The Boy in the Box

The following short essay about one of Philadelphia’s most haunting unsolved crimes first appeared in an issue of The Black Hood comic book by Duane Swierczynski, published by Dark Circle Comics under the watchful eye of editor Alex Segura. It also appears in my book The Throes of Crime.

Following the essay is a link to a new report about the case from reporter Claudia Vargas at NBC10 in Philadelphia.

The Boy in the Box
by Erik Arneson

For a terrible week in the late winter of 1957, two stories dominated the Philadelphia Inquirer’s front page: a missing four-year-old girl and a dead, unidentified boy in a cardboard box.

The girl, Mary Jane Barker, was found dead six days after disappearing. Police concluded she locked herself in a closet while playing in an empty house near her home.

The boy, four to six years old, has remained unidentified for nearly six decades.

Continue reading “The Boy in the Box”

N@B in Queens was Amazing

Alex Segura and Scott Adlerberg know how to throw a party.

Noir at the Bar in Queens was amazing. I’m still pinching myself to make sure that’s really me in this photo of outstanding authors:

Noir at the Bar in Queens - June 2016

Left to right, that’s Alex Segura, the nearly hidden William Boyle, Angel Luis Colón, Jill Block, Lawrence Block, Sarah Weinman, Scott Adlerberg, me (nearly fading into the background), Jen Conley, Thomas Pluck, and Rob Hart. Lyndsay Faye is seated in front of the gang, and I think Jason Starr had to leave before the photo was taken.

Everyone was on their game — so many great stories were told! And the venue (The Beast Next Door) was perfect. If you get a chance to attend a Noir at the Bar event in your area, don’t miss it.

Noir at the Bar - Queens - June 2016

Noir at the Bar in Queens: June 26

Noir at the Bar - Queens - June 2016Later this month (Sunday, June 26, to be exact), I’ll be reading at NOIR AT THE BAR in Queens, New York.

The lineup is… intimidating.

MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block.

That one name is enough reason to make your plans right now. But the lineup of amazing authors continues…

Jason Starr. Sarah Weinman. Lyndsay Faye. Rob Hart. Alex Segura. Julia Dahl. Jill Block. William Boyle. Scott Adlerberg. Thomas Pluck.

Plus (as if you need more reasons to join us), my old Shotgun Honey buddies Angel Luis Colón and Jen Conley will be there, too! (Jen’s new book CANNIBALS is out now and getting great reviews.)

N@BQ5 (super-helpful acronym) will take place at The Beast Next Door, 42-51 27th St., Long Island City, NY. The fun starts on Sunday, June 26, at 6 p.m. And it’s free.

I hope to see you there!

Black Hood #10 – Available May 4

The Black Hood #10Issue #10 of THE BLACK HOOD, Duane Swierczynski’s tremendous comic book about a cop addicted to painkillers who’s trying (in his own twisted way) to the streets of Philadelphia safe, will be available tomorrow, May 4.

Greg Scott’s art, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s coloring, and Rachel Deering’s lettering are perfect for the gritty story that Duane’s telling in THE BLACK HOOD.

If you still need to be convinced, a preview of issue #10 is available at Comic Book Resources.

This issue also includes an essay I wrote about a child who is best known, tragically, as the Boy in the Box. His remains were found in Philadelphia in February 1957 and he’s never been identified.

This is my sixth essay for THE BLACK HOOD, and it’s probably the one I’m most proud of. Even if you already know something about the Boy in the Box, I think you’ll learn a few new details. I read many of the original newspaper articles written in 1957 immediately after the body was found. In those early days, there was a lot of optimism that the boy would be identified and his killer(s) brought to justice.

Many thanks to Duane and editor Alex Segura for including my essay. The main cover is above right; the variant cover is below.

The Black Hood #10 Variant

Comics in Crime Fiction – Podcast

The Crime Scene with Eryk PruittOn the latest episode of THE CRIME SCENE WITH ERYK PRUITT, Eryk spoke to Alex Segura (editor at Dark Circle Comics), Tyler Jenkins (artist on the comic series SNOW BLIND), and me about comics in crime fiction.

Our hour-long conversation — which was extremely enjoyable to be a part of; hopefully, it’s also enjoyable to listen to! — aired this morning on WCOM 103.5 FM in Carrboro, North Carolina.

If you missed it there, you can catch it on The Crime Scene’s iTunes podcast feed, or listen right here!

In addition to his work at Dark Circle (where, among other things, he edits THE BLACK HOOD), Alex is the author of the Miami crime novels SILENT CITY and DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, both coming out this year from Polis Books. He also wrote comic books like the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story and the upcoming ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES.

In addition to SNOW BLIND, Tyler Jenkins has written and/or done the artwork on comics like PETER PANZERFAUST, NEVERBOY, and THE CHAINING.

Black Hood #8 Available 1/13

Black_Hood_8THE BLACK HOOD #8 goes on sale January 13, 2016!

Along with a great story written by Duane Swierczynski and superb art by Robert Hack, this issue features an essay I wrote about crime in Philadelphia in the fall of 1940 (when The Black Hood first appeared in comics). It’s a real thrill to be in The Black Hood again.

You can order a copy from your local comic book store or on Comixology.

You can read more about The Black Hood #8 (published by Dark Circle Comics, edited by Alex Segura) at the Archie Comics website.

There are two available covers for issue #8. The main cover is above; the variant cover is below.

Both are very cool, but I think this variant may be the best Black Hood cover yet (and that’s saying something).


The Black Hood #7 – Out on 11/25

The Black Hood #7Issue #7 of THE BLACK HOOD will be available one week from today — on Wednesday, Nov. 25 — and by my estimation this is the best issue of what’s already a great series.

This issue begins a new story arc (so it’s a great time to start reading even if you haven’t been following the series from the start), and writer Duane Swierczynski has crafted a terrific plot. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

He also nails the complex, emotional relationship between Greg Hettinger (the police officer who is also the vigilante known as The Black Hood) and his speech therapist, Jessie Dupree. And Greg’s self-doubt… and everything else.

The art by Michael Gaydos is amazing, of course, and I love the special Philly touches sprinkled throughout. Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick is likewise outstanding.

Finally, I’m excited to once again have a non-fiction piece in the back of The Black Hood. This one’s about H.H. Holmes, often referred to as America’s first serial killer. He killed dozens of people in Chicago, just one in Philadelphia — but that one… well, it’s all right there in the comic.

Issue #7 will be available with two different covers, the main cover (above) and one variant (below). The Black Hood is edited by Alex Segura and published by Dark Circle Comics.

The Black Hood #7 - variant cover

N@B Coming Back to Philadelphia

N@B Philadelphia 2015 PosterNoir at the Bar returns to Philadelphia later this month!

We’ll be at the Misconduct Tavern, 1511 Locust St., on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. Eleven authors will read their work, with the granddaddy of N@B — Peter Rozovsky — introducing the whole thing. I’m stoked to be a part of it.

The reader list includes some of my very favorite authors (and people). It’s a tremendous lineup:

Robb Cadigan, Merry Jones, Tom Joyce, Don Lafferty, William Lashner, Jon McGoran, Alex Segura, Duane Swierczynski, Dennis Tafoya, and Wendy Tyson.

I hope to see you there!

N@B Philadelphia 2015 Poster (PDF)

N@B Philadelphia 2015 Poster

The Black Hood #6 – Out on 10/28

The Black Hood #6Issue #6 of THE BLACK HOOD releases later this month — Oct. 28, 2015, to be precise. And I’m excited to have another essay featured inside.

If you’re not familiar with THE BLACK HOOD, a bit of background: It’s a great crime comic written by Duane Swierczynski and set in Philadelphia. The protagonist, Gregory Hettinger, is a Philly cop who gets addicted to painkillers and lives a secret life as the vigilante known as The Black Hood.

Each issue includes a true-crime essay. In issue #4, Duane and editor Alex Segura published an essay I wrote about political corruption in Philadelphia. In issue #6, I’ll be back in the back of THE BLACK HOOD, this time writing about a bizarre Philadelphia murder ring which operated in the late 1930s and claimed dozens of lives — perhaps more than a hundred.

THE BLACK HOOD #6 also features art by the legendary Howard Chaykin.

It’s never too early to order THE BLACK HOOD (published by Dark Circle Comics) at your local comic shop! Issue #6 will be available with four different covers, the main cover (above) and three variants.

The Black Hood #6 Variant
The Black Hood #6 Variant
The Black Hood #6 Variant