Friday, July 03, 2020

The short stories



Was asked recently if there was anything on-line that cataloged the handful of short stories I've published over the last few years. There isn't (and the brief one on my website is woefully out of date), so here they are.

"Nightbound" – A Crissa Stone short story, originally published in the Lawrence Block-edited anthology AT HOME IN THE DARK, released in 2019 by Subterranean Press. It's also been selected to appear in the upcoming (and final) edition of BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES, guest-edited by C.J. Box, which will be out in Oct. The 2020 edition also contains stories by James Lee Burke, John Sandford, Tom Franklin and others. The cover is above, and preorder links can be found here.


The story was originally written for the AT HOME IN THE DARK anthology, and the limited edition hardcover sold out quickly, however it is still available in trade paperback and e-book.

"Nightbound" takes place sometime between the events of the third and fourth Crissa Stone novels, KINGS OF MIDNIGHT and SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST, and follows her through one long and dangerous night in Brooklyn while she tries to hold on to a bag of stolen cash. A preview of the story can be found here on Lawrence Block's site. If you'd like to hear Larry and I talk about the anthology – and his amazing 60-year-plus career – you can tune in here.

"Night Run" This standalone story was originally written for the 2016 Mulholland Books anthology THE HIGHWAY KIND: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers and Dark Roads, edited by Patrick Millikin from the Poisoned Pen bookstore.
It's a road-rage story that's somewhat of an homage to Richard Matheson's classic short story "Duel." The story was later reprinted in the 2017 edition of BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES, edited by John Sandford.

–"Heart" This story was written for the 2006 horse-racing-themed anthology BLOODLINES, edited by Maggie Estep and Jason Starr. A slightly revised version was later printed in the 2009 summer fiction issue of INSIDE JERSEY magazine, and it was shortlisted for that year's edition of BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES, edited by Lee Child. The story takes place on a hot summer day at Monmouth Park racetrack. The main character, an aging drug gang enforcer named Morgan, later appeared in my 2010 novel GONE 'TIL NOVEMBER.

"Lovers in the Cold" This story was commissioned by Jessica Kaye and Richard Brewer for their now long-out-of-print anthology MEETING ACROSS THE RIVER, a collection of stories inspired by the Bruce Springsteen song that appeared on his 1975 album "Born to Run." My story took its title from an unreleased BTR outtake, and took place in 1974. It followed two guys from the Jersey Shore who find themselves in over their heads in gritty 1970s Manhattan. It's currently available in an e-book version for most platforms.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

John D. MacDonald: 1916-1986


This obituary was written for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press shortly after John D. MacDonald's death on Dec. 28. 1986. It's reprinted here for the first time.


By W.C. STROBY

PRESS STAFF WRITER

They’re putting up a plaque down at the Bahia Mar marina in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It’s to mark slip F18, a famous place as far as boat slips go. To millions of mystery readers it is close to a literary landmark, and the plaque is there as a tribute both to the marina’s most famous resident and the man who created him.

When John D. MacDonald died on Dec. 28 at age 70, he left a legacy that few writers can match. One of America’s best-selling writers for nearly 30 years, MacDonald was the author of 77 novels – 21 of which featured the inimitable Travis McGee, a lanky, slightly battered boat bum and private avenger who became one of fiction’s most popular creations.

From his first appearance in “The Deep Blue Good-By” in 1964 to his final adventure in last year’s “The Lonely Silver Rain” (all the books had colors in their titles), McGee found his way into the hearts of millions, with each book entering the bestseller list as soon as it was published.

With more than 30 million copies of his adventures sold, McGee was the type of fictional character other writers could only hope to create. Complex, multi-layered, tough yet tender, McGee was what every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to find. Operating out of his houseboat “The Busted Flush,” McGee’s specialty was conning the con men, fending off the human predators and avenging the helpless – as well as bedding the willing damsels in distress.




Unlike his other compatriots in popular fiction, McGee avoided violence if possible and eschewed casual sex, while preferring to philosophize on the general state of the world. His adventures offered not only mystery and suspense, but words to live by as well, sometimes voiced through MCGee’s best friend and confidante Meyer, the economist and fellow boat bum who served as McGee’s conscience and alter ego. The McGee books came to be about the price of violence as much as its practice.

According to Leona Nevlar, editor-in-chief at Fawcett Books, who worked closely with MacDonald since 1973, the secret to McGee’s success was the underlying sense of morality and humanism that MacDonald incorporated into him.

“Travis changed and grew a great deal,” she said. “He began as the conventional macho detective and eventually became a full person. He got older, he got depressed at times. He grew just like the rest of us. I think that was the greatest attraction. The plots were good, but the plots were not what held people all those years.”

Once referred to by science fiction author Harlan Ellison as “the last honest hack,” MacDonald was a writer who knew his limitations and lost no sleep over what some saw as his refusal to devote himself to “serious” works.

“The fact of a writer taking himself seriously does not make of him a ‘serious’ writer,” MacDonald once wrote. “I know that I am involved in entertainment, but I also know that the more entertaining a book is the more readers it will reach, and if the entertainment is built upon some solid foundations of awareness of the world, then there will be a resonance about the work which can in certain ways alter the internal climate and the outward perceptions of the reader.”

Throughout the McGee novels, as well as his other books, MacDonald voiced his concern over many social issues, including conservation and the growing development and “uglification” of his beloved Florida. Concern for the environment was at the heart of many of his best-known non-McGee works, including 1963’s “A Flash of Green,” 1979’s “Condominium,” and his final published novel, last year’s “Barrier Island.”


“John was interested in a great deal of things,” said Ms. Nevlar in a phone interview from her New York City office shortly after MacDonald’s death. “Politics, the environment, morality – there were a lot of things he was thinking about, a lot of things he cared about. John was one of those people who cared very much about the way things work. Anything that was in the books, he knew about, whether it was a gun or a martini or the way condominiums are financed.”

Born in Sharon, Pa., in 1916, MacDonald attended the Wharton School of Finance and the Syracuse School of Business before earning a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Business in 1939. After serving in the Army during World War II with the Office of Strategic Services in the China-India-Burma theater, he returned to the States to find that his wife had successfully sold a story he had written for her while overseas.



In the following months, MacDonald wrote nearly 500 stories, both for the “pulp” magazines of the day as well as the more upscale markets of Esquire and Cosmopolitan. As he once wrote, "if you want to write, you write. The only way to learn to write is by writing ... because there is no other way to do it. Not one other way.”

Eventually moving to Sarasota, Fla., where he spent the rest of his life, MacDonald continued to maintain a highly disciplined writing schedule. Even into his 60s, he wrote every day from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., producing anywhere from 900 to 9,000 words (about 28 typed pages) a day.

“There is not a day that I cannot get a quick electric feeling when I roll the white empty paper into the machine,” he wrote.

In 1972, MacDonald was given the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and in 1980, the American Book Award mystery competition prize for “The Green Ripper,” his 18th Travis McGee novel. He was working on his 22nd McGee – title unknown – at the time of his death.

Troubled with heart problems ever since suffering a minor heart attack in 1970, MacDonald’s last battle was fought not in his beloved Florida but in snow-frozen Milwaukee, Wisc., where he had gone to have a bypass operation – an operation from which he never recovered.

Ironically, “The Lonely SIlver Rain” contained a closing revelation that gave McGee a new outlook on life. Increasingly cynical, world-weary and lonely, McGee himself was beginning to seem an anachronism. But the book’s closing pages gave him a new reason to live, and opened up a new chapter in his life. Suddenly there were new places to go, new dragons to slay. A life worth living to the fullest.

Goodbye, Travis. And goodbye, John D. You will be missed.



(Miami Herald photo)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Where dreams are found and lost

This album came out 40 years ago today. I bought it that day on the way to a high school graduation party in Lincroft, N.J. Immediately put it on the turntable in my friend’s finished basement, and played it all the way through twice.
When I left for college a few months later, it was the the record I brought with me to remind myself of home. My life was changing quickly, and these songs of loss and anger and triumph were the perfect companion. They still are. I don’t think I could articulate what they’ve meant to me over the years, personally, artistically and emotionally.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Noir @ the Bar in Asbury Park April 29



The Noir@theBar crime-fiction reading series returns to Asbury Park Sunday April 29, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Capitoline basement complex on Cookman Avenue.

I'll be joining a stellar group of writers, including Jen Conley, Scott Adlerberg, Jay Butkowski, Angel Luis Colon, Alex Segura, Thomas Pluck, Lee Matthew Goldberg and Dave White. Music by members of the surf/noir band Black Flamingos.

I'll be reading from a brand new unpublished Crissa Stone short story that will be featured next year in the anthology AT HOME IN THE DARK, edited by the legendary Lawrence Block.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Booklist on SOME DIE NAMELESS

The always-nervous-making first review. BOOKLIST on SOME DIE NAMELESS, out in July from Mulholland Books & Mulholland UK. (click on image to zoom in).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Early praise for SOME DIE NAMELESS


Megan Abbott, Ace Atkins, Reed Farrel Coleman and others on the new novel, SOME DIE NAMELESS. It's out from Mulholland Books/Little, Brown in July but is available for pre-order HERE.

"Wallace Stroby’s SOME DIE NAMELESS manages that rare feat: it thrusts the reader headlong into a story so muscular and breakneck we can barely catch our breath, while also offering rich, damaged characters and a haunted, mournful tone that deepens everything, that lingers with us long after we reach the final page.”

– MEGAN ABBOTT, author of GIVE ME YOUR HAND


"SOME DIE NAMELESS is a superbly entertaining thriller full of hard truths about what happens when the shadow world is exposed to the light. Stroby's subtle, straightforward style is pitch perfect."

– REED FARREL COLEMAN, New York Times bestselling author of WHAT YOU BREAK


"SOME DIE NAMELESS is noir for modern times. The heroes are classic, but the bad guys are completely a 21st Century product. Greedy and reckless, they have no fear of the truth or those seeking justice. A boat bum Army vet and a jaded newspaper reporter are the perfect duo to take them down. A lean, mean story and a hell of a ride.”

– ACE ATKINS, New York Times bestselling author of THE SINNERS and ROBERT B. PARKER’S OLD BLACK MAGIC


"Wallace Stroby's writing is all muscle, with not an ounce of fat. SOME DIE NAMELESS is propulsive and intelligent, populated by the very best kind of characters: authentic, complicated human beings who are capable of surprising both the reader and themselves."

- LOU BERNEY, author of the bestselling THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE


"Wallace Stroby is the real thing, a writer who channels two of the best Raymonds – Chandler and Carver – with his tough, lean prose and 'dirty' realism," in a high-voltage story of murder and corruption."

- JONATHAN SANTLOFER, author of the bestselling THE DEATH ARTIST


"Wallace Stroby is a master of propulsive narrative and stunning action sequences. If you love supercharged suspense, strap in for a ride with his newest creation, Ray Devlin, the haunted ex-mercenary who is the heart and soul of SOME DIE NAMELESS."

- TED TALLY, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS


"With surgically precise prose, Wallace Stroby has created a story as fast, emotionally engaging, as richly detailed and riveting as any novel I've read in years. I would have consumed SOME DIE NAMELESS in a single sitting except I had to keep getting up and walking around the room to catch my breath. I've been a Stroby fan for a while, but this novel is by far his most ambitious and his most impressive. From the first scene to the last, this book never slows down or disappoints. A deeply satisfying read."

– JAMES W. HALL, author of WHEN THEY COME FOR YOU


"With SOME DIE NAMELESS Wallace Stroby has achieved the rare feat of combining the complexity and tension of a whodunit mystery with the suspense and action of one of the most dynamic thrillers in years. Stroby’s taut prose and authentic characters keep the twists and turns coming, culminating in an explosive ending that kept me thinking about the book long after I finished it.”

– PAUL GUYOT, executive producer NCIS: NEW ORLEANS


"Stroby, already a crime fiction luminary, is channeling his inner Elmore Leonard more and more these days, and this time he's headed to Leonard's old stomping grounds, a Florida populated by rogues, reporters, and mercenaries. Expect quality thrills and action."

- LITHUB