edgar-nominated writer of short crime fiction
Short Stories are Murder
Short Stories are Murder
I've been publishing short fiction since 2011, mostly in the field of mystery and crime. My stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Tough, and a number of other magazines and anthologies. I have been nominated for the Edgar Award and the Derringer Award, and have won the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction. I also won the Al Blanchard Award in 2019 and 2021.
In the sections below you'll find complete lists of my stories (click on the images for purchase links!), broken up by year, along with the latest news, links to interviews and podcasts, and much more.
To get started, here are some of my stories that can be read free on the web. If you enjoy them, I'd love to hear from you!
THE TRUNCATED REIGN OF MELVIN, PRINCE OF THE ENVELOPING DARKNESS
A practitioner of the dark arts is found murdered in his occult bookshop. A cozy mystery.
What does it take to rid your life of the things that don't bring joy?
If we could just find a way to get rid of the body . . .
It's not every day you meet a hitman.
An elite athlete, a kidnapped wife, and a second chance. Selected by Sara Paretsky as one of the best crime stories of 2021!
Who's trying to sink the career of a politician on the rise?
Coming this September!
The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2023. Eds. Otto Penzler and Amor Towles. Mysterious Press, 2023. (reprint)
THE TRUNCATED REIGN OF MELVIN, PRINCE OF THE ENVELOPING DARKNESS
"Why didn't I know you had a relative trafficking in the dark arts, sweetie?"
The Saturday Evening Post New Fiction Friday (February 24, 2023).
In prison, Alton acquired through necessity the ability to let his mind go blank, escaping the mindless grind of hours in a kind of unfocused hum. One of the old-timers taught him after Alton went nuts twice in his first month, the second time smacking a guard and earning himself two weeks in solitary without yard breaks.
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2023.
CAST UPON THE WATER
In the absolute blackness of this new kind of night, across the flattened land, the fires were visible for miles.
Tales From the Ruins. Ed. Cameron Trost. Black Beacon Books, 2023.
WE ARE THE STONEWALL GIRLS
When I was a kid, my Uncle Max, a private detective with his own firm in Manhattan, was the toughest man on the planet. Once or twice a month he would visit to sit on the back porch, drinking beer and telling me about crooks he’d caught and crimes he’d solved.
More Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties. Ed. Michael Bracken. Down & Out Books, 2023.
GOT THEM SHOES ON YOUR FEET
Hal turned to say something to Diane and saw olive green coming fast behind her. Michael. He had emerged from some door in the back. There was a gun in his outstretched hand and Hal had time to think that it looked very small before Michael fired.
Mystery Tribune 19 (Jan/Feb 2023).
Winner, 2019 Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction: "The Last Man in Lafarge"
Winner, 2019 Al Blanchard Award: "Haven"
Winner, 2021 Al Blanchard Award: "Herb Ecks Goes Underground"
Nominee, 2021 Edgar Award for Best Short Story: "Etta at the End of the World"
Nominee, 2021 Derringer Award for Best Long Story: "Etta at the End of the World"
Nominee, 2021 Derringer Award for Best Long Story: "Chasing Diamonds"
Main Selection, The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2021: "Etta at the End of the World"
Main Selection, The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2022: "Give or Take a Quarter Inch"
Main Selection, The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2023: "Crime Scene"
Named a Distinguished Story, Best American Mystery Stories, 2017: "Pill Bug"
Named a Distinguished Story, Best American Mystery Stories, 2018: "Awaiting the Hour"
Named a Distinguished Story, Best American Mystery Stories, 2020: "Bonus Round"
Second Place, Uncharted Magazine Crime/Mystery Contest: "A Thousand Miles Away"
Sixth Place, 2021 Ellery Queen Reader Awards: "The Last Man in Lafarge"
GIVE OR TAKE A QUARTER INCH
“I fell in with disreputable characters, is how my lawyer said it. Word of advice, Mr. Vargas. If you ever commit a felony, don’t do it in Arizona."
Mysterious Bookshop Presents The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2022. Ed. Otto Penzler & Sara Paretsky. Mysterious Press, 2022. (reprint)
THE DOMINION OF ALL THE EARTH
Worst of all, dreams of crushing, endless, hopeless isolation, and the most complete darkness ever experienced by any man.
Extraordinary Visions: Stories Inspired by Jules Verne. The North American Jules Verne Society, 2022.
The police cruiser appeared at the end of the block and turned their way just as they got the two big money bags moved to the van. Addison dropped to one knee and started firing. A cop rolled out of the passenger side, returning fire.
Mickey Finn III: 21st Century Noir. Ed. Michael Bracken. Down & Out
TWO BLACK BEAN AND SHRIMP QUESADILLAS AND A PINK RUGER LCP
He’d almost forgotten Brittany Orozco was in the room. He didn’t see her move. She was suddenly right next to him, one hand on the drawer knob. The other held something sharp that he couldn’t see against the hollow of his throat.
Guns & Tacos Season Four, Episode 20. Ed. Michael Bracken and Trey Barker. Down & Out Books, 2022.
A SHADE DARKER THAN GRAY
This wasn’t just a balding man in an ugly jacket. This was death. His death. Watching him, waiting patiently for the ending that came to all men. It had shaped everything that ever happened to him. There at a wobbly table was the author of all Len’s misfortunes.
Black is the Night: The Cornell Woolrich Tribute. Ed. Maxim Jakubowski. Titan Books, 2022.
He wanted to run his eyes over her again, slowly, from the face he’d caressed to the toes he’d kissed, storing up every detail for whatever came next.
She would have to come over to him soon.
She had to see if he was dead yet.
The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories. Ed. Maxim Jakubowski. Mango Publishing, 2022.
ETTA AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Local man Tyler Hession found dead in his home of a single gunshot wound. Wife, Etta, missing and being actively sought by police as a person of interest.
“Holy shit,” Grace hissed. She looked up at Etta. “Did you do that?”
Mysterious Bookshop Presents The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2021. Ed. Otto Penzler & Lee Child. Mysterious Press, 2021. (reprint)
“Man, there’s nothing out there. Guy in my building is so hard up he’s doing Duplo. Duplo, Scotty. You can’t let me sink to that level. Don’t hold out on me, buddy. How much money have I put in your pockets?”
“I cannot sell what I do not have.”
Die Laughing: An Anthology of Humorous Mysteries. Ed. Kerry Carter.
Mystery Weekly, 2021.
The next thing Keenan knew he was in the trunk, looking up at the two of them. The man’s face was rough and scarred. The woman seemed younger, but her expression was as flat and empty as a mannequin.
“You’re not cops,” Keenan said. The woman’s mouth twitched.
“Good guess,” she said.
Moonlight & Misadventure. Ed. Judy Penz Sheluk. Superior Shores Press, 2021.
A DAY AT THE RACES
“Say, mister,” said a nasal voice behind Brown. “You can’t just go taking pretty girls like that. Don’t you know there’s a shortage?”
Monkey Business: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers. Ed. Josh Pachter. Untreed Reads, 2021.
EVERYBODY PAYS A TAX
Morelli shook his head. “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, Pops. I could make this the worst night of your life.”
He was turning away when the bartender spoke again. “You wouldn’t make the top ten, you limp-dick pig motherfucker.”
Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression. Ed. S. A. Cosby and Paul Garth. Rock and a Hard Place Press, 2021.
The woman looked at Darryl. “I’m Detective Kate Byrne,” she said. “And you are?”
Darryl opened his mouth, but before he could say anything Stein spoke. “He is not saying a word to you without an attorney present.”
Byrne grunted. “Long name,” she said, “but I think I’ve met other members of your family.”
The First Line 23.1 (Spring 2021).
A guest post on Judy Penz Sheluk's blog, about trying to create moments for my readers
The First Two Pages: "Etta at the End of the World"
A guest post on Art Taylor's blog, about the opening of my Edgar-nominated story
A guest post on the Ellery Queen blog, about evoking the real through fiction
My (entirely too long) Zoom presentation to Malice In Memphis
Desideratum podcast, episode 11: "Mercy"
A reading of my story "Mercy"
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine podcast "Etta at the End of the World"
The Edgar-nominated story, read by the author
Mysteryrat's Maze podcast: "Nobody Home"
A dramatization of my short story "Nobody Home"
An Interview with Joseph S. Walker
A brief interview about my story in the tribute volume A Hint of Hitchcock
Writer and editor Michael Bracken discusses two baseball-themed stories, one by me
In which Agatha nominee Kaye George says nice things about me
In which Robert Lopresti includes one of my stories among his favorites of 2021
In which Robert Lopresti includes one of my stories among his favorites of 2022
The State of the Crime Novel in 2021
Roundtable discussion with 2021 Edgar nominees (part two here)
Roundtable interview with authors from this collection
A Post-Apocalyptic Interview with Joseph S. Walker
A brief interview about my story in Tales From The Ruins
My list of academic publications at Google Scholar
Selected by Robert Lopresti as "Best Mystery Story I read This Week":
There’s a man named Norton with a storefront on Washington Avenue, downtown, offering both payday loans and bail bondsman services. Grainger says it’s a profitable mix of legal loan sharking and legal kidnapping.
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. September/October 2020.
DINNER WITH THE KING
“Mr. Mancini,” Louis said, speaking loudly enough that everyone in the room and on the balcony could hear. “Allow me to say, sir, that this establishment is shamed by your presence. You are a contemptible man, bereft of honor, and a coward.”
The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Sixth Scandalous Serving.
Ed. J. Alan Hartman. Untreed Reads, 2020.
ETTA AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Tyler had taught her how to steal cars. He’d taught her about guns, too. He was a good teacher. That didn’t come close to making up for all the things he was bad at.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. May/June 2020.
Read by the author for the Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Podcast.
“Nice of you not to arrest me,” I said. I took a peek under the blanket. I was still dressed.
“Relax,” she said. “I don’t molest drunks.”
“That’s kind of a shame,” I said without thinking.
Mystery Weekly. September 2020.
THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T
“The game is afoot,” I said out loud. A woman walking past my car turned and looked at me. I winked and drove away before she could ask me what the hell I was talking about.
Tough. Toughcrime.com. March 16, 2020.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Lila,” I got out.
“Lila,” she said. “I don’t want coffee on my breath the first time I kiss you.”
Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the ‘60s.
Ed. Sandra Murphy. Untreed Reads, 2020.
She seems, to me, dazed and exhausted. She’s wearing denim shorts and a black and white patterned top.
The time stamp on the picture is 11:05 PM, just under eight hours from when the young woman would be found eight blocks away, wearing completely different clothes.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. May/June 2019.
“Why did you kill Mr. Jameson?”
“You knew him?” Becker said. “Let’s just say that his name wasn’t always Jameson, and he didn’t always know enough to keep his mouth shut.”
“He’s got a daughter at my school,” Grant said.
“That’s a shame,” Becker said. “He should have thought about her more a while back.”
Life Is Short and Then You Die. Ed. Kelley Armstrong. New York: Imprint, 2019.
THE GOLD BUG LEGACY
“This should be most interesting, Mike,” Sam said. “I’ve been playing the role of Mark Twain for many years. Let’s see how I do at being Dr. John Watson.”
Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Brian and Derrick Belanger. Belanger Books, 2019.
WINNER, 2019 AL BLANCHARD AWARD
I was sitting with Jess and Angie on the front porch at Haven, waiting for Mason Barnes to come try to kill his wife. He was running later than we’d expected and my attention was wandering.
Seascape: The Best New England Crime Stories 2019. Level Best Books, 2019.
AFTER WE LOST HER
The cords in Evans’s neck were starting to stand out. Her hand dropped to the holster clipped to the right side of her belt. “You need to stop playing games with me,” she said.
“Gonna shoot me in my own bar?”
She took her hand away from the gun. “Dammit, man, help me.” She took a deep breath. “We both lost her.”
Mystery Weekly. August 2018.
AWAITING THE HOUR
“Alex took the long view,” Matthew said. “He plotted out the exact course the eclipse would take and found us a house on the center line. He said we would watch it together in our old age.”
The water in the pot was beginning to bubble slightly.
“He didn’t know he wouldn’t be here."
Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse. Ed. Kaye George. Wildside Press, 2017.
LAST SEEN HEADING NORTH
“So my car’s here.”
“It is,” Oakley said. “Complete with the automatic in the glove compartment with the fifty thousand in banded hundreds.”
The man had gotten very still. “Call the cops?”
“We’re not exactly on speaking terms with the local law these days."
The Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine. 2.3 (April 2017).
Nothing happened for a moment then, like a mechanical toy catching its gears, Kellner’s arm lifted and he drank half the glass straight down.
Nelson sat again. “That’s the boy, Frank. Finish it up.”
Kellner’s eyes found him. “I saw the Russians, Adam.” He spoke with the exaggerated correctness of the long-since drunk.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. March 2015.
When the flight from Berlin turned out to be half empty Cinnamon moved to a first class window seat, a courtesy the airline was happy to extend to a Marine heading home. They would have been less happy if they’d known about the ceramic switchblade in the sole of her boot or the telescoping steel baton in the frame of her backpack.
Pulp Modern III (Spring/Summer 2012).
THE PENTHOUSE VIEW
There’s no way most people will ever understand a slump like that—the desperation, the denial. It’s a roll of cash with a twenty on the outside filled out with singles, a pair of socks worn for a solid week because they might be lucky. As it goes on it feels less and less like luck and more like judgment.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Jan/Feb 2012.
To the dead, it seemed, the living world was a pathetic place awash in missed opportunities and signs of decay and decline.
Absolute Visions: Anthology of Speculative Fiction. Ed. MacAllister Stone. Written in Stone, 2011.
IN THE END THERE IS JUDGMENT
You’d think being dead would shut Waylon up but I still hear him. To hear him tell it I screwed up killing him something awful.
Indiana Science Fiction Anthology 2011. Ed. James Ward Kirk. Indiana: Angels & Demons & Ghosts, 2011.
SO YOU WANT TO WRITE FICTION?
Discourse of the Inquisitive. Eds. Jaclyn Maria Fowler and Bjorn Mercer. Westphalia Press, 2023.
TELEPORTING OFF THE PAGE: THE WACKY LIFE AND TRUNCATED CAREER OF AMBUSH BUG
The DC Comics Universe: Critical Essays. Ed. Douglas Brode. McFarland, 2022.
'WE, THE FANS OF STAR WARS': NEGOTIATING RESISTANCE IN AN AGE OF CONSUMPTION
Who Makes the Franchise? Essays on Fandom and Wilderness Texts in Popular Media. Ed. Rhonda Knight and Donald Quist. McFarland, 2022.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST LONGBOX: REDISCOVERING THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES
Excavating Indiana Jones: Essays on the Films and Franchise. Ed. Randy Laist. McFarland, 2020
VERONICA MARS: THE BITCH IS BACK
Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls. Ed. Douglas L. Howard and David Bianculli. Syracuse UP, 2018.
COEN, COEN ON THE RANGE: ROOSTER COGBURN(S) AND DOMESTIC SPACE
The New Western: Critical Essays on the Genre since 9/11. Ed. Scott Stoddart. McFarland, 2016.