August 15th, 2011 22:25 by Albert Tucher
The Pentagon refuses to confirm or deny anything about the Delta Force, but rumors persist about an all-female unit colloquially known as the Funny Platoon. I have been thinking for some time that there is a series of thrillers in that idea. Little did I know until just recently that Zoe Sharp has a terrific series about Charlie Fox, a female Special Forces veteran turned bodyguard. The latest book is available for the Kindle:
July 30th, 2011 16:21 by Albert Tucher
I have just added Miss Winser Will Pour to my writing samples.
On July 21, 2011, the temperature in Newark reached 108 degrees. That is a record for the city, but Newark has always suffered from extreme summer heat. In this story Miss Winser soldiers on without air conditioning or the casual dress we have become used to in recent years to find the desperado among her assistants who has thrown away charge slips and recklessly consumed food in the Lending Department.
Those were firing offenses in her day, and in the Depression year of 1931, firing was serious indeed. Can Miss Winser mix mercy with severity?
June 13th, 2011 15:35 by Albert Tucher
Over at the Do Some Damage blog Steve Weddle has challenged the crime writing community to write beach noir. It seemed to make a good fit with my Technical Consultant's dread of encountering clients while on her own time. What if Diana went to the beach and ran into the last man she wanted to see?
I just posted Sharks in my writing samples section.
May 17th, 2011 23:20 by Albert Tucher
In 1994 my brother and sister-in-law were about to spend their first Thanksgiving in Hawaii, where he had started an assignment with the Coast Guard. They had just arrived, and they knew hardly anyone. I decided to do my family duty and fly out to spend the holiday with them. I had zero interest in Hawaii. I had a vague idea that it was like Florida.
Ten trips later I love Hawaii more than ever, but mine might not be everyone’s Hawaii. I have seen Waikiki and enjoyed high tea at the Hilton, but I believe that anyone who sees nothing else has wasted a lot of time, money and effort.
I have visited Oahu, Maui and Kauai, but my favorite island is the island of Hawaii aka the Big Island. Roughly the size of Connecticut, it has a resident population of about 150,000. Vast areas are deserted, which makes it very different from Hawaii Five-Oh territory on Oahu, the location of the City and County of Honolulu.
On the Big Island I have baked on the beaches of Kona and Kohala and nearly frozen nine thousand feet up Mauna Kea, but I love the rainforest side of the island most. Hilo might be my favorite American city to visit.
I mention all of this because, when something fascinates me as much as the Big Island, I have to write about it, and two of my unpublished novels take place largely on the Big Island. In Tentacles, my second novel, Diana Andrews travels to the island with a client who neglects to mention that some very nasty people are after him. In The Good Place, currently the fifth novel in my series and chronologically the last, she returns to save her sister from even more ruthless pursuers.
The first trip nearly gets her killed in the Waipi’o Valley in the northeast corner of the island. This valley lies almost a thousand feet below the surrounding terrain, and the only route down is so steep that two-wheel-drive vehicles can’t keep their grip on the road. Down below, forty to fifty residents live cut off from cell phone coverage and even electricity in some cases. The inhabitants feud often and settle their own disputes, and the Hawaii County police usually prefer to leave them to it.
On one of my hikes into the valley, I was making my way upstream to the famous Hi’ilawe Falls, when I encountered a barrier across the stream and a “kapu” sign. (“Forbidden.”) Legally, this is nonsense. Streambeds are public property, and I had every right to be where I was. But I also knew that no one was going to enforce my rights. I withdrew, unwillingly but still in one piece. It was frustrating, but also fascinating, because it shows what fertile ground this island is for a writer of crime fiction.
In fact, the rainforest side of the island is notorious for its population of ‘Sixties holdovers, fugitives, marijuana farmers, meth dealers, and survivalists. Rumor has it that the U.S. Marshalls like to stash protected witnesses on the Big Island. It makes intuitive sense, because no one stands out in a multi-ethnic population of eccentrics and strangers. Of course, the Marshalls neither confirm nor deny.
These two novels have also led to a spin-off short story that I consider one of my best. More detail will have to wait, because that story is currently under consideration in a contest.
More Hawaii will also follow. I have ten trips worth of surprises and encounters to report.
April 26th, 2011 14:34 by Albert Tucher
When I started writing about Diana Andrews, for several years I wrote only at novel length. By 2003 my first three novels were in their second or third drafts, and I had good starts on the fourth and fifth books.
Then for tactical reasons I started writing short stories. My plan was to build a publishing resume that might impress the agents and editors I was querying.
Since then, everything I have written has come out as a short story or at most a novella. And even the short stories tend to clump together in terms of length. For a couple of years during my Muzzle Flash period, I wrote one flash story after another. Currently, everything is settling down in the seven to ten thousand word range. My writing friend Sandra Seamans recently alerted me to a new flash fiction outlet called Shotgun Honey. I thought I had an idea for a flash story about Diana discovering that the "college call girl" is not just urban folklore.
That was five thousand words ago, and I have three or four thousand to go. Apparently the god of word count must be appeased.
It makes me thankful for online magazines and e-books, where awkward lengths are more welcome. Few print magazines have the pages to devote to a long short story.
All of this raises questions. Is there some writing process going on here, or is it coincidence? And if I had started with short stories, would I have written the novels at all?
March 29th, 2011 22:52 by Albert Tucher
Bismarck Rules has become the first of my stories to make it into ebooks. It's available from New Word City Please visit and stick around to see what else this new publisher has to offer.
March 21st, 2011 23:08 by Albert Tucher
One day back in the mid-1980s, I was browsing in the public library, and I plucked a book called The Tenth Century by Eleanor Duckett from the shelf. I think it was the obscurity of the period that hooked me. Literacy was rare, and sources are sparse. The reader gets only glimpses, some as brief and arresting as a flash of lightning, of the people and events. The names of the historical actors alone are pungent and fascinating: Arnulf, Zwentibold, and the Romans Theophylact, Theodora, and their daughter Marozia.
These last two were the characters who wouldn't let me go. For three centuries after the fall of the empire, Rome was the clerical city, as virile as a battlefield. Then mother and daughter appear out of nowhere to assume equality with the men in their family. Marozia in particular rode her ambition to the heights. She ruled the city in partnership with two husbands and lived to bury both of them. Then she held power alone, making and unmaking popes at will. Her own son became Pope John XI through her efforts.
In 932 she overreached. King Hugh of Italy had a claim to the title Holy Roman Empire. Marozia offered to have her son the pope crown Hugh, if Hugh would make her his empress. Hugh agreed, provided that she allow him to eliminate a complication, her second son Alberic. Marozia considered this a fair trade.
Alberic had other ideas. He riled up the Roman mob with a xenophobic harrangue until the Romans chased Hugh from the city and proclaimed Alberic their ruler.
Marozia wasn't as lucky as Hugh. Alberic imprisoned her in the ancient Castel Sant-Angelo, where she probably died in 936.
For twenty-five years I have been trying to use this material in fiction. I have finally succeeded in my first effort at a horror story. The City of Ropes is about to appear in the anthology Historical Lovecraft, from Innsmouth Free Press. The anthology has a Facebook page, which I believe is worth a look.
February 11th, 2011 21:49 by Albert Tucher
My technical consultant read all of my output, and she told me once that Diana is a completely plausible prostitute except for one thing. "She really should have cats, because we all do."
I knew right then that there was a story in that comment, but I couldn't find it, until Patti Abbott issued her most recent challenge.
Patti is one of the first writers I encountered online when I started writing noir/hardboiled fiction, and she is one of the best. Her blog Pattinase is the cyber-equivalent of a 24-hour writers' hangout. There's always someone interesting there.
Her challenges get much of the crime fiction community writing. The current one involves using a comment she recently overhard on the street: "I really don't mind the scars."
Cats. Claws. Scars. It all came together. My story, The Ancient Fucking Mariner, appears in my writings samples section.
January 26th, 2011 00:41 by Albert Tucher
As a member of Mystery Writers of America I have heard presentations by a number of police officers who enjoy sharing their experiences with writers. Several of them have advised movie and television productions on police procedure. The term for their position is "technical consultant."
For about two years I had a technical consultant of my own.
As I worked on my Diana Andrews stories, several of my writing teachers urged me to find someone in Diana's business who would talk to me about her life and work. I was reluctant for two reasons. I had no idea how to find anyone, and my readings had given me the impression that women in the escort business don't like to reveal anything about their personal lives.
The first obstacle yielded when I discovered a website called The Erotic Review. This fascinating bit of Americana is, as the name implies, a review site. Men who patronize prostitutes at the escort level write reviews of the women. The site also gives contact information for the women.
In brief, I read some reviews and selected someone. I don't feel free to say much about her biography, but she was enormously helpful. In fact, I am still living off the material she gave me. She is now out of the business and apparently living a very conventional life. I wish her well.
I just posted a link to a story called The Full Hour, which originally appeared in the online magazine Thug Lit. The opening scene comes straight from my technical consultant. She had a client, a realtor, who always had her meet him at whatever property he was showing that day. The idea was to come as close as possible to getting caught. I knew I had to use this scenario, and I knew that Diana and her client had to get caught, with serious consequences.
Readers will be hearing more from my TC.
December 16th, 2010 15:52 by Albert Tucher
I just posted a link to my novella The Acting Librarian in my writing samples. This story appeared in the excellent online magazine Mysterical-e.
I work as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, a place with an awesome span of institutional memory. One of my colleagues, who retired earlier this year, started his career in 1947, which was also the year that Beatrice Winser died. She, in turn, came to Newark in 1895 as Assistant Librarian (Assistant Director in today's terms.) She was a fascinating bundle of Victorian contradictions. Progressive on the rights of women and minorities, she was also a demented micromanager. Thousands of pages of her memos survive. When you have read her four single-spaced pages on pasting a label into a book, you know how to paste a label into a book. She also treated her staff with a paternalism that no one would tolerate today.
But In the end she abused her nearly total power over her subordinates less than most in her position would have done. She also laid a foundation that sustained the Newark Public Library through two generations of difficult times.
The hard times have never been worse than today. In 2011 the Library's budget will be down forty percent from 2009. Miss Winser's legacy will be tested as never before.
She deserves a fictional tribute, and I hope this story measures up.