The Best American Mystery Stories Part 33

Joseph Raiche was born in 1979 in Faribault, Minnesota. He currently is an obituary writer for a local newspaper in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where he lives with his wife, Amanda. He graduated with a B.A. in creative writing from Saint Cloud State University and is soon to begin work on his M.A. at any school that will take him. Works of his have been published in Upper Mississippi Harvest, and the story "One Mississippi" originally appeared in The Baltimore Review.

The idea for "One Mississippi" came from a report I had heard of people trying to buy tickets to witness a real-life execution. s.p.a.ce was limited, so they held a lottery for what s.p.a.ce there was. It struck me as odd that watching someone die was an enviable situation and not something you would want to distance yourself from. I bounced the idea for the story off Ryan Hanson, a friend and fellow writer in Saint Cloud. He thought it was a good one and the story was born. With the character Drew Larkun I hoped to create someone who was both realistic with the pain that he feels, yet believable with the understanding he arrives at. I believe the character is unlike most people, but I hope not so unlike the person we wish we could be.

My mom thinks the story is a complete downer. I thought there was hope in it, if you looked for it. Maybe she was right. I hope that I am.

John Sayles wrote the screenplays for and directed Return of the Secaucus 7, The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Pa.s.sion Fish, and other groundbreaking films. Twice nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay, Sayles has also written two short story collections, Dillinger in Hollywood and The Anarchists' Convention, and several novels, including Los Gusanos.

I started thinking about "Cruisers" while working on a film in Alaska, meeting fishermen, charter captains, and other people who spent a lot of their lives on the water. It struck me that people's boats reflected their personalities, and that the "marina hoppers," especially the retirees, were always looking toward the next berth with a kind of eternal hopefulness, as if never staying put could ward off age and time. Humans have an innate yearning for community, even if it's a floating one with a high turnover in members. And I got to do research in sunnier places than Juneau.

Sam Shaw was born and raised in New York City, where, as a minor, he spent a good deal of his allowance money on detective pulps at the Mysterious Bookshop. A graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is currently finishing his first novel.

Typically I work my way into a new short story like an old man entering a pool - slowly, and with gritted teeth. "Reconstruction" presented an exception. In the end, the story would require many revisions, additions, and subtractions, but I dispatched a first draft in three short insomniac weeks, around Thanksgiving of 2002. The difference, I think, was the narrative voice, which I heard clearly almost from the start.

If you credit George Herbert, living well is the best revenge. But I've known a few sad, conflicted types (usually sons of successful, overbearing fathers) who avenge themselves by living badly - by willfully failing in the world. Such is the case with Getty, who, when we meet him, subsists in a limbo of dope smoke and bad TV, despite the fact that the father who set him on his course has been dead for years. The key to the story, for me, consisted in allowing the totems of his failure - his father's Civil War treasure - to play a role in his awakening.

Many thanks to Marylee Macdonald for improving this story, M. M. M. Hayes for publishing it, and Otto Penzler and Joyce Carol Oates for anthologizing it.

Oz Spies was born in 1978 in Kirkland, Washington, and raised in many places before settling in Colorado. Her work has been published in several literary journals, including the Ontario Review, as well as in a collection of short-short stories ent.i.tled Women Behaving Badly. She received an M.F.A. from Colorado State University and is currently at work on a novel. She lives in Denver with her husband.

I wrote "The Love of a Strong Man" during the summer before my last year in graduate school. Earlier that year, in the spring, a man had broken into several students' apartments late at night, then a.s.saulted the young women who lived there. Thanks to DNA evidence and a baseball cap, the man was finally caught. The only detail about this man that I can recall hearing on the news was that he was married. Though (or because) I knew nothing about her, I began to dream about this man's wife and imagine the life of someone married to a rapist. Out of those dreams came this story.

A native Chicagoan, Scott Turow is the author of six novels, all bestsellers, and two books of nonfiction. His works include Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof, and One L. He won the Heartland Prize in 2003 for his novel Reversible Errors, and the 2004 Robert F. Kennedy Prize for his book about the death penalty, Ultimate Punishment. Turow is a law partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, devoting much of his time in practice to public interest and pro bono projects. He lives near Chicago with his wife, Annette, a painter; they have three children.

I began "Loyalty" in 1993, when I finished my third novel, Pleading Guilty, and I continued to work on the story in the intervals after completing my subsequent novels. I made a little headway each time but never could get to the end, even though the theme, about the interaction between male friendships and love relationships, felt like an enduring one to me. I always think I want to write more stories, but my ideas don't seem to fit the current mold. "Loyalty" solidified my conclusion that in my hands the short story is more de Maupa.s.sant than Joyce. I hope that recognition will allow me to write stories in the future at a faster pace than one every eleven years.

Scott Wolven is the author of Controlled Burn, a collection of short stories. For four years in a row, Wolven's stories have been selected for the Best American Mystery Stories series. One of his stories will appear in a plotswithguns.com hardboiled anthology, available from Dennis McMillan Publications. Scott Wolven lives in upstate New York.

"Barracuda" is a violent story, filled with violent men. I once owned a Barracuda automobile; I once saw an abandoned concrete swimming pool in the woods. Part of the mystery here is small - for example, who is the man appearing inside the hospital TV? Some of the mystery is larger, because violence sometimes knows no path and has a before and after that is hard to trace.

This story is dedicated to my brother Will, a great brother and fantastic artist who draws pictures that inspire my fiction. Anthony Neil Smith of plotswithguns.com, in which "Barracuda" appeared, deserves big credit for all the fine stories he piloted to success. It's a real honor to have my story published here. Thanks to D.W., M., A.J.C., S.H., and the team at WSBW.

Other Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2004.

ANAPOL, BAY.

The Real Life Test. Manoa, winter BICK, ILSA J.

The Key. sciFi.com, August BLESSINGER, JUSTIN.

Posse Comitatus. South Dakota Review, summer BRACKEN, MICHAEL.

Dreams Unborn. Small Crimes, ed. Michael Bracken (Betancourt) BRALY, DAVID.

A Trail on the Desert. Alfred Hitchc.o.c.k 's Mystery Magazine, June CHAMBERS, CHRISTOPHER.

Doggy Style. Shades of Black, ed. Eleanor Taylor Bland (Berkley) GREENBAUM, ADAM.

Killing Alex, smallspiralnotebook.com GOERRIERO, LUCIANO.

Eating Italian. Brooklyn Noir, ed. Tim McLaughlin (Akashic) HAMILL, PETE.

The Book Signing. Brooklyn Noir, ed. Tim McLaughlin (Akashic) HIEBERT, MICHAEL.

My Lame Summer Journal by Brandon Harris, Grade 7. A World of Words, ed. Jack Whyte and Diana Gabaldon HOCH, EDWARD D.

The Theft of the Double Elephant. Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February HOWARD, CLARK.

Tequila Memories. Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June HUNTER, SANDRA.

Under Cover. South Dakota Review, fall IRVINE, ALEX.

Peter Skilling. Fantasy & Science Fiction, September LAMBE, PATRICK J.

Union Card, plotswithguns.com, May/June MCCLURE, ROBERT.

Harlan's Salvation. MudRock, spring/summer MCKEE, ROBERT.

A Covert Operation. Eureka Literary Magazine, fall MCMEEL, CORTRIGHT.

Istanbul, plotswithguns.com, May/June MALLORY, MICHAEL.

The Beast of Guangming Pa.s.s. Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years, ed.

Michael Kurland (St. Martin's) MEYERS, MARTIN.

Mr. Quincy's Different Drummer. Argosy, May/June NEWMAN, SHARON.

Emily's New World. Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years, ed. Michael Kurland (St. Martin's) O'DELL, CAROL D.

Fascination. Atlanta, September PARKISON, AIMEE.

Blue Train Summer. River City, winter PAROTTI, PHILLIP.

Spot of Trouble. Sewanee Review, winter SWIERCZYNSKI, DUANE.

Hilly Palmer's Last Case, plotswithguns.com, September/October WATERMAN,FREDERICK.

Last Day's Work. Hemisphere, November WATTS, LESLIE.

Crocodile Tears. Revenge, ed. Kerry J. Schooley and Peter Sellers (Insomniac Press) WHEAT, CAROLYN.

A Long and Constant Courtship. Death by d.i.c.kens, ed. Anne Perry (Berkley) WOHLFORTH, TIM.

Jesus Christ Is Dead, plotswithguns.com, May/June YODER, JEREMY.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble. Who Died in Here? ed. Pat Dennis (Penury Press) *

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