Six Short Stories

6Shorts(Large)Six Short Stories of Crime and Suspense

 These six stories deal with topics from mass murder to sci-fi. Most involve a crime, usually murder, but all are suspenseful. Most are about 3,000 words, about 10 pages each.
1.  I wrote Shooters soon after the tragedy in Tucson in which Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords was shot at a political meeting. The shooter was quickly captured but judged incompetent to stand trial. With this story I work through my frustration at knowing there is no easy way to defend against the lethal combination of mental illness and guns in our society.

2.  Stone Cross is based on a misfortune that befell my next-door neighbors. The bewildered elderly couple lost their foreclosed home and their retirement dreams, and moved to a trailer near the city landfill. A year later, the bank sold the house for half the original mortgage to a young family with three kids. They are unaware of the heartache that made the house available to them.

3. The owner of a local brake shop was reluctant to answer questions about how to sabotage a car’s brake system, information I needed for the central crime in Merely an Accident. “Why do you want to do this?” he asked. “I don’t,” I assured him. “It’s just a story.” “Well,” he harrumphed, “I better not read about this in the Star.”

4.  The Last Out is an attempt to find humor in an emotionally difficult episode while I was caring for aging parents. I’m happy to report that Maggie was not really murdered. She recovered and she and Joe are back home now, leaning on each other, as before, bravely facing the harsh challenges of getting old.

5. Warm Spots is the longest story. When I cut it back to 3000 words, I didn’t like the result, so I decided the “extra” thousand words were earning their keep. As far as I know, the method of planetary cooling I describe has not been tried, but the idea is theoretically sound and has been seriously proposed. I found that explaining the technical stuff burned up a lot of my word count. Maybe that’s just a hazard of writing sci-fi.

6.  The final story, Waved Through, sprang from a lecture I attended by an arrogant judge. He said he enjoyed handing out maximum sentences and bragged about his reputation for being tough. I asked him why he believed in harsh punishment, and he gave a paternalistic-moralistic answer about forcing people to be accountable for their actions. I resolved to write a story about him, but I eventually found it was better to take the point of view of the defendants, rather than that of the judge. All that survives of the judge is the opening courtroom scene.

I hope these stories provide you with some entertainment value. Please let me know if they do.

ISBN 978-0-9837177-2-0   $0.99.

19,000 words.  Approx. pages: 75.
On Amazon.com, or Barnesandnoble.com,  search on “Six Stories of Crime and Suspense”
On Smashwords.com, search on “William A. Adams” or the ISBN, “978-0-9837177-2-0”

 

Fowles: The Collector

Collector-fowlesAn Early Sensitive Psychopath

Fowles, John. (1963). The Collector. New York: Back Bay/Little Brown.

This novel is often compared to Lolita because it involves an older man’s sexual obsession  with a young girl, but the comparison is not apt. First, “Fred,” the kidnapper, is only slightly older than the girl, and the girl is an almost-adult 20 years old. Second, While Fowles is a good writer of psychological states, he is no Nabokov when it comes to flourishes with the language, and that’s the reason one reads Lolita, not because of the pedophilia. Third, it is not clear if Fowles’ kidnapper is sexually motivated. He has some mild fantasies, but never acts on them so we don’t really know what motivates him. So Lolita, it isn’t, though I think it is an homage to that novel.

Fred is a creepy working class guy obsessed with a college girl in his town, Miranda. When he wins the lottery, he buys a country cottage and outfits it as a prison, then kidnaps Miranda. She tries to convince him her family cannot afford a ransom, not realizing it is not really a kidnap and she will never leave that cottage.

But if it’s not a traditional kidnap, what is it? Fred is a butterfly collector (as was Nabokov), proud of his collection, but he can’t explain why. He has “collected” Miranda for reasons unclear even to himself, and certainly unclear to the reader. From their interactions we learn that he is a simple, awkward, inexperienced, and uneducated man with petite bourgeoise values of propriety. She is well-educated but more snarky than classy. There is class warfare in their conversations, but nothing new or interesting is said, except this: both of them say, independently, in different ways, that only because Fred got all that money did he pursued his obsession. Everybody has fantasies, but most people are held to decency by their poverty, or at least by the need to make a living. If you give any poor and ignorant person a ton of money, they will turn antisocial on you.  Is it true? I can think of examples where it seems to be.

We can almost (but not quite) understand why Fred collected Miranda. He cares for her in a fatherly way, and wants respect, adoration, and to be powerful and important to her. Her diary reveals she likes  fatherly traits in a man, and has “no problem” with romances between younger women and older men. So there’s a mild Freudian theme going on there. However Fred is untutored, with no sensibility for the arts so she rejects him forthright (and of course, because he is her captor).

In the end, Fred reveals himself to be a psychopath and becomes  uninteresting, just another random nut-job. Psychopathy is largely a genetic and brain disorder, having next to nothing to do with education or class, but Fowles would not have seen it that way in 1963. Still, if it was his intent to paint a sympathetic portrait of a psychopath, it was only slightly convincing. I mean, as soon as a guy locks a girl in his basement, is there any more to say? Fowles tried to humanize Fred but our modern knowledge of mental disorders and crazy, misogynistic kidnappers may not allow it.

Why Do We Need Barbers?

BarberI got a haircut this week, and while my barber was jabbering on about deep sea fishing (something we don’t do so much around Tucson), I was thinking how odd it is that I can’t see the back of my head, even with a mirror. I need two mirrors. There’s a lot of the body we never, or rarely see.  You can’t see your back very easily, or the bottoms of your feet. It’s next to impossible to see into your ears even with mirrors.

One’s body is a concept as much as a perceived reality. You can see your hands and feet, but there’s a lot you can’t, or don’t often see.  We think we have an excellent idea of what our own body is like, but do we, really?  If you include the interior, you realize most of the body is conceptualized abstractly, not perceived. Maybe that explains why so many people have a poor body concept and can’t or won’t accept what they look like. Expectations play strongly into what we perceive, and that includes seeing the body.

This was not an idea I could easily share with my barber, who was sculpting my self-image in exchange for money. What an odd thing to do. Chimps don’t do it. Why do we?

Good Books: Reviews

dog-reading-bookEverybody and their dog is a book reviewer these days. I review the books I read because it helps me to understand and remember what I read.

Read a few of my reviews. If you like the kind of books I like, you’ll have a collection of good books to put on your list.

A book review is an opinion but I try to give reasons for my opinions so you can judge if I’m being fair. I usually don’t review books I didn’t like, because life is too short. So even when I’m critical of a book, if it’s on this list, it’s worthy of your attention.

 

Between Projects

construction-de-la-tour-eiffel.1205317476There’s always a big project. There’s never a time when I’m not writing or editing. It’s often hard to tell when a project is over, and even when it has started.

Right now I’m temporarily between projects, which is why I’m working on this web site. I just finished my 5th revision of a detective novel, working title, “Quinn Cassidy, Detective.”  The first draft of that was completed in 2012, based on a short story written in 2011. Is it done? No, I just got maxed out poring over it, line by line, word by word. It needs a rest.

A few months ago, I finished the 9th revision of another novel, “Being Ruby.”  I’m pretty sure that will stick as its title. It’s essentially complete, but it has voice problems. The main character is an adolescent female who starts the story at 18 years old and finishes at 21, but whenever she talks, she sounds like me. I’m taking her to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where I hope to get some pointers on what to do with the voice.

My Next Big Thing?  I’ve got an outline for a novel, working title “Chocotle.” I’ve got a half dozen characters sketched and the broad outline of a story. The outline is from January, 2013, but I’m reluctant to dig into it just a week before heading off to Iowa with Ruby. Each project is all-consuming when you’re in it.

I also have an idea for a novel that might be called “Forgetfulness.”  I need to start sketching that before I forget what the idea is!

Building a New Website

I’ve determined to build a new web site dedicated to writing. It’s a lot of work, but every writer needs a “platform.”  The trouble is, you also need to feed the platform (odd expression).  Writing to a web site is not great literature, but it does count as writing. I just deleted 35 useless words. Deleting is writing.

WordPress2I’m using WordPress, a popular platform. I already have a site at Google (http://sites.google.com/site/billadamsphd/) but few people find it. I’ll gradually move the significant stuff here for better visibility.

Oddly, the Google site is free, but it will outlast me. This one will survive only as long as I pay the hosting fee (about $100 a year). When I go, the site goes. Interesting contrast: forever is free and $100 buys mortality. Seems like it should be the reverse.

It’s like the choice Odysseus faced when he was captive on Circe’s island.She was beautiful and available; an immortal goddess. The island was a paradise of plenty and beauty.

Circe offered to make Odysseus immortal if he would stay. But he said no, I am human. I want to see my son grow up; I want to get old with my wife.

“And die?” Circe asked.

“It’s what humans do,” he replied. So he built a boat and left for home.