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.
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.
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)
“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)
“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)
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