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.