I’m a bit biased, but my favorite story is “The Stygian Night” by . . . drum roll . . . me! As a reviewer said, “In this delicious little story by the master of misdirection, Pat Bertram so draws us into the fantasy life of would-be author Silas Slovatksy that we scarcely recognize a “real” story unfolding in the background.” Poor Silas, he wants so much to be an author, but he just doesn’t get it.
Excerpt from “The Stygian Night”:
It was a dark and stormy night.
Silas Slovotsky leaned back in his chair and studied the words he’d typed into his computer.
He grinned. Perfect. The very words he needed to set the scene. And they had the added benefit of being true. It was a dark and stormy night. Except for his porch light, of course. And the thunder and lightning—
He leaned forward and peered at the computer screen. Did the sentence seem a bit trite? Maybe he needed to spiffy it up. He opened his thesaurus to the word “dark” and ran a finger down the page. “Stygian”. That might work.
He cleared his computer screen and typed: It was a stygian night.
Nope. Didn’t have the euphoniousness of the original sentence. Perhaps if he reread what he’d already written he could figure out how to proceed.
He printed out the manuscript he’d been working on for the past four months and read the single page. Dark as Night by Jack Kemp.
A thrill ran up his spine. He could see it on the shelf in the bookstore. Kemp, King, Koontz. He’d chosen his pseudonym specifically so the reviewers could call them the unhallowed trinity. And he deserved the accolade.
A knock on the door startled him out of his dream.
Who could that be? His friends—all two of them—knew he didn’t like to be disturbed when he was writing.
A few of the other stories included in the anthology are:
“A Whiff of Murder” by Lazarus Barnhill: Barnhill reintroduces a pivotal character from The Medicine People. Old, wiser, sober and cynical, Bob Vessey hasn’t lost his touch in examining crime scene evidence.
“Hanging Around” by J J Dare: This marvelous tale begins playfully with squirrels sporting around a human body, hung seventy feet off the ground and quickly suspends the reader.
“This Time” by Claire Collins: A swiftly moving, smoothly written love story that turns into serial murder and mayhem. Well, all’s fair in love and revenge.
“The Strange Disappearance of Comrade Wang” by Mickey Hoffman: Becka, an innocent and vulnerable girl, finds herself at the mercy of the authorities in a strange and hostile place.
“Murder at the Manor” by Juliet Waldron: To read Waldron’s work is to be not transported but immersed in different, distant times and places. We genuinely regret it when her story ends.
“The Spot” by Deborah J Ledford: The Spot is just what Ledford hits in this awesome little tale of revenge, remorse and restoration.