TDE: Another Shayne story, “A Matter of Policy,” about a crooked claims adjuster, is tightly plot-ted, with elements that all come together by the story’s end. Are you a plotter or pantser? What’s your writing process today and how has it evolved over the years?
MB: I had to reread “A Matter of Policy” because I didn’t remember it, and I was pleasantly surprised how well the story holds up after all these years.
Alas, nothing in my notes reminds me how this story came together, so I’ll talk more generally about my process.
I am a combination plotter and pantser—a plantser, if you will. Many of my stories begin when I write an opening scene that introduces a character or characters and an inciting incident. Too often, that’s all I have. Then the story sits—sometimes a few days, but occasionally several years—before I return to it. I may then plot the next few scenes or the entire balance of the story before continuing the writing. So, I often begin a story as a pantser and finish it as a plotter.
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Vol. 49 No. 2 Feb. 1985 Contents Hal Blythe & Charles Sweet writing as Brett Halliday “The Quick and the Dead” Mike Taylor “The ‘B’ Murders” Stewart Street “Music Man” Joseph A. Sekelsky “The Charm Bracelet” Mel Washburn “Sweet Sister” Alan Warren “Smithereens” Michael Bracken “A Matter of Policy” Richard Connolly’s Purloined Letter (art quiz) Lane Marsh “A Delicate Situation” John Ball’s Stiff Competition (book reviews) Best By Mail (classifieds)
Publishers: Edward & Anita Goldstein Editor: Charles E. Fritch Art Director: Robin Schaffer Founder: Leo Margulies Cover: Pecoraro 5.25” x 7.75” 130 pages $1.75
“Vengeance to Show in the Third,” my first appearance in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (October 1983), was heavily influenced by reading a great many Dick Francis novels, and I was clearly trying to write an American Dick Francis story. At the time I wrote the story, I lived in southern Illinois, near a racetrack where I placed several losing bets, but I had a personal connection as well. My first wife grew up riding English and, through connections made in that environment, knew people who owned race horses, and she briefly worked as a groom.
In a way, that describes how I do a fair bit of my research: use personal connections. If I don’t have the necessary personal experience and I can’t find what I need with an Internet search, I reach out to friends and family. Additionally, other writers are a great resource, and I have tapped them for information about Catholicism, the odor of a fired handgun, and the like.
Contents Mel Odom “The Spider-God of Nauru!” Keith Chapman “Lust of the Cave Spirit” Michael Bracken “Attack of the Nazi Snow Warriors” Paul Dellinger “Ghost Writer” John McCallum Swain “The Hades Mechanism” Ray Lovato “Howl of the Werewolf” About the Authors
Rough Edges Press Editor: James Reasoner Cover Design: Livia Reasoner 6” x 9” 178 pages POD $9.99 Kindle $2.99
“George Milonivich did not know if his city was becoming Sodom or if it was becoming Gomorrah, but the increasing numbers of strip clubs, gay bars, and general perversity he witnessed on a daily basis certainly indicated it was headed in that direction.” “Skirts” by Michael BrackenBlack Cat Mystery Magazine Spring 2018
Contents Michael Bracken “Itsy Bitsy Spider” Thomas Pluck “The Third Jump of Frankie Buffalo” Matt Mattilla “Day Planner” William R. Soldan “Tally Ho” C.A. Rowland “Beach Body” Nick Kolakowski “Viking Funeral” Andrew Welsh-Huggins “Long Drive Home” Rob McClure Smith “Masonry” Tia J’anae “Once Upon a Time in Chicago” S.A. Cosby “The Grass Below My Feet” Evelyn DeShane “No News is Good News” Alec Cizak “The Bag Girl” Preston Lang “Sarah, Sweet and Stealthy” Chris McGinley “With Hair Blacker Than Coal” Mary Torson “She Goes First”
Tough Crime Stories No. 2 Redneck Press Editor/Publisher: Rusty Barnes Contributing Editor: Tim Hennessy Associate Editor: Rider Barnes Design: Sue Miller 190 pages, 5” x 8” POD $14.95 Tough website
Contents Wayne D. Dundee “Straight from the Shoulder Holster” Joe R. Lansdale “By Bizarre Hands” Daniel Rowe “The Dispeptic Diogenes” Hal Charles “The Peacemakers” Michael Bracken “Partners” (Nathaniel Rose) Max Allan Collins “Mourn the Living” (Part 2 of 4; Nolan PI) Will Wyckoff “A Christmas Story” Charles Hoffman’s Ninja: Hardboiled Comics for the Eighties Paul Bishop “Day of Asphalt, Day of Guns” Wayne D. Dundee “Dirty Business” (Joe Hannibal)
Hardboiled No. 9 Winter/Spring 1988 HB Enterprises Editor: Wayne D. Dundee Cover by Kevin Farrell 6” x 9” $2.95
“Nathaniel Rose is a St. Louis-based private eye who made his first appearance in “Partners” (Hardboiled, Winter/Spring 1988), and all seven Rose stories are collected in Tequila Sunrise (Wildside Press, 2000).”
TDE: Your secret agent character, Christian Gunn, appeared in Mike Shayne (Aug. 1984) and again in Espionage (Feb. 1985). Was he ever used again?
MB: The fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of both Espionage and Mike Shayne ended Gunn’s career.
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Vol. 48 No. 8 Aug. 1984 Contents Brett Halliday “Shadows of the Past” Amy E. Dean: How Crime Plays Peter A. Sellers “Loss of a Faculty” Buzz Dixon “Spiders” Michael Bracken “With Extreme Prejudice” Ray Bradley “The Bus Bandits” Arthur Moore “Bird Bank Bingo” Lane Marsh “First Security” Mel Washburn “To Forgive is Human” Richard E. Givan “The Curious Case of the Dead-Drunk Driver” Ardath Mayhar “Knit Lady” Vicki Shaull Carleton “The Prison Letters” Mike’s Mail Best by Mail (classified ads)
Publishers: Edward & Anita Goldstein Editor: Charles E. Fritch Art Director: Robin Schaffer Founder: Lou Margulies 5.25” x 7.75” 130 pages $1.75
“The ABCs of Murder,” a humorous poem by Josh Pachter, fills out the back cover. Oddly, it’s run landscape; I suppose to maximize the type size.
Black Cat Mystery Magazine is a welcome new arrival for fans of crime fiction magazines. Its content fulfills its promise of something for all mystery readers—hardboiled, cozy, noir, crime, private eye, suspense, and thriller. Each story is a satisfying example of its sub-genre. My favorites were those by Michael Bracken, Kaye George, and Fletcher Flora; but I lean toward the dark side. If you enjoy the full range of crime fiction, you’ll love the variety here. And frankly, variety is what a great anthology is all about.
Publisher: Wildside Press LLC Editors: John Gregory Betancourt and Carla Coupe Cover: Fotolia 6” x 9” 150 pages POD $12.00, Kindle $3.99
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Jul/Aug 2019 Vol. 154 No. 1 & 2, Whole No. 934 & 935 Contents Vicki Weisfeld “New Energy” art by Mark Evan Walker Kristopher Zgorski: Blog Bytes Jon L. Breen: The Jury Box Richard Helms “The Cripplegate Apprehension” S.J. Rozan “Left for Dead” Takemaru Abiko “A Smart Dummy in the Tent” (Passport to Crime) Translated from the Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong. Adapted by John Pugmire. Trey Dowell “Heat” Michael Bracken “Oystermen” Marilyn Todd “The Day of the Jackal” V.S. Kemanis “Dzintra’s Tale” Transcribed and translated from the Latvian by Arvids Kraulis. Aoife Clifford “Crossing Bridges” Peter Turnbull “There Are Just Some Things a Rat Won’t Do” Chris Holm “Murderers’ Row” Tara Laskowski “The Long-Term Tenant” (Black Mask) Brendan DuBois “Her Sister’s Secrets” art by Laurie Harden Twist Phelan “Rude Awakening” Dean Jobb: Stranger Than Fiction (preview) Steve Hockensmith “Do Not Disturb” Tony Fisher “Tingo” (Dept. of First Stories) James Hadley Griffin “Rionach, My Queen” (Dept. of First Stories) Classified Marketplace R.T. Raichev “The Mysterious Affair at Osiris House” Indicia