Tag Archives: David Edgerley Gates

Expect the Unexpected (January/February 2018)

There’s always an extent to which crime is unexpected, except for the perpetrator—that is, if things go off as planned. It’s often the surprises, though, that make a great mystery story.

You don’t expect a killer to make an appearance at a holiday party, unfortunately for the revelers in Michael Nethercott’s “Sinners at Eight.” And when you’re a young, naïve bookstore clerk, you don’t expect that doing someone a favor will have the repercussions seen in Peter Sellers’ “Christmas Help.”

A corporate attorney doesn’t expect to take on a murder case for a former client in “Coroners Don’t Change Faces” by S. Frederic Liss. But the unemployed nephew of a Hollywood mogul does expect to do great things as a masked crime fighter in James Lincoln Warren’s sendup “The Chinese Dog Mystery.”

A homeless bum doesn’t expect to have a visitor in jail in Robert Lopresti’s “Train Tracks,” but it changes his life. While an unexpected visit from U.S. Postal inspectors confirms a young Navajo boy’s suspicions in David Hagerty’s “Fair Trade.”

In Marianne Wilski Strong’s “Louisa and the Lighthouse,” a beach stroll leads to the unexpected finding of a prized necklace, while the writings of Louisa May Alcott help knit together the clues. In Alex C. Renwick’s “Shallow Sand,” a beachcomber finds more than he expected with the help of a metal detector. An unexpected windfall brings trouble for a woman with a gambling bug in John M. Floyd’s “Scavenger Hunt.” And a seemingly chance purchase from a sidewalk vendor unexpectedly troubles long-buried memories in Janice Law’s “The Crucial Game.”

Plus we have two great (only to be expected) procedurals from John H. Dirckx (“Go for the Juggler”) and David Edgerley Gates (“A Multitude of Sins”).

Finally, this issue’s Mystery Classic is “Nebuchadnezzar” by Dorothy L. Sayers. The story was selected for us by B. K. Stevens, a life-long admirer of Sayers. Sadly B. K. Stevens died before she had a chance to write the introduction, though I know she chose it in part for its humor and because it’s one of the author’s lesser-known stories.

As always, our tales may take some unexpected turns, but you can always expect to find great crime fiction in these pages.

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Familial Faultlines (September/October 2017)

There are few better sources of drama than the family, as many of the stories in this issue illustrate. If one is well advised to keep friends close and enemies closer, then perhaps one must keep family members closest of all.

A death in the family often provides an occasion for changes—such as for the widow in Charles Todd’s “The Trophy” who seeks solace in the countryside of southern Wales, or the woman in Jane K. Cleland’s “Night Flight to Bali,” who is suddenly freed to cash in a forged painting upon the death of her domineering mother.

Or family ties may throw up walls that are difficult for outsiders to penetrate, such as in the investigation into possible insurance fraud involving a disabled teen and his mother in John Shepphird’s “Electric Boogaloo,” or the tangled relationships revealed by the court transcript of a case of a contested will in Eve Fisher’s “Happy Families.”

But sometimes such ties can be powerful motivators—such as for the Muslim woman who hires Beijing P.I. Il yong to find the Uighur son she’d given up for adoption in Martin Limón’s “The Smuggler of Samarkand”—or sources of support and encouragement, such as Jack Tait finds in his formidable aunts as he tries to prevent a rush to judgment against a black tenant farmer in the Depression-era South in “How Lon Pruitt Was Found Murdered in an Open Field with no Footprints Around,” by Mike Culpepper.

Other stories in this issue feature a perfect storm of disasters for Deputy Hector Moody when his car breaks down in the Gallatin mountain range in David Edgerley Gates’s “Cabin Fever”; the outsized dreams of a mid-level accountant in Max Gersh’s “Self-Portrait”; a copyeditor using her wits to foil an e-mail scammer in Steve Hockensmith’s “i”; a volatile partnership between a writer and an actor in Janice Law’s “The Front Man”; an aging spy recalled to action in Michael Mallory’s “Aramis and the Worm”; Dr. John H. Watson encounters a gentleman with a strange health regimen in “The Vampire of Edinburgh” by James Tipton.

No matter the state of your relations with other relatives, our readers are valued members of the AHMM family.

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60 Is the New . . . (December 2016)

Editing a magazine is all about novelty—the next issue, the new stories, the new authors. One of the nice things about a significant anniversary is the occasion to pause and reflect. As we notch our sixtieth year, we thought it would be fun to invite some other voices that have long been associated with the magazine, contributors and a few staffers, to reflect on AHMM in this month’s special feature (The Case File).

But it’s the stories and authors that are the magazine’s raison d’être, and this celebratory issue is also a fine representation of AHMM’s recent decades. We are delighted to welcome Lawrence Block back to our pages with “Whatever It Takes”; Mr. Block first published a story in AHMM in 1963. And we are also delighted to welcome Bruce Arthurs, who makes his AHMM debut this month with “Beks and the Second Note.” And in between those extremes, we have new stories from other writers who have long associations with the magazine: John C. Boland (first AHMM story in 1976); Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1989); David Edgerley Gates (1991); Kathy Lynn Emerson (2001); and Stephen Ross (2010).

I wish I had the room to list the hundreds of authors who have graced AHMM’s pages with stories that have delighted and horrified and intrigued our readers for 60 years. We are grateful to them all.

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David Edgerley Gates: Perspectives

David Edgerley Gates is one of those writers who “paints” with words, producing vivid and complex portraits of both the inner lives of his characters and the worlds they inhabit. Whether he’s writing about the internecine struggles of mid-century New York Mob families, or the turn-of-the-century American West of the lonely bounty hunter Placido Geist, or—as in our July/August cover story, “In for a Penny”—police procedures of modern-day New Mexico, David creates fictional worlds both detailed and complete. In this post, he discusses the “canvasses” of such word paintings: the sense of place.

Linda Landrigan asked me post some comments here, and she suggested I might say something about the sense of place in my stories, which got me thinking about landscape as character. Not backdrop, but an active presence, as much a part of the story as events.

Physical landscape is important to stories, and Westerns in particular, because so often the interior landscape is uninhabitated. The strengths or weaknesses of the characters aren’t explained, or revealed, but reflected–a mirror, set an angle to catch the light. This is another way of saying the characters are ‘existential,’ meaning they define themselves in their immediate circumstance, and more than likely a hostile environment. This is true of noir, especially, which depends on the pairing of two unknowables: the implacability of Fate, and a fatal lack of self-awareness. In this sense, the landscape provides no camouflage. You become a silhouette. The darkness doesn’t hide you, because everything’s in shadow.

Is character Destiny? Yes, in the staged confines of a fiction. But you can still bump into the furniture. The geography of place, in a story, can be frightening, or familiar, or both at once. It’s never arbitrary. It has a purpose, and more than just setting, or the view through the windows. It informs. It establishes context. And it breathes. Landscape isn’t static. It has a specific gravity, and it can shift its weight. As a function of story, the shape of the landscape is more than a narrative device. It bridges the gap between the observed and the imagined. Not that it has to be actual—Middle-Earth or Westeros will do just as well—but it needs to be grounded in a felt reality. You have to be able to smell the rain, or the heat of day, winter in the air, damp smoke from a campfire when the wind changes. You can make a lot of this stuff up. You don’t want to make up how the weather was.

I suspect Linda was asking me about specific terrain, the Bootheel of New Mexico, New York in the late 1940’s, Berlin during the Cold War. Each of these places has its own specific gravity, an orientation toward the horizon line, a roadmap. It’s peopled with incident, much of it imagined, but imaginary or not, the landscape itself is as convincing as I can make it.

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