me and edgar

Okay, good news. This morning I learned I’ve been nominated for an Edgar. The Mystery Writers of America have been handing out Edgar Allan Poe awards for short fiction since 1951. The nominations are announced on Poe’s birthday, which is today. Getting nominated is a pretty big deal in the mystery and detective fiction biz.

The nomination is for a short story called Red Flag, which deals with red flag laws (hence the clever title). It’s a story about a man whose career was ended by a mass shooting. He returns to his home state of Michigan, tries to live a quiet life, but gets reluctantly drawn into a situation. A mother is concerned about her son–an alienated young man she’s afraid is thinking about committing a mass murder. Because the young man has broken no law, local law enforcement can’t do anything. So the protagonist cobbles together a sort of plan in the hope of disrupting what he sees as the inevitable mass murder attempt.

It’s an odd story. I was having lunch in a brew pub in a small Iowa town when I learned Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine was going to publish it. I was delighted. The very next morning, there was a high publicity mass shooting in a Michigan high school; four students were killed and seven wounded. Lots of people were aware of the shooter’s emotional problems–his parents, school officials, other students. They all knew he’d made vague threats about a mass murder. They knew he had access to a firearm. A red flag law would have allowed the police to remove that firearm, which might have prevented the tragedy.

The coincidence of selling a story about a potential mass murder in Michigan and an actual mass murder in Michigan less than 24 hours later was weirdly discomfiting. Obviously, there was no connection. And yet, it bothered me. Still does, in fact.

So I have mixed emotions about the story, about its publication, and about this nomination. I’m obviously chuffed about it. But I can’t entirely enjoy it. I’ll always associate this story with tragic events. And since I live in the United States, there’ll always be another tragic event.

Today is January 19th. So far this year there have been at least 33 mass shooting incidents in the US, resulting 48 deaths and 128 wounded. There’ll almost certainly be another one today.

I’m incredibly pleased to have been nominated for the Edgar. But I sort of hope I don’t win. I hope more people will read the story. I hope we can change our culture. I have hope.

But not very much of it.

7 thoughts on “me and edgar

  1. Not exactly on the same topic (guns) but I happened to publish an item in my student newspaper at Whittier College about earthquakes in California the day before the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake. It too was a coincidence. But it was also weirdly discomfiting to me. And one can say that it does not take unnatural foresight to “predict” an earthquake in California. Sadly, one might also say that it does not take unnatural foresight to predict a mass shooting these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, of course. The US has mass shootings on a daily basis (at least 10 dead last night in Monterey Park). And many (not all, of course) of those mass shootings could have been prevented by red flag (ERPO) laws. It’s barely even a coincidence that there was a mass murder in Michigan the day after I was informed I’d sold the story.

      Hell, if the magazine had decided to buy the story a day or two earlier or later, this wouldn’t be an issue.

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  2. An Edgar! Oh wow! That’s amazing – big congrats, even if there is a tragic undercurrent. Can I read the story anywhere? I don’t know of anywhere I could get Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine here.

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    • AHMM publishes some of their stories online (I think), but this wasn’t one of them. Maybe you could find it in a local library? I’d offer to mail you a copy, except I gave my copies away.

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  3. Congratulations! Nomination is amazing, and winning would mean many more people get to read the story. Crossed fingers for you – as an atheist I don’t believe that praying will make any difference to your chances of the prize or to changes in death rates from gun violence. However stories have huge power.

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    • One of the many reasons I decided NOT to stay in academia is that you can reach a wider audience writing fiction than you can writing for academic journals. In fact, year ago AHMM also published a story I wrote about the ‘felony murder rule’.

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