And come one,
come all, to the Partners & Crime bookstore for a
launch party on Thursday, December 15th, at 7pm.
How I Came to Write This Story: Lois Karlin, “The Understudy”*
When the call went out for submissions to the NY/Tri-State
chapter’s Sisters in Crime anthology, the guidelines inspired
a foray into New York neighborhoods off the tourist track.
I knew right away I wanted my story set in and around the
Bowery during the still-seedy late ’70’s. I could relate to
the era, and I wanted a noir tale that would capture the
neighborhood’s flavor before it was entirely snuffed out by
I was fortunate to have a neighbor who had worked in a firehouse in the Lower
East Side near Alphabet City. The firehouse was right across the street from a
favorite drug spot for junkies - true story - where smack sold at a premium because
resuscitation was available. I left Carl’s house with stories about the city on fire,
tenements and lofts, and notes on heroin addicts and
Wall Street junkies, gangs, skid row, and flophouses.
I’d already begun writing about a nineteen year old living by
her wits, who’d wandered to the neighborhood in order to
squat in an abandoned tenement building.
Then Carl mentioned a couple of suburban college
girls who had tried to make it among the druggies and street
people, living rent-free next to the bricked up building where
junkies lined up for each new batch of heroin.
The two girls, crushed by the reality of a life they’d
romanticized, inspired my protagonist’s look-alike friend
from a wealthy family in Greenwich, CT. They survived. For awhile. I didn’t know
where the story was going. When those girls got lost in the world of smack it
was a surprise to me. When they switched places the story led to the Bowery,
and to doom. For a glimpse of that slice of life I thank Carl and the internet.
Thank you, Patti, for the chance to talk about The Understudy and the SinC anthology. You can read a snippet
of each story, and a word about the authors and book availability, at Murder
New York Style: Fresh Slices. http://www.murdernystyle.com/.