The Best American Mystery Stories 2013

Otto Penzler, Lisa Scottoline, Tom Barlow, Michael Connelly, O’Neil De Noux, Eileen Dreyer, Edgerley Gates, Clark Howard, Andre Kocsis, Kevin Leahy, Nick Mamatas, Emily St. John Mandel, Dennis Mcfadden, Micah Nathan, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pickard, Bill Pronzini, Randall Silvis, Patricia Smith, Ben Stroud, Hannah Tinti, Maurine Dallas Watkins

The Best American Mystery Stories 2013

An anthology of stories edited by Lisa Scottoline and Otto Penzler, 2013

Foreword

AS PREPARATION FOR writing the foreword to each new book in this wonderful series, I reread those I wrote for previous volumes. This serves the purpose of reminding me of things I may already have said and therefore assists my efforts to eschew repetition in the off-chance that readers actually pay attention to these things instead of immediately diving into the stories on these pages (as I heartily recommend).

The second goal is for this rereading process to suggest something that may be of interest to readers, to provide a slim thread that might be followed to produce a few worthwhile thoughts. Or even a single one, for that matter, which usually exhausts me.

Although I’m not certain either goal was achieved when I read the sixteen earlier forewords produced for The Best American Mystery Stories, that stroll down memory lane did provide an interesting (to me) autobiographical view of my connection to the series that illuminated numerous changes in attitude and process.

Naively and foolishly, an early foreword somehow seemed to display my comfort, perhaps even pride, in the fact that I didn’t have a computer and wouldn’t have known how to turn one on if I did. As it happens, almost immediately after I wrote that I went to the London Book Fair and returned to find my much-loved IBM Selectric typewriter missing from my desk, replaced by a computer. I asked my assistant what the hell was going on and she said simply, “It’s time. I used your credit card and ordered it.” I told her she was fired. “I know,” she said, “but first I’m going to teach you how to use it.” It was a struggle for an old Luddite, but I recognize now that I couldn’t function without it.

As evidence of the change in me, and the world, since those simpler days, I now run a publishing company, MysteriousPress.com, devoted entirely to e-books. Okay, I still may be technologically challenged, but I’ve accepted the inevitable.

My life has always been deeply involved with books, beginning when I read them at a very young age, followed by collecting them, then editing and publishing them, and finally selling them through my bookshop. I lament that the number and influence of independent bookstores has dramatically diminished over recent years, and that Nooks and Kindles are now seen more frequently during my travels than hardcover books are, or even paperbacks, for that matter.

On the other hand, I have embraced some of the valuable elements of this change. It is now possible to have access to hundreds of thousands of books that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to find less than a decade ago, for instance.

At a more pertinent level, perhaps, the BAMS volumes have (finally) just recently become available as e-books, and sales of these electronic versions just about match the sales of the physical books, giving them a much wider readership than ever, a turn of events that doesn’t appear to have any downside that I can see.

The ubiquity of computers in most of our lives has also transformed the publishing landscape a great deal, as would-be authors can now self-publish and any number of websites publish original stories, many of which are in the mystery and crime fiction category. This, too, points out a major change from the beginning of this series to the present time. I thought that my wonderful reader, Michele Slung, and I had done a pretty good job by reading five hundred to six hundred stories to find the best for that 1997 edition of BAMS; the number of stories that Michele checks out to see what might be worthy of consideration now approaches five thousand. Many are not read all the way through, of course, as it is clear that some writers really ought to find a different outlet for their creative impulses, but still, it’s a daunting challenge.

A challenge, I am pleased and proud to say, that yet again has been met with triumph, as the superb pieces of fiction in this collection will attest. One can only speculate, either with fear or with excitement, depending on one’s personality, what changes will transpire over the next seventeen years. As technology not only changes but changes at an ever-faster rate, the person who will make the next great leap forward is now probably seven years old, ecstatically watching Toy Story for the fifty-fifth time, mouthing the dialogue while multitasking with a laptop on which he or she has created a stunning website to publish a collection of original illustrated stories.

After Michele has gathered the stories to be seriously considered, I read the harvested crop, passing along the best fifty (or at least those I liked best) to the guest editor, who selects the twenty that are then reprinted, the other thirty being listed in an honor roll as “Other Distinguished Mystery Stories.”

Sincere thanks are due to this year’s guest editor, Lisa Scottoline, the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Don’t Go and Come Home as well as the hugely popular mystery series featuring Rosato & Associates. She is a former president of the Mystery Writers of America and won an Edgar Award in 1995 for Final Appeal.

This is an appropriate time to thank the previous guest editors, who have done so much to make this prestigious series such a resounding success: Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, Joyce Carol Oates, Scott Turow, Carl Hiaasen, George Pelecanos, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, and Robert Crais.

While I engage in a relentless quest to locate and read every mystery/crime/suspense story published, I live in terror that I will miss a worthy story, so if you are an author, editor, or publisher, or care about one, please feel free to send a book, magazine, or tearsheet to me c/o The Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007. If it first appeared electronically, you must submit a hard copy. It is vital to include the author’s contact information. No unpublished material will be considered, for what should be obvious reasons. No material will be returned. If you distrust the postal service, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard, on which I will acknowledge receipt of your story.

To be eligible, a story must have been written by an American or a Canadian and first published in an American or Canadian publication in the calendar year 2013. The earlier in the year I receive the story, the more fondly I regard it. For reasons known only to the nitwits who wait until Christmas week to submit a story published the previous spring, holding eligible stories for months before submitting them occurs every year, causing much gnashing of teeth as I read a stack of stories while my wife and friends are trimming the Christmas tree or otherwise celebrating the holiday season. It had better be a damned good story if you do this. Because of the very tight production schedule for this book, the absolute firm deadline is December 31. If the story arrives one day later, it will not be read. This is neither whimsical nor arbitrary but utterly necessary in order to meet publishing schedules. Sorry.

O.P.

Introduction

ABRAHAM LINCOLN FAMOUSLY said, “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.”

I understand exactly what Lincoln meant by that, and nothing illustrates his point better than a short story. I’ve written almost twenty-five novels in as many years, but I’ve written only three short stories for anthologies: one for breast cancer research, another to preserve open space, and the last for Otto Penzler.

Bottom line, I avoid the short form unless I’m saving the world or working for Otto Penzler.

Why?

Because I adore Otto, who knows more about crime fiction than anybody on the planet.

And also because it’s too much work to write something short. I don’t have the time.

Plus I’m Italian, and Italians need three thousand words just to say hello.

Hand gestures not included.

On top of that, I’m a woman, which means that at eight thousand words, I’m just warming up. A typical novel is ninety thousand words, but mine always run longer, and even my acknowledgments don’t get to the point anytime soon.

By the way, I’m divorced twice, and these things may be related.

Anyway, you get the idea. It’s harder to write something short than something long.

Why?

Because you have to know exactly what you’re doing before you do it. You have to know where you’re going before you get in the car. You have to think what to say before you open your mouth.

That’s not me.

People ask if I know how my book ends when I begin to write, and I have to tell the truth. Not only do I not know how it ends, I don’t even k ...

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