Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Short Stories Wanted for Bouchercon (Anthology)

Attention Writers and Attendees of the 50th Anniversary Bouchercon, 2019:
YES, there will be an anthology this year! And yes, you can submit a story for consideration as long as you’re a registered conference attendee! Here’s all you need to know:

– One of Bouchercon 50’s goals is to make the largest charitable contribution in the history of the conference. All proceeds from the sale of the books will go toward that effort! LIFT, Literary Instruction For Texas, works to enhance and strengthen communities by teaching adults to read. And Bouchercon gets to help in that mission this year!
– For a theme, think no further than the conference slogan: Denim, Diamonds, and Death!
  Original stories are vastly preferred. Absolutely no reprints, please.
– Stories should be less than five thousand words. Approximately. Sort of. But you know writers.
  The book itself will once again be published by the fine folks at Down & Out Books.
  The deadline for all stories will be June 1st.
If you think you’ve got the story for the anthology, not just a story, please send it to rick@downandoutmagazine.com. We’ll have the book for sale in the book room with some signings and hopefully we’ll be able to make a meaningful contribution to LIFT as well as showcase some of the amazing talent in the Bouchercon writing community.
So let’s go, people. Bring it on!
Rick Ollerman

Monday, February 25, 2019

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "Tropical Heat"

Tropical Heat, by John Lutz, was published as a hardcover by Henry Holt in 1986, but the edition that caught my eye was Avon’s 1987 paperback edition. I’m a sucker for tropical settings—pink typeset and palm trees make it all the better—convertibles and gun packing gents. The artist: Unknown (to me at least)

The opening lines:
A cane was no good for walking on sand. It penetrated to different levels and caused tentativeness. When Carver got within a hundred feet of the surf, the cane’s tip made soft sucking sounds and water appeared in the round holes it left in the sand.
Topical Heat is the first (of 10) Fred Carver mystery novels published between 1986 and 1996. Carver, a former cop, took a bullet in the knee while on duty and prowls Florida’s criminal underbelly with a cane and a sense of duty as a private eye.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"A Real Nice Guy" by William F. Nolan

His name was Jimmie Prescott and he is thirty-one years of age. Five foot ten. Slight build. 
He’s a loner. A sniper. A killer. The sort of sniper who sets up over a busy city street and randomly chooses a target. A victim. It is the spontaneity that thrills him, and, by his own reckoning, he is the best. The best because he has 41 notches on his rifle, and, while there have been a few close calls, he has no real fear of capture.
“A Real Nice Guy” is a stylish crime story written by William F. Nolan, a favorite short story writer of mine, originally published in the April 1980 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. It is something of a battle of sociopaths—both bad, of course—and while the ending is less than surprising the journey is ideal. The prose is smooth and, especially the non-dialogue narrative, is something like a brassy jazz riff—
He was a master. He never missed a target, never wasted a shot. He was cool and nerveless and smooth, and totally without conscience.
Its short. Third person, and very much worth seeking out. But, in the interest of fairness, that is exactly what I think of all Nolan’s short work.
I read “A Real Nice Guy” in The New Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction, published in 2013 by Running Press, and edited by Maxim Jakubowski.

Monday, February 04, 2019

EASY GO by Michael Crichton (as by John Lange)

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Michael Crichton published eight thrillers under the pseudonym John Lange.  The Lange novels are something very different than the science fiction Michael Crichton became famous for writing.  They are thrillers more in the vein of Desmond Bagley, Jack Higgins, and Gavin Lyall, and I like them much more than Crichton’s big bestsellers.
Harold Barnaby is an Egyptologist in an age when nothing new or interesting is happening in the field.  His specialty is hieroglyphics, and while translating a text he discovers a reference to the tomb of an obscure Pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings.  In earlier years Barnaby dreamed of the glory of discovering an Egyptian tomb, but now, at the age of 41, he is less interested in glory and more interested in wealth.  He approaches a freelance writer named Robert Pierce with an ambitious plan to loot the tomb, which he estimates to be worth, in 1968 dollars, $50 million.
The novel is written in third person, and is structured in three titled acts—The Plan, The Search, and The Last Tomb.  The scene titles are self-descriptive.  The Plan introduces the genesis of the idea, the plan, and the compilation of the team.  The team arrives in Egypt in the second act, and the third act is the resolution.
Easy Go is all story.  It opens with a flash, and it races from the first page to the last.  The setting is surprisingly rich, and provides, in stark prose, the sounds, smells, and sights of the land—
“The land was flat, desolate, windy; there was no vegetation, no sign of life.”
“The modern traveler’s first view of Egypt is appropriate: Cairo airport, set out in the flat, brown sand of the desert stretching away in silent heat for miles.  It is a landscape that communicates, quite distinctly, a sense of agelessness, unchanging, interminable.”
“The villages were all the same—mud huts, dusty streets, and date-palm trees, stately camels and barking, hungry dogs.”
Easy Go is a thriller as thrillers were meant to be.  It is quick, light, and entertaining as hell.  There isn’t the slightest bit of character development, but it is populated with an exotic group of characters.  There is the wealthy British nobleman financing the operation on a whim who travels with, at a minimum, two young ladies, there is the smuggler, and the thief.  It is exciting, and with just enough of a twist at the end to bring a smile.
Easy Go was originally published in 1968 by Signet and it was republished as The Last Tomb by Bantam in 1974. It was reissued as with its original title by Hard Case Crime, along with Crichton’s other John Lange titles, in 2013.