Friday, September 5, 2014

Appearing in issue #36, September 8, 2014

Title:  All in the details

By Author:  Bern Sy Moss 


Tag line:  It was a bad day for balding, not-too-tall guys in downtown Springfield!

Police characters:  Deputy Jimmy Willis, Sheriff Trudy Trueworth

The gist:  Five men got their pockets picked in town and were waiting at the police station to report the crime.  In addition the postman dropped off a bunch of wallets that he found in the mailbox near the post office.  The five men were all short and bald, and all wore glasses.  None of them knew where the theft had occurred, but they knew when they realized their wallets were missing: hardware store, dry cleaners, café, grocery store and the library.  The sheriff drew up a map of where those locations were, and of the post office where some of the wallets were dumped.  Four of the men got their wallets back but they had been cleaned out of their money.  The fifth man did not get his wallet back.  The sheriff studied the map and announced that ‘a downtown locale’ was missing from the map.  She then drew in the bus station which was central to all the locations.  From this she knew where to find the thief.

Crime scene:  Downtown Springfield.

Clues:  The men all looked the same.  One wallet was missing.

Suspects: Unknown.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Because the men all looked the same, the sheriff knew the thief was looking for a new ID.  She went to the bus station and searched for a man who looked like the victim who didn’t get his wallet back.

My two cents:  Almost the entire first column is spent talking about Deputy Jimmy waiting to take over Sheriff Trueworth’s job. I mean who cares?  Another quarter of a column was taken up with the five men bitching about having their pockets picked, and wanting to know where the sheriff was, and when are the police going to find this guy.  What a waste of space.   Finally in the third column we get some information but the solution took up almost the whole last column.  This would have been a 400-word story if you cut out the extraneous material.

I wish the sheriff would have just noticed that the bus station was close to all the spots where the men noticed their wallets had been stolen instead of the clumsy “A downtown locale was missing from the map.” There was no time frame in the story.  We have to assume these thefts occurred within minutes of each other as all five men ended up going to the police station at the same time.  Did they walk to the police station?  Drive there?  Of course, these wallets could have been stolen hours before the men finally noticed them missing, so realistically that map of where they discovered them gone is rather useless.  

That town sure had a lot of short, bald men.

The sheriff told the deputy in the beginning of the story to always pay attention to the details. So that’s where the title comes from.  It’s not a strong tie.  And it’s not a strong title.

I’m not impressed with this story.  The writing was stilted.  The pacing was off.  The timing of the crimes wasn’t clear.  The setup was way too long.  There were clumsy spots.  The solution was laborious. The only thing I did like was the fact that the sheriff had a hunch and headed to the bus station to look for a short, balding man with glasses that looked like the guy who never got his wallet back.  Good thing for her the perp didn’t have time to take an earlier bus.

One star for a decent clue.  Oh, and the tag line was clever.


Mary Jo said...

Amen. Wonder if the editor has little to no choice among these abbreviated mysteries.

Joyce Ackley said...

I didn't read this one, but you've piqued my interest and I plan to read it. I trust your judgment as far as the quality of the writing, but I have to admit, this seems like a unique, creative motive. I'd like to read the story to delve into what you've pointed out. On another note, I got a rejection on my mystery, but it had made it to Seattle. No note, but the postmark was encouraging. My last romance also made it to Seattle. Sigh. Bittersweet.

Tamara said...

Joyce, I always feel better when my stories make it at least to Johnene. There's something about that 1st-stop rejection that feels like a slap, especially since Gaddis seldom gives a reason.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. Regarding little to no choice...but they chose to publish the darn thing. They could have sent this guy a rejection. At the very least if the novelty of the clue intrigued them, they could have edited it in a clever way and polished it up.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Sorry about the big R, but getting to Seattle is a feat in itself. Keep on truckin'. Send out your romance somewhere else.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. RE: North Carolina rejections. Sometimes they come back so fast the envelope flap is still wet. Hate that. Germs, you know?

Mary Jo said...

I am not much of a mystery writer, but I did submit two of them to WW, and both of them went to Johnene. So what does that tell you? I was not all that surprised when she rejected them. However, when I read some of those that make it to print, I think I might try again.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. It's all in tickling Johnene's fancy. Try again. I mean sooner or later it'll happen but not if there's nothing on her desk of yours.

Joyce Ackley said...

I have a question about payment for the mini mysteries. Is it $500 or $700? And is it a set rate, or does the amount of editing factor in? Is it still a straight $800 for the romances, even though they are edited to considerably less than 800 words?

And finally, which overseas market publishes stories most like the ones WW uses?

I realize this may not be the best place to post these questions, and I apologize. I sometimes have problems getting my posts to publish on the WWWriters forum.

Thanks, guys.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. You're welcome to comment or ask questions on this blog. The WW guidelines for mysteries is waaaay on the bottom of this blog. They pay $500 for 700-word you-solve-its. And they pay $800 still for the 800-word romances. No matter how they edit or cut it. They also have a kill fee, I believe, if they contract the story and end up not publishing it. They pay promptly.

I have 2 lists of magazines that buy fiction other than WW. You will have to tweak your stories to fit their needs, maybe adding length or changing to first person. If you would like a copy just shoot me an email at giving me your email and I'll send them to you.

Joyce Ackley said...

Thanks so much, Jody. I'll get that email to you in the next day or so. I appreciate your help.

Chris said...

There are also some overseas markets on Kate's website, Joyce. Check the current guidelines before submitting, though. Fast Fiction in Australia, for example, have recently had a facelift and tweaked their requirements. Their new g/ls are available on
Yes, they do take stories that have a similar feel to those WW takes (or rejects) - I recently reworked and then submitted two WW rejections to the new editor there and she took both. There is life outside of WW!