Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Agatha Nominees: Best Short Stories of 2009

Elizabeth Zelvin

The short story is a form of mystery fiction that is often overlooked or underrated. For the writer, they can be both challenging and satisfying: a chance to explore new voices, settings, and subgenres; a discipline involving tight plotting, freshness and originality, a limited word count, and a twist at the end; an opportunity to heave a sigh of relief and write "The End" after a week or two rather than a year or two. For the reader, they're a chance to read new authors before investing in a book and a reading experience that even if it delays your turning out your light at night, won't keep you up all night turning pages.

This year's Agatha nominees for Best Short Story are a group I'm proud to be part of. Rather than tell you about Dana Cameron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Barb Goffman, Kaye George, and me, let's let their stories speak for themselves. Through the magic of the web, you can click on the links and read all five of them well before it's time to vote for your favorite at Malice Domestic at the end of April.

Elizabeth Zelvin, “Death Will Trim Your Tree” in THE GIFT OF MURDER, (Wolfmont Press, a holiday crime anthology to benefit Toys for Tots), Death Will Trim Your Tree PDF.pdf

Barbara makes latkes and Jimmy supervises while Bruce wrestles with those pesky strings of lights. When a trip to the hardware store leads to murder, the crucial clue is something only a recovering alcoholic could know.

Barb Goffman, “The Worst Noel” in THE GIFT OF MURDER (Wolfmont Press, a holiday crime anthology to benefit Toys for Tots)

Mom loves Becca best. Gwen's always known that, and she's put up with it - until this holiday season. A little too much family togetherness, coupled with some professional humiliation caused by Mom, pushes Gwen over the edge. So she plans a Christmas Eve dinner that no one will ever forget.

Dana Cameron, “Femme Sole” in BOSTON NOIR (ed. Dennis Lehane, Akashic Books)

In 1740s Boston, Anna Hoyt owns a North-End tavern and all the local
thugs—including her husband—want a piece of it. What's a lone woman to
do when waterfront rats threaten her livelihood?

Hank Phillippi Ryan, “On the House” in QUARRY (Level Best Books)

A twisty tale of broken promises, broken hearts and intricately-planned revenge proves when true love goes wrong, a woman's best friend may be her dog. Or--not.

Kaye George, “Handbaskets, Drawers and A Killer Cold” in CROOKED (a crime fiction e-zine)

When Chicago cop Cal Arnold stops at the drugstore for cough syrup to tame his raging cold, he ends up taking in a hold-up artist instead. On his next attempt, same drugstore, another robbery is in progress. This time the felon is Nate, the wayward brother of Cal's wife and the guy who was the subject of their latest heated argument. The sixteen-year-old has a wild streak as wide as Lake Michigan, a chip on his shoulder the size of the Sears Tower, and has recently been kicked out of Cal's house. Nate speeds away from the drugstore while Cal is paralyzed by a coughing fit, but Cal is positive he has recognized the vehicle. Go after his brother-in-law? Write up his report and leave out the vehicle? Cal has to decide whose wrath he fears more, his wife's or his captain's.


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thanks for posting, Liz! These are such fun to read...congratulations to everyone! And happy reading.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Short stories are fun to write, too, aren't they! And as a bonus, unlike novelists, short story writers get to do readings. I read with some of my Sisters in Crime in a Greenwich Village bar last night to an audience of 50--some of whom were not friends or relatives of the authors or even SinC members. ;)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I'd better ad that the reading had its own room--none of the audience had come simply to drink at the bar!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Oops--make that "add."

Sandra Parshall said...

Thanks for this post, Liz. I hope everyone who plans to vote will actually READ all the nominated works first.

Kaye George said...

Thanks so much for making the stories available here! It's nice this can be done with short stories. (Links to all the short story authors are also on my webpage at Wouldn't it be nice if all the novels up for Agathas could be accessed the same way? I AM reading as many as I can--looks like it will be all of them at this point, Sandy. :)

Barb Goffman said...

So very cool of you, Liz, for spreading the word about the stories and posting the links. And to all the readers out there, I hope you enjoy! Happy Spring!!!! (My cherry tree is finally blooming. Yay!!!)

Dana said...

Fun to write, fun to read! Thanks for spreading the word, Liz! I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the Agatha banquet!