by saying he hasn't played tennis in years, but how he played the game revealed a lot about his character. A chess prodigy, he brought craft and deception to his tennis game, beating more athletic opponents with trickery.

He goes on to describe his first wife and how she pushed him to be a doctor. He describes falling out of love with his wife and being attracted to a nurse. Finally he describes his wife's "tragic" death from an incurable disease. All the while, readers come to realize how crafty, deceptive, indeed unreliable, the narrator is.