“Election Day” in Waiting to be Forgotten

Waiting to be ForgottenA new anthology inspired by The Replacements and featuring my story “Election Day” is out now!

WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak Inspired by The Replacements is published by Gutter Books and edited by Jay Stringer.

In all, WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN includes 25 stories by David Accampo, Hailey Ardell, Gorman Bechard, Eric Beetner, Kristi Belcamino, Jerry Bloomfield, William Boyle, Angel Luis Colón, Jen Conley, Rory Costello, Josh Flanagan, Ed Kurtz, S.W. Lauden, Tom Leins, Mike McCrary, Franz Nicolay, Rick Ollerman, Eyre Price, Manuel Royal, Alex Segura, Johnny Shaw, Josh Stallings, Jay Stringer, Liam Sweeney, and me. (Easy to see why I’m pumped to be included, right?)

“Election Day” is set in Duluth, Minnesota. It’s about a news reporter with KDUL-TV whose past catches up with her in an unexpected way. I hope you like it.

Audio versions of “Election Day” and S.W. Lauden’s story “Customer” are available on the Title 18: Word Crimes podcast, or you can listen right here.


“Customer” by S.W. Lauden and “Election Day” by Erik Arneson on the Title 18: Word Crimes Podcast

“All Alone” in Spanish

All AloneMy short story “All Alone” — about a bagman working for a boodler in a city run by thieves (i.e., a political thug in 1951 Philadelphia) — is now available in Spanish!

Read it here: Totalmente Solo

“All Alone” was originally published in English in the anthology Shotgun Honey Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2. It’s also available in English as a free PDF download at NoiseTrade with fantastic cover art by Dillon Samuelson.

Translation by Carolina Maria Russo-Holding. “All Alone” is my 12th story available in Spanish. All of the translations are available here.

“Mess With Me” in Spanish

My short story “Mess With Me” — about a political staffer who works on Congressional redistricting — is now available in Spanish!

Read it here: Lios Conmigo

“Mess With Me” was originally published in English by Needle: A Magazine of Noir.

As with most of the Spanish translations of my stories, the hard work was done by Carolina Maria Russo-Holding. “Lios Conmigo” is my 11th story available in Spanish. All of the translations are available here.

All Alone – Free Short Story

All AloneIf you think politics is dirty today, you should read about 1951 Philadelphia.

And my short story ALL ALONE just happens to be set in… 1951 Philadelphia. Get your free copy of ALL ALONE right here. (I’ll talk a bit about that amazing cover art later.)

How bad were things in Philadelphia? On October 29, 1951 — not coincidentally, the day on which the entire story of ALL ALONE takes place — the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial on its front page with this headline:

Ward Boss Rule A Blight on City:
Vote to Smash It!

The editorial described the “scandalous abuses in the city administration, waste of public funds and widespread graft and corruption” plaguing the city, including:

  • “embezzlement in the tax office”
  • “extortion and bribery in the Fire Marshal’s office”
  • “the theft of water with the connivance of Water Bureau employees”
  • “extortion … by employees of the plumbing division”
  • “a sinister alliance … between ward politicians, members of the police force and racketeers to promote illegal gambling and to give gamblers protection from raids and immunity to prosecution”

It was a dark chapter in the city’s political history. But it makes a great backdrop for a crime fiction story.

I hope you enjoy reading ALL ALONE.

Now, about that incredible cover…

It’s an original oil painting (with some digital text) by Dillon Samuelson, who illustrated the comic book FORTUNE. Click on the final cover (above) for a much larger version, and check out Dillon’s preliminary sketch below.

I asked Dillon for a cover in the style of the old BLACK MASK pulp magazine, which ceased publication in 1951, the same year in which ALL ALONE is set. My idea was a close-up of Oscar Cain’s face (he’s the big bad guy on the cover), but Dillon took it in a different direction which I think fits the tradition of BLACK MASK and other pulps even better. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the result.

All Alone Sketch

“Sugartime” at Akashic Books

Akashic Books LogoAkashic Books loves stories about place. Their amazing NOIR series includes dozens of location-focused anthologies such as DETROIT NOIR, NEW ORLEANS NOIR, and MOSCOW NOIR. (Taking a parochial view of my home state, they’ve published collections set in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.)

On their website, Akashic has a series called MONDAYS ARE MURDER, where place is also preeminent.

I couldn’t be more pleased that they chose to publish my story “Sugartime” — set in the City of Brotherly Love — as part of MONDAYS ARE MURDER. “Sugartime” involves two Philadelphia politicians, ambition, corruption, and a hitman. It’s bound to have a happy ending, right?

This is the second story I’ve written featuring the same main character, a used bookstore owner who has a much more dangerous side job. The first was published by Shotgun Honey in 2012: “12 Before 9”.

One final note: This story’s title comes from a song by the band Poole (off the album The Late Engagement), which also happens to count among its members my friend Harry Evans.

I hope you enjoy “Sugartime”! (By the way, it’s available in both English and Spanish. My thanks to translator Carolina Maria Russo-Holding.)

What is a “Boodler”?

One of the fun things about setting a story in the past is being able to use language from the time.

“All Alone,” my contribution to Shotgun Honey’s RELOADED anthology, is set in 1951. The main character, Oscar Cain, is described at one point as “a bagman working for a boodler in a city run by thieves.” I really enjoyed being able to use two old-style political terms in that sentence.

“Bagman,” a term still in use today, is defined in Grant Barrett’s wonderful Hatchet Jobs and Hardball: The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang, as “one who collects money obtained by racketeering and other dishonest means.” It was used as early as 1904, according to Barrett’s book.

“Boodler,” which as best I can tell has fallen out of use, is defined as “a person, esp. a politician, who seeks or accepts bribes.” It was used at least from 1885 through 1957, with a few later references also included in Barrett’s book.

“All Alone” – Scenes in The Troc

Reloaded: Front CoverMy story in Shotgun Honey’s new RELOADED anthology, “All Alone,” has a couple of scenes set in Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre, better known simply as the Troc.

(RELOADED is available for the Kindle and in paperback.)

Today, the Troc is listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places — it’s the only 19th century Victorian theater still in operation in the United States — and hosts musical acts and special events (such as a recent screening of John Carpenter’s 1998 film They Live, with a special appearance by one of the movie’s stars, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper).

But the venue has a long and colorful history.

According to the official history on the Troc’s website:

Trocadero 1978The Trocadero Theatre was first opened in 1870, offering musical comedies and traveling minstrel shows under the name Arch Street Opera House. Later, vaudeville and burlesque came to its stage with notable professional showgirls performing burlesque during the 1950s.

The Theatre was refurbished in the late 1970s for use as an art house cinema and fine arts theatre. In the 1980s, the Theatre was remodeled as a dance club and finally for its current use as a concert hall and live music venue.

“All Alone” is set in 1951. It opens with a scene in the Troc, as Oscar Cain — fictional bagman for Mayor Barney Samuel — is entranced by the performance of a new burlesque dancer. Later in the story, Cain returns to the Troc.

Continue reading ““All Alone” – Scenes in The Troc”

“All Alone” in RELOADED

Reloaded: Front CoverThe new Shotgun Honey anthology (RELOADED: Both Barrels Vol. 2) is now available, and I can’t wait to start digging into it. I’m especially looking forward to the contributions by Patti Abbott, Eric Beetner, Joe Clifford… I could list everyone in the book, but it’s easier (and true) to say I’m looking forward to all of them.

And I’m extremely pleased that my story “All Alone” is part of RELOADED, which is available for the Kindle and in paperback. Thanks to editors Ron Earl Phillips, Jen Conley and Chris Irvin for including me, and for all the work they put into this collection.

“All Alone” takes place in Philadelphia on a single day: October 29, 1951. The city was at the center of scandal after scandal. Things were so bad that on that date, just days before the election to choose a new mayor, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial — on the front page — with this headline:

Ward Boss Rule A Blight on City:
Vote to Smash It!

inquirer_editorialRepublicans had run Philadelphia for many decades, and the Inquirer theorized that, “Any political party that has possessed a monopoly of governmental control for more than 60 years is bound to be burdened with such an accumulation of abuses that the average voter might well question the wisdom of granting it further lease of power.”

The editorial then describes the “scandalous abuses in the city administration, waste of public funds and widespread graft and corruption” plaguing the city, including:

Continue reading ““All Alone” in RELOADED”

“Oh Well” at The Flash Fiction Offensive

Senate ChamberSome of my stories have had political elements, but until now only one (“Mess With Me”) has been set in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, where I work. I’m pleased that my second Capitol-based story was published this morning.

“Oh Well” — published by the fine folks at Out of the Gutter Online’s Flash Fiction Offensive — has scenes set in the Capitol Rotunda, the Senate chamber, and a Senator’s office. The Capitol’s a remarkable building, and if you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

“Oh Well” being published is great on its own (I’m thrilled to be back at TFFO!), but also because it gives me an excuse to post a few photos of the spectacular Pennsylvania Capitol (click on any of the photos on this page to see larger versions), including:

  • The Capitol rotunda’s marble stairs, often the site of press conferences;
  • Continue reading ““Oh Well” at The Flash Fiction Offensive”