It wasn't until I began writing gay erotica that anything got published-- and back then, I was confused and/or in the closet, so I published under the name Dirk Strong. I couldn't really tell anyone they were my stories at first, but I did make $75.00 each, and they were fun to write. It was exciting to get something in print after trying for so long.
All these stories have been anthologized and you can read more about them here.
|Cozy Crime Stories|
|The original Happy Homicides. Contains my short story "Dog Forbid." Steve, Lili and Rochester journey to Amish country over Thanksgiving with Joey, Mark and Brody.||The Valentine's Day edition of Happy Homicides, vol. 2. In my story, "For the Love of Dog," a young woman's body is found in the space next to Gail's cafe.||Steve and Rochester return to the Happy Homicides fold with "Riding the Tiger," in which Rochester chases a cat and once again leads Steve into trouble.|
|All three of these stories are also included in my anthology, A Litter of Golden Mysteries. Five other original stories and one piece of flash fiction fill in the gaps between stories and provide quick crimes for Steve and Rochester, the heroes of my golden retriever mysteries, to solve.|
A Have Body Will Guard Short Story
My story "Two Steak Taco Combos and a Pair of Sig Sauers" is in Volume 6 of Guns + Tacos, a serial fiction from Down and Out Books. Liam's SEAL buddy Joey is about to be married, but his girlfriend has been kidnapped in Chicago, and Aidan and Liam head there to rescue her. Here's how the story starts:
On a Thursday morning at the end of February, Liam McCullough finished his morning workout, showered, and began a quick round of Call of Duty on his laptop. He was about to splash out into the English Channel on D-Day in command of a platoon of soldiers when the Skype request from Joey Sheridan popped up. He immediately ditched the game and answered the call.
Joey looked like shit. His face was smeared with dirt and—could those be tear tracks on his cheek? Joey was a US Navy SEAL, the last of Liam’s original team. And SEALs didn’t cry.
Unless the world was about to fall apart.
Angus Greeen Short Stories
"Flaking Out in Wilton Manors"
This story finds FBI agent Angus Green tracking down a drug dealer in his community. Here's how it starts:
As I stood in the crowd at Lazy Dick’s, a gay bar in Wilton Manors near my house, a drag queen called Kitty L’Terr took the stage dressed like a thrift-shop reject from Cats in a leopard-print leotard, long red claws and a lion’s mane made of brown ribbons around her neck. She was the visiting artist that week. That is, if you could all what she was doing art.
It had been a long week at the Miami office of the FBI, where I was a special agent assigned to the Violent Crimes Task Force, and I was happy to chill out at the Sunday evening show, though once Kitty began her medley of feline-inspired songs, I wished I’d brought earplugs with me.
As Kitty yowled, “Take me ou-woo-t tonight,” from the musical Rent, a skinny kid in the front row began dancing faster and faster, twirling around like one of those Middle Eastern holy men. The boy with a blond buzz cut who’d been dancing with him backed away, as did older men in tank tops and shorts, giving the young man room to spin, until he toppled over and hit the wooden dance floor hard.
You can find it in Black Cat Weekly #74. Eventually I hope to put together an anthology of the Angus stories.
"Going Down in Wilton Manors"
"Going Down in Wilton Manors" is a variant on the Angus Green stories, where he shares narration duties with a shadowy operative named Latimer. (Latimer is based loosely on a character by Barry Eisler called Larison, who I fell in love with.) The story begins in Latimer's voice.
It was supposed to be a quick in and out. The way the flight attendants used to say, back when they were called stewardesses. Our ground time here will be brief. That was the way Latimer wanted it. His ex-wife still lived in Kissimmee, so the less time he spent in Florida the better.
It wasn’t even a real operation. Find this computer geek and convince him that it was in his best interest, and his country’s, not to sell his miniature submarine to someone on the terrorist watch list. And if Latimer could convince Mick Humboldt to help locate the elusive Qaisal Mohammed, and bring him to justice, the powers that be would even overlook Humboldt’s interest in young men who might or might not be underage.
You can find it in Black Cat Weekly #53. Eventually I hope to put together an anthology of the Angus stories.
"Southernmost Point" is an Angus Green story in Florida Happens, the Bouchercon anthology. It begins this way:
It started with a selfie, and the drag queen who photo-bombed my boyfriend Lester and me.
Lester represents single-batch whiskeys, based out of Fort Lauderdale, where we both live. His region extends all the way to Key West, and one weekend in January he had a couple of promotions set up at bars on Duval Street, in the center of the entertainment district. I had a couple of days’ vacation coming to me from the FBI, where I work as a Special Agent attached to the Violent Crimes Task Force, so I took them and went along for the ride.
George Clay Short Stories
"Heir Apparent" is the first story I wrote about George Clay, a gay private eye in Miami Beach in 1969. George's voice is a bit darker than my usual-- because after all, he's living a closeted life in a very different time. The story appears in Groovy Gumshoes. Here's how it begins:
“Mr. Clay, you have to help me. I’ve been to three other private investigators and none of them will work for a faggot.”
The man across from me was in his fifties and bore a striking resemblance to Liberace, from the wavy brown hair plastered in place with hair spray to the spangly jacket he wore and the multiple rings on his fingers.
The second George Clay story is "Cabbage Key," which appeared in the Valentine's Day anthology Cupid Shot Me. Michael Nava wrote the introduction to the collection, and mine was one of his two favorite stories! It begins:
I was in bed with Alex Reyes when he said, “I want to spend Valentine’s Day with you.”
Alex was dark-haired and handsome, his Cuban blood evident in the tint of his skin and the slight burr of his accent. I was bigger than he was, taller and with broader shoulders, but in bed we fit together just fine.
I turned on my side to face him. “We can spend it right here,” I said. “With the new fence around your property, no one will notice if my car is here overnight.”
He shook his head. “I want to go out with you. I want to pretend, even if only for a day or a weekend, that we can love each other in public.”
“I’m not sure about that, Alex,” I said gently. “It’s 1969 and although everyone is talking about free love, most of the time it’s boys with girls. And Miami is still a very conservative southern city, especially with the influx of Cuban émigrés like your family. Your people are generally Catholic and not very open to men loving men.”
I've been a member of Mystery Writers of America since I began my career as a crime writer, and one of my bucket list items has been to have a story accepted for their annual anthology. That wish came through with "Oyster Creek," is in Crime Hits Home, edited by SJ Rozan. George Clay heads back to Tidewater Maryland after his mother is killed. Here's the beginning:
My phone rang early on Tuesday morning. I was groggy, but the attorneys who often used my services as a private investigator had my home number, and I felt bound to answer because business was slow that spring of 1968.
A syrupy-voiced Southern gal asked if I’d take a collect call from my father, and I agreed. It struck me anew what a cheap bastard he was, and had always been.
“George?” he asked.
“Yes, Pop. What’s up?”
“It’s your mother. She’s dead. Funeral this Friday at St. Agnes Church. Eleven in the morning.”
"The Missing Delegate," a George Clay story set at the Democratic Convention in Miami Beach in 1972, is coming in 2023 in an anthology of 1970s private eyes.
Another George Clay story, "Billie Jean," will be available in 2023 in an anthology of stories inspired by Michael Jackson songs.
Other Short Mysteries
|"Stepping Stones" is a creepy story I wrote for the Bronzeville Bee, which now seems to be defunct. I hope I didn't have anthing to do with that by writing a reverse Lolita-- a young boy who is being groomed by his stepfather, with gruesome results. I hope to make it available somewhere.|
My story, "Djinn and Tonic", which appears in the Malice Domestic anthology Murder Most Conventional, begins this way:
There was real magic in the world, and false magic, and it took a genie to tell the difference. That was the basis of Biff Andromeda’s private investigation business – using his skills to grant wishes and solve problems for customers.
The shrill ring of his cell phone woke him from a very pleasant dream involving his girlfriend Farishta and a Turkish carpet that flew in lazy circles around the dome of the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul.
He grabbed the phone from the bedside table and groggily said, “Hello?”
“Biff? It’s Yegor Kleyman. Sorry to call you so early but I’m in terrible trouble and I need your help.”
"Public Relations" appears in the Great Filling Station Holdup anthology, a collection of crime fiction based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett. Mine comes from a song in the Broadway musical, Don't Stop the Carnival, and begins this way:
When Dick Jeffries was caught on camera barebacking a young male exotic dancer, I kicked into full damage control mode. It wasn’t just that he was a married man and a member of the WASP establishment—he was the CEO of a company that made and marketed condoms.
As soon as Dick notified me, I flew to New York from my home on St. Thomas and took an Uber to his penthouse apartment on Central Park West. It was a bitter cold January day, and by five o’clock the sun was already setting. Was that a metaphor for the end of Dick’s career, and perhaps even my own as his PR consultant? I sure as hell hoped not.
Short Literary Fiction
My career writing literary fiction kicked off when I attended a writer's workshop at LIU-Southampton where I studied with Russell Banks, fresh from his success with Continental Drift. I had been living in Miami for a little under a year, and already South Florida had started to get under my skin. He assigned us a series of short exercises-- describe a person, describe a place, and so on. One of those was to think of a place your character would never go, and then think of a reason that would make him or her go there.
I wrote about this biker bar in Key Largo called The Caribbean Club, which allegedly had appeared in the Bogart & Bacall film To Have and Have Not. I kind of wanted to go there, because of the Hemingway connection, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. When I finally put all those exercises together, I ended up with a short story called "Angel Dust." I submitted it to a short story contest being run by South Florida magazine (now sadly defunct). I won!
At last, a story in a mainstream magazine! Of course, they edited the hell out of it,] without asking me, and even changed the name to "My Cousin's Keeper." And I don't think they even paid me. From then on, I started publishing short stories in magazine and anthologies. The stories from that period are:
I began "What She Left" a long time ago, but only a few years ago did I find a place for it in Sarasota Scene magazine. It's about two brothers discovering the legacy left to them at a beachfront cottage.
|"The Angel Fenstermacher" is another story I wrote long ago, inspired by my travels around South Beach on Friday and Saturday evenings, when the streets were filled with Orthodox men in black hats and coats on their way to or from shul. I was lucky to get it included in an issue of Inspicio magazine.|
|A few years ago, MLR Press was putting together a group of reindeer shifter stories for Christmas. Mine was called Christmas Shift, and it's about a young EMT who helps pull Santa's sled, and the rest of the year uses his skills to help patients in remote wilderness rescue operations. What happens, though, when his boyfriend asks him to come to Florida with him?|
My friend Caren Neile was editing mini-magazines for the Globe, a tabloid newspaper, and asked me to contribute a story for an edition focused on cats and romance. I ended up writing a second for a later edition. The cat in the stories, Pilar, was modeled after my friend Pam's Hemmie, a Hemingway cat with six toes, descended from dozens who roamed around Hemingway's house in Key West. Pilar is an Abyssinian, a breed with a lot of dog-like qualities, and it was fun to write these two stories about her.
Eventually I collected these two stories, and three other literary short stories, into The Cat Who Got Married. One of my favorite stories, The Temple of Lights, is in that collection, inspired by my experiences landing at Philadelphia International Airport and seeing a glowing building in the distance. Another story, "A New Palace for Rajah," was a way to remember my friend Vicki Van Lieu's family cat, a very regal one with a glossy black coat.
Inspiration strikes at all different times. I clearly remember driving on I-95 north, passing through the city of Miami, when I heard a voice in my head that said "I lost my aunt at the grand opening of the new shopping center last Wednesday." And I knew immediately the speaker had a very simple voice, in which she'd express the meaning of "lost" in two ways. She and her aunt were separated in the crowd-- and then her aunt died, leaving Ima Jean to say that sentence. Ima Jean was such fun to write about that I wrote two stories about her as she finds her way in the world on her own, for the first time.