Wednesday 5 April 2023

The Missing Page - No Peace for the Wicked and other short stories

There's a wonderful episode of Hancock's Half Hour, 'The Missing Page', in which Tony Hancock (of whom I was a great fan) is tormented by the fact that the last page of a crime novel called Lady Don't Fall Backwards is missing from his library copy. It's such a famous show that someone even wrote a novel in tribute called... Lady Don't Fall Backwards. Now I've had my own Tony Hancock moment.

When I'm sent published copies of my stories, it's unusual for me to read my own efforts again, partly through lack of time but mainly because I find myself wondering how I could have improved them. So when my story 'No Peace for the Wicked' - one I very much enjoyed writing, by the way - appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, it took me a while to look at the contents. I started reading the stories and then flicked past my story - only to realise that it ended in a strange place. Further checking revealed, to my horror, that the final part of the story had been omitted! It still kind of made sense, just about, but it was far from what it should have been. To cut a long story short, it turned out that there had been a printer's error and nobody picked it up. The editor, Janet Hutchings, has been a friend for a long time so it wasn't a question of recriminations but simply of how to deal with the situation. And the answer is that the story can now be read online here. So all's well that ends well!

I'm not sure I shall now ever dare to look at any of my published stories ever again, in case lightning does strike twice. However, I wanted to mention three anthologies in which my work has appeared in recent times. The first is a Cornell Woolrich tribute anthology, Black is the Night, edited by Maxim Jakubowski. My story is called 'The Woman Who Never Was'. The idea came to me while relaxing in front of the television one evening and it's a story I really enjoyed writing.

Then there is 'Darling Lorraine', which appeared in Paranoia Blues: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Paul Simon, edited by Josh Pachter. This story had a very different inspiration - a visit to the lovely converted watermill that is the home of one of my writing friends.

Finally there is 'The Outsider', in Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, edited by Gay Toltl Kinman and Andrew McAleer. The stories all pay tribute to the Golden Age and the inspiration for my story came from thinking about an Agatha Christie novel - the setting rather than the plot in this case. I liked the detective duo that I created for this story and one day they may return, as I really enjoyed writing about them


Alan Barker said...

No Peace for the Wicked - love it! Great storytelling, Martin, as always.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Alan!

Liz Gilbey said...

A classic Hancock, and a book title that has passed into legend; the sort of title that in itself gets the imagination going. Things that might - and do - happen to copy are legion, and I think we all have similar experiences we never forget, if that is any consolation. These do not always come to light because however much we may change and correct and review before we complete what we write and send it away, it is usually a case of 'when it's done, it's done' - and unless being a born nitpicker or a fragile ego, it can be quite rare to go back and read over material once it is in print. Thirty five years ago I interviewed a rising young classical actor, just part of the rolling work schedule. But when the article appeared in print it was utter gibberish; for in those good old days of cold type, my article had been dropped on the floor and the words and letters jumbled. Working against the clock, the type got put back anyhow (a printer's pie, as it is/was called) and never got corrected. Although it was not my fault, I drove down to Stratford to personally apologise. We had a huge row about it, and have been best friends ever since. So sometimes the fact of human fallibility can be a positive thing. Onwards and upwards!

Martin Edwards said...

Great comment, Liz, and very true!