Just when I thought my desultory writing career was nearly done, I sold another short story. It’s called “Five Hat Minimum” and it appears in the current issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (which we literary lions refer to as EQMM). You should buy several copies and hand them out as gifts. Or, use them as fun coasters for your next soiree!
This yarn features a character I introduced in another EQMM story some years back. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. I won’t say it’s the best story ever written, but maybe the best I’ve written. Which, admittedly, is not a real high bar.
EQMM has published quite a bit of my work over the years. It’s funny: my first published fiction, “Nobody’s Business,” appeared in the same issue as a story by Joyce Carol Oates, back in 2003. I was quite proud of that. Now this one, which may be my last, also appears alongside one of her stories (“The Siren: 1999”). I mention it because she’s not a frequent contributor to the magazine. I’ll definitely use that as an ice-breaker next time I run into Joyce at a cocktail party.
When I first submitted “Five Hat Minimum” last summer, EQMM editor Janet Hutchings wrote to say she liked it, but had a problem with the salty language. See, there were quite a few permutations of the word “fuck.” I had deployed it in certain dialogue as noun, verb, adjective, adverb and probably infinitive. My reasoning was that the characters in question would certainly talk that way. Her reasoning was that the magazine’s core readership didn’t like seeing the work “fuck.”
Fair enough. Because I’m not Stephen King, and because I hadn’t been notified of any bidding wars for my story, I shrugged and submitted another version. This one is certified F-bomb free. I guess it still reads pretty well, and I respect Janet’s wish to maintain a certain level of gentility in the magazine she’s run for the past 30-some years.
Anyway, the link above is to an excerpt of the story. Check it out if you get a chance. Let me know what you think. Especially if you consider it a work of staggering genius. I am immune to criticism, but I am not immune to praise.
Oh, and one more link. Janet asked me to write a post for “Something is Going to Happen,” the blog for EQMM’s writers and readers. It’s about the wide variety of fiction that is encompassed by the mystery genre. Dave Bob says check it out.