By Elaine Viets
So, what do you think? Here's the cover of my short story collection, Deal With the Devil and 13 Short Stories, published by Crippen & Landru.
I was honored when Jeffrey Marks, the new publisher, asked me to do a short story collection. Crippen & Landru has published short story collections by my idols, including Peter Lovesey, Craig Rice, Margaret Maron, and The Columbo Collection by William Link.
Just to think I'd be in that company sent shivers down my spine – my real spine, not the book's.
The cover is by Gail Cross, who does covers for Stephen King, including Gwendy's Button Box.
It was fun to see the original sketch for my cover. We asked for a few changes – the devil drove a 1986 Mercedes convertible, not a hardtop – and Gail made them. The cover devil looks exactly like the man I encountered, right down to the cigar. And we all know the devil drives a Mercedes.
About that short story in the title, "Deal with the Devil." That's based on something that really happened to me in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was in a bank drive-in line with my car, Black Beauty. In the next drive-in lane was big, red-faced man with a cigar stuck in his mouth. He was driving a vintage red Mercedes two-seater convertible. On a broiling summer day, he had the top down.
I was waiting for my deposit receipt when he said, "Nice car."
"Thanks," I said. Blackie is nice. He's a 1986 Jaguar with red leather interior.
"How much?" the guy said.
"I said, how much?"
"He's not for sale," I said.
"You live around here?" he asked.
"You have a house? How much you want for it?" he asked.
"It's not for sale, either," I said.
"You're nice, too," he said.
Then, for reasons I couldn't explain, I told the cigar chomper, "I like your car."
My deposit slip arrived with a thunk! and I roared out of there, wondering what the hell was I doing. Why did I feel compelled to talk to – worse, to compliment – a cigar-chomping stranger?
That scene rattled around in my brain for a couple of years, before it became the short story, "Deal with the Devil," the title story of the new anthology. I decided only a devil would be driving in the Florida heat in a convertible with the top down.
It was fun to collect my favorite short stories. I had some from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, including "Gotta Go," the short story that introduced the Angela Richman, death investigator series, and "Vampire Hours," from a Charlaine Harris anthology.
Crippen & Landru is the perfect publisher for mystery short stories. It was founded by Doug Greene and his wife, Sandi, nearly 25 years ago. Doug is now senior editor and Jeffrey Marks, a mystery biographer who was nominated for the Edgar, the Agatha, the Macavity awards, and won the Anthony award, is now the publisher.
Crippen & Landru is named after two killers. Henri Landru was the French Bluebeard, who killed ten women between 1914 and 1919, along with the teenage son of one victim. He was guillotined, and his severed head is displayed at the Museum of Death in Hollywood, Calif.
Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen only killed one woman, his wife, in 1910, but his capture was a transatlantic thriller. Crippen tried to escape to Canada on a ship with his lover, Ethel Le Neve. She was dressed as a boy.
The ship's captain, the story goes, "recognized the fugitives and just before steaming beyond the range of his ship-board transmitter" the captain sent a wireless telegram to the British authorities. A Scotland Yard inspector took a faster ship and arrived in Canada before the couple. The inspector arrested the guilty lovers, and Crippen was hanged.
You gotta love a publisher with a name like that.
Deal with the Devil and 13 Short Stories will debut April 28 at the Malice Domestic mystery convention in Bethesda, Maryland. It will be published as an $18 trade paperback. The signed and numbered cloth-bound collector's edition with an extra story is $45.
Pre-order your copy now. Email the publisher, Jeffrey Marks, at firstname.lastname@example.org