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Incident Report

Incident Report No. 87

Photograph by Dacian Dorca (CC BY)

The Incident Report No. 87 features highlights from the Small Crimes posts I run almost every day. If you don’t have the time to read the daily missives then this might just be for you.


Several months ago, Chris Rhatigan, publisher of All Due Respect Books, asked if I’d like to help out his plan on resurrecting the All Due Respect zine. The idea was simple: we would publish hard-as-nails crime fiction with a touch of drinking money sent to the writers. I was already used to reading a slush pile. Years ago I use to read the slush pile for a literary magazine in Boston but reading so many stories again was definitely eye-opening with what makes or breaks a short story.

Luckily for y’all, over at Do Some Damage, Rhatigan lays down some guidelines that could be followed when writing short stories.

You don’t need a twist to construct a good short story. In fact, one of the most common mistakes I see is writers constructing stories that are built around a twist. In other words, the first three-quarters of the story seems to express, “wait for it, wait for it, the twist is coming!” Every part of a story should be engaging—not just the end. A related problem is that twists are so common that the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I would imagine most readers have seen plenty of twist endings. 

Simple plots that are handled with expert care and focus on a natural progression of events tend to make stronger stories.

Throughout Rhatigan’s “One Approach To Writing Short Stories”, he also recommends some great examples by Tom Pitts, Paul D. Brazill, and Stephen D. Rogers.

https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/goldberg-slow-down/


Over at LitReactor, Max Booth III wrote about trigger warnings in horror fiction and, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of carryover to the crime fiction genre.

Imagine the following scenario: You are lounging on the couch wanting nothing more than to chill out with a cool-ass horror book. You are enjoying everything going on in the story until—whoa wait what the absolute fuck suddenly—you’ve come across a random rape scene, and now instead of having a good time you are reliving a past traumatic experience from your own life. Your entire goddamn day is ruined. Replace “rape” with “suicide” and it’s the same outcome. All you can think about now is a lost loved one who took their own life or perhaps the long struggle you faced overcoming personal suicidal ideations. Or, to continue with one more example, imagine reading a book where a young child dies in a gruesome manner soon after losing your own child. No way are you in any mental state to possibly continue reading. Shit like that is very likely to wreck you.

I feel I’m giving this essay short shrift, but it’s quality especially given Booth’s wearing of multiple hats in the horror genre: writer, editor, publisher, reviewer, and fan.


The fifth book of Dana King’s Penns River series, “Pushing Water” (Down & Out Books), recently came out, and King has been busy. There’s his Do Some Damage article about writing police procedurals which is quite informative.

It bothers me that so many people think what they “learn” in cop and courtroom novels and shows are how things really are. It creates unhealthy ideas of how law enforcement works, or doesn’t. To feel one has to choose between realism and entertainment is a door to lazy writing. There’s no reason the story can’t be both.

Then King’s off to be interviewed by Dietrich Kalteis at Off the Cuff.

I read cop memoirs to get an idea of how they think. I still leaf through Connie Fletcher’s books of cops’ stories. Adam Plantinga’s books 400 Things Cops Know and Police Craft are wonderful resources. Ask some cops how cases get solved and they’ll tell you it’s usually because someone talks.

But wait there’s more!

King interviewed Tom Pitts on the eve of his upcoming release Cold Water (Down & Out Books). Pitts talked about his new book.

I think the Everyman facing insurmountable odds is a powerful theme, and very relatable. I wanted to write something akin to Joe Lansdale’s Hot in December or Cold in July, but my own version. And in Northern California. And I wanted it to play out in a few locations, not just San Francisco. I think the suburban sprawl is under-represented in fiction. Gentrification has made the big cities so banal. Where’s the hunger, where’s the struggle, where’s the passion? In the burbs, baby.


Other Articles

Adam Scovell on reading crime fiction during the pandemic (3:AM Magazine)

Alex George on letting it all burn, “Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work” (Lit Hub)

“The Comprehensive Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with an Editor” by Chantel Hamilton (Jane Friedman)

“Author Spotlight: Andrew Davie” by Scott Cumming (Eight Million Books to Read)

Rachel Howzell Hall and Alex Segura discussed crime fiction (Writer’s Digest)

“The Origins of Scandinavian Noir” by Wendy Lesser (The Paris Review)


Book Reviews

“This Letter to Norman Court” by Pabo D’Stair (All Due Respect Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)

“Love is a Grift” by Graham Wynd (Fox Spirit Books) (Sonia Kilvington)

“We Need To Do Something” by Max Booth III (Perpetual Motion Machine) (Dead End Follies)

“Dead Man’s Mistress” by David Housewright (Minotaur) (Kevin’s Corner)

“Blacktop Wasteland” by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron) (So Much To Talk About)

“Sordid: Five Crime Stories” by Harry Hunsicker (Kevin’s Corner)

“Broken Dreams” by Nick Quantrill (Fahrenheit Press) (Ian Ayris)

“The Waiting Rooms” by Eve Smith (Orenda Books) (Crime Fiction Lover)

“Rock and a Hard Place Issue #2” (Eight Million Books to Read)


Featured Books

“Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4: Recoil” edited by Ron Earl Phillips (Shotgun Honey)


“Throwing Off Sparks” by Michael Pool (PI Tales)


“The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men” by Tom Leins (All Due Respect Books)


“We Need To Do Something” by Max Booth III (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing)


“Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights” by Sonia Kilvington (Close to the Bone)


“The Brooklyn Trilogy” by Robert J. Randisi (Down & Out Books)


Thanks for stopping by to read Incident Report No. 87. If you’d like to read more posts like this, please click here.

Categories
Incident Report

Incident Report No. 86

Photograph by J. Stimp, CC BY

The Incident Report No. 86 features highlights from the Small Crimes posts I run almost every day. If you don’t have the time to read the daily missives then this might just be for you.


The week began well for Shawn Cosby. There was an interview in Publishers Weekly and he made the cover of Booklist, a book review journal published by the American Library Association. Everything was coming up Cosby. But as Eryk Pruitt pointed out, “Book Twitter is why we can’t have nice things.”

The short of it is that a Twitter Mob formed and resulted in Booklist pulling their cover. Please read Cosby’s response.

Again, I am a 46-year-old black man who lives in the former capitol of the Confederacy. I understand that images matter and can be used to reinforce negative ideas. But I feel, no I pray that we, each of us, will do our best to slough off the shackles of our preconceived notions. That we will take time to ask ourselves why is it that when we see the words “crime fiction’ and the image of a black man we didn’t assume he was the hero? 


Adrian Bardon, author of “A Brief History of the Philosphy of Time”, was interviewed for Vox to discuss how the quarantine is affecting our perception of time.

You mentioned this kind of paradoxical thing: We feel that time is dragging, but it’s also flying by. That comes out of the same situation. We’re out of our routine. We’re out of our structure. We’re out of doing tasks that we would normally feel productive and good about. It’s more like we’re treading water or trying to deal with situations we don’t want to deal with. And then in our retrospective judgment of the passage of time, it seems like things went by really quickly because we didn’t really accomplish anything.


Here are the first paragraphs of two short stories that deserve your attention: K.A. Laity’s “The Click of the Shutting” (Punk Noir) and Paul J. Garth’s “Paper Boats” (Tough).

She waited for the sound of it, the sound that meant safety, the sound that meant it was over for now. The time it was when his shouts might soften, sometimes even turn to tears and beg forgiveness, beg for comfort, remind her again how it was all her fault.

“The Click of the Shutting” by K.A. Laity (Punk Noir)

They had only been gone a few hours, just long enough to see a movie and pick up some food for the kid, but somehow that’d been long enough for Taylor Olsen to die, the boy still strapped to the metal folding chair Neil had tied him to before they left, his face blue, his little clenched mouth filled with vomit.

“Paper Boats” by Paul J. Garth (Tough)

Garry Rodgers, author of “From the Shadows”, wrote “What Really Goes On In The Morgue” (Kill Zone). He also peppered his story with anectodes from his law enforcement career.

One was “Mister Red Pepper Paste Man”. My friend Elvira Esikanian, a seasoned forensic pathologist of Bosnian descent who cut her teeth by exhuming mass graves, is a gem. She also has a wicked eye for detail.

I brought this old guy into the morgue after finding him dead in his apartment. Neighbors reported him screaming like someone was skinning a live cat. They rushed in and found him collapsed on the floor. No idea what killed him, but no sign of foul play.

Elvira opened his stomach and it was positively crawling. She knew what it was—botulism. Elvira told me to go back to the scene and look to see what he’d been eating. I found it. It was a jar of red pepper paste that was years past its expiry date, and the inside was a mass of organic activity.


Featured Books


“The Faking of the President: Nineteen Stories of White House Noir” edited by Peter Carlaftes (Three Rooms Press)


“Still Life with a Suitcase” by Scott Eubanks (Down & Out Books)


“Bleak Friday” by Various Artists (King Shot Press)


"KIng of the Crows" by Russell Day | Crows, Cliffs, Stephen King

 “King of the Crows” by Russell Day (Fahrenheit Press)


“Tales from The Longcroft Estate” by Darren Sant (Close to the Bone)


“Blacktop Wasteland” by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)


Thanks for stopping by to read Incident Report No. 86. If you’d like to read more posts like this, please click here.