How I Came to Write This Story: “Zinger” from Roachkiller and Other Stories
Way back in the 20th century, I had a freelance job writing web site reviews, and I came across a contest for Best Hollywood Movie Pitch. Looking at previous winners, it seemed the funniest entries won. So, I dashed off the first thing I thought of: "A vicious serial killer is electrocuted while at the same time, miles away, a standup comedian electrocutes himself while ironing. Through the wires, their souls get switched! How will the killer deal with being a single dad? Will the standup comedian think hell is funny?” It was so basic and so ridiculous, I was surprised Adam Sandler hadn’t made a movie of it—yet (starting countdown . . . NOW). I won the contest—receiving the ephemeral-yet-ever-lovely prize of bragging rights—but more importantly the idea stayed with me, maybe because it was so basic and so ridiculous. Like a pop song that just won’t leave your head unless you knock it out, some story ideas won’t go away unless you do something with them—or you drink a lot. I decided to do something with it.
So a few years ago I sat down and wrote a story to go with my contest-winning Hollywood pitch, adding names, filling out characters, but removing the whole cliché trip to Hell. (Free advice to writers: “Hell’s been done.”) The idea was still so silly I made sure to put in a lot of humor, something I usually am frugal with when it comes to noir (mustn’t let laughs get in the way of a good murder). A friend I showed it to suggested the perfect title: “Zinger.” Now all I had to do was find the story a home.
But who publishes darkly comic crime fiction with a supernatural twist? I submitted. Horror magazines turned it away—“Too crime fictionish.” I submitted. Noir magazines didn't want anything to do with slipstreammery. “Just guns and gals, please.”
I . . . All right, I didn’t submit that hard, but it gets frustrating when no one wants your baby. So the story got buried for a long while . . .
But then last year I was looking through my stories to put together my ebook compilation, Roachkiller and Other Stories. I had 10 stories ready to go, but I just before I sent them to the publisher I realized one story was noirly, but not as noirly as the others in the book. But if noir=dark, then “Zinger”—even with its scene of a serial killer doing a stand up set—was noir. So I decided to include it in my collection. In fact, it became a selling point, as all the other stories were previously published and may have been already read by my fans (big shout out to both of you!), and this was a story no one had read before.
Now I'm just waiting for someone (Mr. Sandler, I’ll take your call now) to option the story and make it into a great big B movie. I can already picture it at my local video store, with a lurid cover, a giant discount sticker, and starring Louis C.K. (in either role).
R. Narvaez has had work featured in Indian Country Noir, Long Island Noir, Murdaland, Plots with Guns, Thrilling Detective, and You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens. His new book is Roachkiller and Other Stories.