The Story About The Story
There’s always a story about the story.
Keith Rawson asked me to write a story for the Crime Factory: The First Shift anthology. Really nice when an editor asks you to be involved in a project he’s working so hard on. And he had lined up New Pulp Press as a publisher. I told Rawson I’d do it.
I probably wrote six drafts of the story. Somewhere in the second draft, the title “Hundred Proof” stuck and seemed good to me. I knew what I wanted to deliver. The one-inch punch. Short, with a bleak internal force and darkness and a jolt at the end. Haunting the reader forever. I kept that in mind throughout the remaining drafts. I thought maybe I had hit it when I wrote the last sentence. “He was sitting in a lawn chair by the picnic table, drinking a glass full of booze with bullets and ice in it.” It seemed okay. I sent it off.
Later, I got to read the story at the Stonecoast MFA Program, where I teach. Terrific group of students and faculty – solid readers and writers – and several of them commented on that last line. On the image of the bullets in the glass with the ice and liquor.
The other day, my contributor’s copy of Crime Factory: The First Shift arrived. It’s an impressive group of writers. After the intro by David Honeybone, Dennis Tafoya kicks it into high gear and it doesn’t stop. I even saw the names of a couple writers I know – Jedidiah Ayres and Charlie Stella. I had read something by Frank Bill and he was there. Ken Bruen needed no introduction. These were some heavy hitters. Trigger men. Gun molls and femme fatales. Outlaws and enforcers. An award-winning group of contemporary crime writers.
I kept looking at the index and the stories. What is appropriate anthology reading etiquette? Do you have to read the stories in order? The editors arranged them that way for a reason, isn’t the order part of the reading experience? I have no idea. But as I looked, I realized the stories were not arranged in alphabetical order by author last name. I noticed Dave Zeltserman was close to the middle. So I looked at the last story. Which happened to be mine. So if you flip to page 260 – although, granted, the contributor bios follow – the last sentence of fiction in the book, the final image that follows all these fine writers and their masterful stories, the last scene of it all is the bullets in the glass with the ice and the booze. That’s some pretty good writer’s luck to me.
Thanks to Keith Rawson and the Crime Factory crew of Cameron Ashley and Jimmy Callaway. And thanks to Patti Abbott, who wrote a good one too. I feel lucky to have my story included.
That’s the story of the story “Hundred Proof.”
Scott Wolven is the author of False Hopes (forthcoming) and Controlled Burn, with the title story recently selected for Best American Noir Stories Of The Century. Seven years in a row, his stories have appeared in the Best American Mystery Stories Series. Wolven teaches in the Stonecoast MFA Program/University of Southern Maine.