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May/June 2021

This year’s March/April EQMM will help you ease from winter into spring in criminally entertaining style. Starting it off is the first appearance in EQMM of the iconic character Mike Hammer in a previously unpublished story by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (“Killer’s Alley”). Things cool down in “Cold Hard Facts” by Chad Baker, “Stone Coat” by David Dean, and “A Winter Night’s Dream” by Michael Wiley, letting you while away chilly nights with a murder mystery, a fireside tale, and a “not-so- private private eye.”

The intrigue continues: truth, justice, or the lack thereof play out in unexpected ways in “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Chris Knopf, “The Phone Message” by Robert Cummins, “Mother” by Ray Bazowski, and “Yeah, I Meant to Do That” by Mat Coward. With simple physics, things become more straightforward; see the supernatural-seeming “The Eyes of the Alcalde” by William Dylan Powell and the nostalgic “Escape Velocity” by Kevin Egan.

Fraught predicaments play out when characters are stretched thin in “The Dark Underbelly of Commerce” by Peter Turnbull, “An Eye for Detail” by Nancy Novick, and “A Bit of Bling” by Wendy Hornsby. The crises of other protagonists and even real-life people bring us around the world in “A Bucharest Arrest” by Bogdan Hrib, “The City of Light” by Josh Pachter (set during the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral), and this month’s Stranger Than Fiction entry “A Death in Provence” by Dean Jobb. Sometimes, though, the view out our own windows can present a dilemma, such as in “Black Swallowtail” by Hollis Seamon and “Pressure” by Cath Staincliffe. . . .

And finally, we arrive at the high-tension “Spring Fever” by Charlaine Harris and the holiday whodunit “Who Stole the Afikomen?”, a Passover tale by Elizabeth Zelvin. Thank you for spending the seasons with EQMM.

The May/June issue of EQMM, part of our 80th-anniversary celebration, is dedicated to our fans—appropriately, because herein are the results of our 2020 Readers Award poll!

Here you will join previous Readers Award winners such as Doug Allyn (“Kiss of Life”), Marilyn Todd (“Leap of Faith”), and David Dean (“Season of Night”) to explore the shadows within. See too how the dark motive of revenge can motivate in “Frank Scarso Finds His Life “ by Doug Crandell, “Satan’s Circle” by Roger Vaccaro (Department of First Stories), and “A Heaven or a Hell” by Anna Scotti.

We’ll get your gears turning with some intriguing puzzles in “The Hidden Places” by Linda Stansberry, “The Case of the Strangled Man” by Steven Torres, “A Brief History of Local Warfare” by Libby Cudmore, and “The Unlocked Car” by Mike MacInnes (Department of First Stories). More turns (and twists) are encountered in “Strong Stomach” by Zoë Z. Dean and “Temptation Street” by Martin Edwards, and you can really take flight with a short- short by Alex Knight (“Birdman”), a Willie Cuesta story by John Lantigua (“The Cry of the Condor”), and a romantic suspense tale from Melissa Yi (“Flamingo Flamenco”).

Spend a companionable evening with series characters in Hal Charles’s “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight,” with icons from American culture in “Waiting For the Night to Fall” by Tim Baker (from our Black Mask department), and in an intimate historical moment in “The Bunker” by Herbert De Paepe (in Passport to Crime).

History is central too to The Jury Box by Steve Steinbock, focusing on historical mysteries, and Stranger Than Fiction by Dean Jobb, which, this issue, handles a notorious 1870  New York City murder.

In Blog Bytes, Kristopher Zgorski has you covered with some great blogs and audiobook sites. And finally, we have an article by scholar and fan Arthur Vidro: “EQMM Goes to College.” We thank him and all of our fans for being with us through the years!

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Fiction

Kiss of Life

by Doug Allyn

What could be sweeter than a day at the beach? Lounging with my ladylove on a king-size terry towel in the Vale Dunes, mid July, mid eighties, midsummer breeze riffling the whitecaps on Lake Michigan. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better—

“Maybe I should go topless,” Marcy said.

Which captured my attention for a split second—but then reality set in. We’ve been dating a year, and Marcy is a walking contradiction, a CPA who got through college on a gymnastics scholarship, cute as a bug, tough as a combat boot, with wiry swimmer’s muscles on a squared-off frame. A tight cap of brown curls, and grey eyes that constantly glitter with mischief . . .

Which meant . . . Damn. Her offer was too good to be true.

“I’d second the motion,” I offered, “but this isn’t a nude beach, babe. You’d get busted (pun intended) and hauled off to jail. As your lawyer, I’d happily bail you out, but . . . Where’s this coming from?”

“A hundred young hot-bodies are scampering around the beach, practically starkers, and you’re paying no attention to any of them, or to me. You keep staring off down the shore.” READ MORE

 
 

Flamingo Flamenco

by Melissa Yi

It’s a rite of passage, right? Pass your exams, party in Vegas.

Only as an impoverished Asian-Canadian university sophomore, that meant Vegas with my mom, dad, and grandmother. Which meant they were paying for it, and I Must Be Grateful.

And I was. Serious gratitude as I shouldered my backpack and wheeled both Grandma’s suitcase and my own into the Ibis Hotel, besieged by bright-screened, tootling slot machines that I was too young to play.

We navigated past a few card and roulette tables whose dealers were, I was surprised to note, mostly middle-aged Asian women like my mom, although I spotted a Black man. I hadn’t realized Vegas would be multicultural and also house a considerable number of senior citizens.

The entrance smelled like cigarets, even though Grandma had specifically asked for a smoke-free hotel. She winced and glanced at the football game broadcast with sound on the wide-screen TV mounted to our right. It switched to a commercial with a toddler, and I felt a pang for my two-year-old brother, Kevin, who was staying with our other grandparents, “like a big boy,” missing the Sze family vacation in Vegas. READ MORE

Passport to Crime

The Bunker

by Herbert Paepe

It makes no difference whether Marcel’s eyes are open or closed, since it’s pitch black in the barracks. He unleashes a gargantuan yawn, sits up on his cot, and searches for his slippers with his bare feet. He shivers. His head feels like an anvil. Marcel has been working in the bunker for years, but his biorhythms still haven’t adjusted. He presses the button to illuminate his wrist watch. Almost midnight. He gets to his feet, the afterglow from the watch a spooky green on his retinas. He reaches for the light switch. A bare bulb casts a weak light across six identical cots, three along each of the curved walls.

Marcel gets into his uniform and leaves the barracks. He finds himself in a narrow corridor clad in caramel-colored wallpaper. The dropped ceiling is spotted with patches of mold. The linoleum floor is badly scarred. A door to his right opens into a kitchenette, where dirty dishes and glasses await washing. To the left is a cramped bathroom equipped with a toilet, a sink, and, behind a shabby curtain in the corner, a shower with a calcified faucet that the men who work in the bunker use only if they’re truly filthy. The Civil Defense Service’s operational budget is inversely proportional to the temperature of the Cold War, Marcel thinks, emptying his bladder. He inspects his unshaven face in the mirror over the sink, brushes his teeth, combs his receding hair . . . and considers himself ready to report for duty. READ MORE

Black Mask

Waiting for the Night to Fall

by Tim Baker

There was the sea out there and it was a good sea then and the boardwalk stretched along out to the horizon. That was the beauty of it, that boardwalk at Coney Island, it was like the times we were living in: The boardwalk had two faces.

On a Friday night you’d take your bad girl there and have a couple of drinks, Prohibition or no Prohibition, and then walk through the sweating crowds, music coming at you from all directions like cops during a raid, the carny lights shining brighter than a Thompson flaring into the darkness on South Street and everywhere wheels spinning, the sound of turning making you dizzy, like walking along some kind of roulette wheel, the night meeting you hot in the face no matter which way you turned.

And then the darkness when you took her down below, underneath the boardwalk, the footsteps from where you’d been only a moment before like the hammering at the shipyards, strips of light skating across the sand, the shadows predominating, and always the smell of that sea. At the foot of the boardwalk the ocean glistened with the awe of electricity, phosphorescence licking the beach, waves sighing as they withdrew. Down there it felt like some kind of Fall so what happened next was natural, and no one ever felt bad afterwards. READ MORE

Department of First Stories

Satan's Circle

by Roger Vaccaro

Carole

The sun, low in the cold, gray November sky, offered little resistance to the coming night. Shadows covered half the rain-soaked fairway, but I figured we still had time to finish the round before darkness overtook us.

“That’s out of bounds!” Pop shouted, not trying to conceal his pleasure. He grabbed a ball from the front of the golf cart and tossed it to me. “Let’s see if you can lose another one.”

I resisted the urge to throw it right back at him. Golf is unlike most other sports in that you’re supposed to pretend to root for your opponent. This practice perhaps goes against human nature, but it does make life easier, and I try to follow it. Pop feels no similar compulsion to observe this nicety, which is one reason I don’t relish our daily matches.

We usually play in the late afternoon. I’m kept busy during the day giving lessons to the members based on the same Golf Digest articles they too read religiously and then forget immediately upon reaching the course. This suits me fine, because lessons provide the real money for a club pro. The rest of the time I’m little more than a glorified cashier, limited to selling greens fees, balls, tees, and other equipment. Besides, it’s not as crowded now, and we have the course all to ourselves.

I’m one hole down after thirteen, and I’m starting to get worried. Being the pro, I’m expected to win, even if I do give him four strokes a side. As a rule, I’m not especially competitive, something that surely contributed to the brevity of my lackluster stint on the PGA tour. But if Pop beats me, I’ll never hear the end of it. READ MORE

Reviews

The Jury Box 

by Steve Steinbock

I wasn’t particularly good at history when I was young. Names, dates, and military details were too hard to remember. But as Edmund Burke reputedly said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” In my junior year of college, I took those words to heart by repeating History 101. It was a wise decision, as it raised my grade point average and gave me the perspectives needed to appreciate and enjoy history. Several of the titles reviewed below are “historical mysteries,” starting off with four set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The rest of the books have more recent settings, but all reflect the importance of remembering the past. READ MORE

 
 

Blog Bytes

by Kristopher Zgorski

Due to the pandemic and people being sequestered in their homes for extended periods of time, the book industry saw a rise in the popularity of audiobooks. As such, I thought it might be a great time to discuss a wonderful resource for audiobook reviews—AudioFile Magazine (https://www.audiofilemagazine.com). Those of us who have listened to books know that the quality of these products can vary greatly, and it is helpful to have informed coverage about the latest and greatest. The online reviews are easily tagged with genre categories, so you can search through the books that are of interest to you. Often, they will include a sample of the audiobook with the review, giving readers a brief taste of the narrator’s style. If, like me, you listen to enough audiobooks to have a favorite narrator, this website has a handy list of those readers and will direct you to other books they have recorded, videos about them, and other fascinating information. The website also has a handy list of Audie Award Winners—the industry standard in audiobook awards—as well as their own Earphone Award winners. AudioFile Magazine posts the occasional article, like a recent one commemorating the career of John le Carré upon his passing. Should you find any or all of this information useful, you can also find links to sign up for e-mail newsletters, information about subscribing in print or digitally, and so much more. Feed that need for audiobooks! READ MORE

 
 

Stranger Than Fiction: Preview

by Dean Jobb

The realms of crime fiction and true crime have many intersections. Fiction writers often draw on real investigative techniques, police procedures, and even notorious crime cases in fashioning their stories, and, conversely, fictional sleuths and their methods have occasionally influenced the practices of actual police forces.  READ MORE

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