Tag Archives: Tom Savage

Guises and Disguises (March/April 2020)

Sometimes exposing the truth involves donning a disguise. But subterfuge and misdirection add spice to crime stories, and our current March/April 2020 issue is chock full of reversals and surprises. In “Night Train for Berlin” by William Burton McCormick, individuals at opposite ends of the political spectrum are equally threatened by two brutal regimes. In these pages you’ll find sleuths in the guise of an eighteenth century shipmate in Joan Druett’s “The Botanist” or a retired chemistry professor in Jim Fusilli’s “Albert January and His First Love.” An actor gets a job as an investigator at a plant where employees claim they’ve seen a ghost in Catherine Dilts’s “Industrial Gold,” while an aging actor is at the mercy of is his caretakers in Tom Savage’s “Best Performance.” Sheriff Ray is once again outsmarted by mystery writer Jennifer Parker in John M. Floyd’s Mississippi-set “Quarterback Sneak.” Martin Limón brings back his Army investigators in Korea in “Chow Hall.” A sheriff in the Australian outback goes to extraordinary lengths to protect a neighbor in “Something Off” by Michael Caleb Tasker. A parolee trying to get her life back together has the bad fortune to be the first on the scene of a crime in “The DQ Rules” by Chuck Greaves. A troupe of traveling ironmongers in Biblical times is caught in the fighting between the Kanaanites and the Israelites in Kenneth Wishnia’s “Bride of Torches.” Sheriff Gonzalo, in a small village in central mountains of Puerto Rico, comes to the aid of a woman whose neighbor is trying to take her land in Steven Torres’s “The Care of Widows and Orphans.” A hapless attorney is forced to represent a family running an illegal pearl operation in Robert Mangeot’s humorous tale “Lord, Spare the Bottom Feeders.” Hiring a hitman comes with an onerous contract in Larry Light’s “Scroll Down.” A precocious teen is the subject of bullies in Rachel Howzell Hall’s poignant story, “Little Thing.” These tales turn crime inside out in the guise of well-wrought fiction.

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All in the Family (September/October 2018)

Old songs notwithstanding, we are not, strictly speaking, required to always hurt the ones we love—but as this issue’s stories demonstrate, things often work out that way. Ah, family!

Consider siblings. In R. T. Lawton’s “The Chinese Box,” for instance, the city-bred and educated son of a Shan Army warlord finds himself in stiff competition with his own older half-brother, while two actors who once played brothers on a hit TV show have a very different off-screen dynamic in Brendan DuBois’s “The Wildest One.” Ecuadoran P.I. Wilson Salinas, meanwhile, must retrieve his neighbor’s granddaughter—snatched by her own father in Tom Larsen’s “En Agua Caliente.” A woman working a prison kitchen is tested when the man who killed her father demands that she help him escape in Janice Law’s “Good Girl.” And a family inheritance is at stake in our Mystery Classic, “Betrayed by a Buckle” by Louisa May Alcott, introduced by Marianne Wilski Strong.

Conventioneers extraordinaire Spade and Paladin see their extended family of SF fans and writers divided by a bitter schism with criminal consequences in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Unity Con.” A mob family’s brutal management of a co-op inspires two retired seniors to act in “Rats” by Tom Savage. And new to our pages this month, Matthew Wilson brings a tale of an army sergeant confronting racism among his brothers-in-arms at a training base in Germany in “The Cook Off.”

A man who once looked for unexploded WWII ordnance in Europe must confront his own past when he encounters an old lover in Mark Thielman’s atmospheric “Buried Past.” Loren D. Estleman’s Four Horseman return with a case involving a patriotic “Scrap Drive.” Feuding neighbors bring color and headaches to Detective Sergeant Fritz Dollinger’s investigation of the murder of a young musician in John H. Dirckx’s procedural “Counterpoint.”

History repeats itself in Dennis McFadden’s dual coming-of-age story, “Coolbrook Twp.” And a bad actor gets a shot at auditioning for a psychological thriller in this month’s cover story, James Lincoln Warren’s “Casting Call.”

Once again, these stories show that blood will tell.

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Tom Savage: Venice, Via the V. I.

What is the role of place in a story? Tom Savage’s “Jumbie Tea” offers a strong sense of place, but as he explains in this post, that’s only one ingredient in the creative stew. “Jumbie Tea” appears in our June issue, on newsstands now.

You can also hear Tom read his Barry-nominated “The Method in Her Madness,”  from our June 2005 issue, as part of our podcast series. You can also find the stories on iTunes.

Writers are human sponges; there’s no denying it. From childhood’s earliest hour, we soak up every detail of the world around us and store it somewhere close to our brains. Then, at any given moment, the sponge will squeeze information and images into our conscious minds. The result is a story, and we don’t always know which part of our past experience inspired it. This explains our blank expressions when people ask us that timeworn question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

But sometimes we know. In the case of “Jumbie Tea,” my new story in AHMM, I remember exactly what happened. Three things:

  1. Rereading a favorite story by a favorite author
  2. Memories of my childhood in the Virgin Islands
  3. An invitation from one of my mystery writing organizations (I belong to several) to submit a story for a proposed anthology called MURDER AROUND THE WORLD

Actually, it was #3 above that activated #1 and #2. The assignment was to write a short mystery set in a specific part of the world, using elements of that place in the plot. When the request arrived, I was rereading one of my favorites, “Don’t Look Now,” the creepy 1971 novella by Daphne du Maurier. A British couple, grieving the recent death of their child, take a business trip to Venice, where all sorts of weird, supernatural things begin to happen. It’s a chilling tale with a famous shock ending, but what most impresses the reader is the description of the setting–the sights, sounds, smells, and moods of that ancient city. I’ve been in Venice, and I’ve experienced its strange allure firsthand. Reading her story, you get the distinct impression that these bizarre events could only occur there. This aspect of her work spilled onto the invitation on my desk, and they were both lapped up by the sponge in my head. Continue reading

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