Back in January, I got an email from Brian Thornton, a Seattle writer and MWA stalwart. A friend of his was starting a new epress and asked Brian to edit its first offering. Following the successful pattern used by Akashic Press’s Noir series (Dublin Noir, Brooklyn Noir, etc.), publisher Mike Wolf decided to launch his new press with a series of regional anthologies beginning with West Coast Crime Wave. Brian asked me, “Think you can write something about California?”
Brian has been forever trying to get me to abandon the annual deep freeze of Ohio to come to Seattle, but I keep finding compelling reasons to stay, like the luscious blonde sitting to my right as I write this. But I had spent some time in the City by the Bay. And I fell in love with the entire Bay Area, to the point of writing a story for A Twist of Noir called “Highway 101.” I really liked that story and wanted to write about what happened to poor Brian Selkirk after he sent his former friend and captor over a cliff north of Santa Barbara. Did he head out to Death Valley to find the alleged stash of cash hinted at in the story? Did he flee to Mexico?
When Brian called, I knew. Brian figured out how to invent a new identity and return to the Bay Area. In two years, he’s completely rebuilt his life without the baggage of his past. Only someone knows the truth. And he wants payback. The result was “Bad History,” and once properly revised, I packed it off to Brian.
We went back and forth on subsequent edits, and about a month before the collection was finalized, Brian came back and said, “I think we need to change the ending. There’s not enough tension in that final fight scene.” He was right, and suggested an ending that would have stuck with you forever.
Only it completely contradicted the events of “Highway 101,” suggesting it was Selkirk who went flying into the Pacific at the end when it’s he who limps his way into Santa Barbara. (I half-considered making it Santa Teresa as an homage to both Ross McDonald and Sue Grafton, but realized that wouldn’t pass the smell test.) I said, “Since this is a sequel, I can’t do that, but give me a few days.” A few days later, I totally destroyed my protag’s world for the second time in two years and left him (and the reader) standing there, unsure if he’d won back his future or just a Pyrrhic victory.
Soon they had the final line-up, and an intro by Ken Bruen, one of the most gracious writers I’ve ever met. This is Brian’s baby, but I’m proud to be a part of it. Mike at bstsllr.com sent me the rough edit, so I will be looking at my fellow authors’ work over the next few weeks as part of my Ebookery series. Oh, we’ll still be interviewing authors, editors, and publishers as part of the series, but I really want you to take a look at this collection. Pour yourself a beer, crank up a Chili Peppers album or the Beach Boys, and see what darkness lies between San Diego and the Aleutians.
West Coast Crime Wave is available here for $3.99.