The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Some seven or eight years ago, I wrote a story called “The Bank Job” about a gang of friends who’d all had run-ins with the law. Not a very bright bunch, but harmless on the whole. One of them was in deep trouble with a loan shark and his friends banded together to help him. The story won the 2010 Al Blanchard Award, much to my delight.

When I saw the submission guidelines for the annual anthology from Level Best Books (they always publish the Al Blanchard Award winners), I decided it was time for the gang to ride again, so I wrote a story called “Sticky Business.” During the height of Hurricane Harvey, I received word that it had been selected for Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories. The anthology will be published in November at Crime Bake.

I finished the first draft of another crime story this weekend, a 5000-word noir called “The Patience of Kane.” I wrote it longhand over the course of the week and then dictated it into the computer on Saturday. Got most of the transcription errors fixed and made my first editing pass through it. I have a bunch of deadlines this month, so now I’ll put it aside for a few weeks and look at it again in early October before sending it out to its intended destination. I like the way it turned out. One of those rare occasions where I knew the ending before I started writing.

I watched an odd Japanese series on Netflix this weekend. It’s called Million Yen Women, and it’s about a struggling writer (his first novel won an award, but his books don’t sell). One day, these five women show up, claiming that they’ve been invited to live in his house. They’ll pay him a million yen each a month (about $10,000). There are a few rules: he can’t ask them questions about their pasts. He can’t go into their rooms. They have to eat dinner together. He’s a diffident guy, and he can’t figure out a way to get them to go away, so he ends up living with them as he continues to write, longhand. The kicker is that his father is a murderer, on death row for killing his mother, her lover and the first cop on the scene. His fax machine spits out a steady stream of anonymous hate messages.

The women range in age from 17 to 30. The oldest likes to eat dinner naked (although there’s no overt nudity in the show: the camera angles are chosen judiciously). Over the course of the first half dozen thirty-minute episodes, we learn more about who they are. And then the show takes a very dark turn, and the mystery of who invited these women and why becomes important. It’s weird and wacky and an interesting look at contemporary Japanese culture. The main character drifts through the series like has no control over anything, but his female roommates are a fascinating lot.

Then I watched Deep Water, a four-part Australian series starring Yael Stone, who plays Morello, the inmate who drives the van on Orange is the New Black. Who knew she was actually Australian, with that Joisey accent she uses on the show? A brutal murder bears striking similarities to a batch of hate crimes from twenty-five years ago in the Bondi Beach region of Sydney. It was a decent crime story.

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