Monday, December 27, 2021

D. Alexander Ward shares the spirit of the holidays, in a flash.

D. Alexander Ward is a respected horror and dark fiction author and editor. His novels BENEATH ASH & BONE and BLOOD SAVAGES were released by Necro Publications and Bedlam Press and are available wherever books are sold. As editor for the Crystal Lake published LOST HIGHWAYS: DARK FICTIONS FROM THE ROAD, David was nominated for a coveted Bram Stoker Award. He has also served as co-editor for the anthologies GUTTED: BEAUTIFUL HORROR STORIES, SHADOWS OVER MAIN STREET, Volumes I, II, and III, and THE SEVEN DEADLIEST from Cutting Block Books.

Because his love of the dark cannot be stymied, David also busies himself as Owner and Editor-in-chief for Bleeding Edge Books. BEB is a small publisher of horror and dark fiction of all variations with a focus on anthologies and novellas. The voices featured at BEB are both established and emerging, but all are unsettling, visceral and important. Please visit Bleeding Edge Books to get the lowdown.

When not scaring us to death, David lives with his family near the farm where he grew up in what used to be rural Virginia, surrounded by the spirits of the past. In this haunted landscape, where his love for the people, passions and folklore of the South was nurtured, he can be found penning and collecting tales of the dark, strange and fantastic.

David’s contribution to the Flash Fiction Challenge is full of emotion and utterly terrifying, for which we are grateful.

What is the challenge?

Write a fifty-word flash. That’s it. However, the story must incorporate three randomly selected words and revolve around a single, overall theme. The words have been drawn and shared; letter, afford, and yard. The theme is despair.

Self Portrait, Awakened
by D. Alexander Ward

My daughter drew her face in quarters,
painted tones of flesh and blush,
eyes like blackened bone.
A child’s reflection, nothing more.
Then opened did my chamber door,
and that face peered in, entreating,
and with a throat of hornets feasting,
croaked, “Father, please.
Tell us…
…just one story more.”

*Note: Offered with nearly sincere apologies to Mr. Poe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Softening Man

By Steve Weddle

So technically, the Do Some Damage offices are closed until January. If I'm being honest, I don't get by here much these days, and I'd forgotten the combination to the door lock. As the combination is Jay Stringer's birthday, I feel doubly bad about it. 

I thought I'd stop by, hump day of a holiday week, and post this chapter from my new book, Cottonmouth Tomlin and the Last Outlaw Camp. Those of you who remember Country Hardball and "South of Bradley" should recall the Rudds, the alleged crime family of those stories. You may also recall the main character of those stories, Roy Alison, whose grandmother was a Tomlin.

Country Hardball told stories that took place, for the most part, in the early 21st century, while "South of Bradley" went back to the 1950s. Now we're back a little further.

The new book, which I'm in the process of editing, tells the story of what happened back in the summer of 1933 with the Tomlins and the Rudds. 

Below is Chapter Seven of Cottonmouth Tomlin and the Last Outlaw Camp.  

As Fred Foy, the Lone Ranger announcer would say, "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear."


Othel Walker nodded to the barman of the Culver Hotel. “Evening, Earl,” he said, easing up to the bar.

The youngest Withers boy, now a ripe fifty, nodded back. Evening.

Othel asked was Fannie in, did Earl know, and Earl did know, so he nodded to the old upright, mostly upright, player piano along the wall, the piano standing now through luck and mulishness, and most townsfolk not even noticing something so broken, leaving the piano itself under no rush to fall to pieces just yet, each dent and gap, each scraggled piece of Cuban mahogany and Brazilian rosewood now some sort of taunt to the scientific not to mention aesthetic arguments of the universe.

Othel asked her could she move from where she was leaning or would the piano miss her and she said let’s find out and so they went upstairs to room 203 where they’d gone each Tuesday night for the past few months, Othel having been able to pick up a little extra money here and there lately.

Iva Lacewell, known semi-professionally as Fannie, closed the door behind them and led Othel to the chair by the window. She’d learned to keep her dance card clear for these nights. She asked Othel if he’d like a drink, though she knew well enough he would like a drink and so he said he would. She asked was whiskey fine and he said it would get the job done and she pulled the stopper from a bottle on the dresser, dragged her finger along the inside of a tumbler to clear some of the dirt, and eased a long pour into the glass.

She walked the glass to the chair where he was sitting and when she got close enough, he dragged his right index finger along the outside of her left leg, covered now in layer of skirt and slip, and she said “hey now not so fast give it time now” and handed him his drink.

She stood back a step as he drank, asked had he made any new friends, did he have any new stories to tell.

He said he’d met some men, thought they’d been in some trouble. “But ain’t we all been in some trouble lately?” he asked and she said that was right, that was sure right, what he’d said there, and she got up from sitting on the edge of the bed, slipped from her shoes, poured him another drink, sat back down on the edge of the bed, lifting her skirts up just a little bit then, when he noticed, just a little bit more.

“Long as you stay clear of any trouble,” she said. “Wouldn’t want to have to visit you in jail.”

He said not to worry about that. “This job, it’s good steady work now. Never figured I’d be a chef, but ain’t the world full of surprises?”

She said it was, being a little surprised that Othel considered himself a chef, when she knew full well he spent his time at the Tomlin camp pouring drinks, sweeping floors, mending and tending the shitter, and sometimes cutting up vegetables for the stew. But only a little surprised, as she also knew he considered himself a skilled lover. But everybody had to have their eyes gauzed when they looked at themselves, otherwise you see yourself as you are, you can’t keep moving, she knew. She spent most of her time telling herself she was making it alright, after all. Telling herself she was doing what she had to do, just having to get through another rough patch to find some sort of eventual comfort. So if he wanted to call himself a chef when he scooped crap and cut potatoes, what did she care? He didn’t call her a liar when she said she was happy.

“Not sure they’re going to make it much longer down there at the camp,” he said, “but they’re doing their best and at least I’m getting paid for now.”

She said that was all you could hope for and he said, well, do you want to get started, and so they did.


Othel, who had taken to singing “Amazing Grace” when rutting in town, was working on his second time through and just starting the part about the flesh and heart failing when everything started falling apart.

When flesh and heart shall fail, he sang, sliding loose from Fannie, his knee slipping on and off the back of her sweat-shined calf, before working his front parts to her back part again, finding his place, and mortal life shall cease, he droned on, pounding away on the beat, easing up when it felt right, I shall possess, within the veil, the iambic retreat and return, a hammering of footsteps outside, the creak and give of the bed frame, the whole of the world in perfect metrical harmony, sweat finding path through his eyebrows and into his eyes, his hands wiping away, his body losing its balance, finding balance, finding rhythm, a resonance rarely duplicated, Othel reaching a life of joy and peace, through the door a crowd suddenly came, as did he.

He turned back, dripping, to the door, pulled an often-stained pillow to his weeping crotch, got halfway through “What’s the meaning of this” when he noticed the Rudd sisters and Sheriff Monroe McCollum walking through the doorway.

“No, no,” Henrietta said, as Abigail walked to the dresser on the other side of the room and the sheriff shut the door behind them. “Don’t get up. We won’t be staying long.” Abigail set down the whiskey bottle she’d picked up, shrugged, walked back toward the door.

Fannie stepped from the bed, pulled her drawers back on, said, “He ain’t even paid me yet.”

Henrietta said not to worry. “This one’s on me,” she said, and Fannie said “Well, thank you, m’am” and finished dressing as Henrietta took a few steps toward Othel, who was sitting motionless on the edge of the bed behind the dampening pillow.

“Miss Rudd,” he managed, nodding. “Sheriff. Miss Rudd.”

“Othel,” Henrietta said, “we heard that you were in town, and just wanted to stop by to remind you of our arrangement.”

He said he hadn’t forgotten.

“Because it seems to me that our agreement, now correct me if I’m wrong, but that our agreement called on you to stop by and pass along information whenever you were in town.”

“I was on my way,” he said, starting to stand, until Henrietta placed the end of her walking stick on his shoulder, and he sat back down.

Fannie asked could she go, and the sheriff opened the door for her.

When she’d gone, Henrietta said, “Sister, it appears we will be staying a little longer than I’d thought. Might as well have that drink now.”

Othel looked to the sheriff, then to Abigail, then back to Henrietta and quickly to the floor.

Henrietta removed her gloves. “See, when you tell me you were on your way and I find you here otherwise engaged, well, you can understand my concern.”

Othel said, “Yes, m’am.”

She nodded. “I dislike being lied to, you understand.”

“Yes, m’am.”

“I dislike it more than I dislike violence,” she said, tapping the metal knob of her walking stick against his right knee.

“Yes, m’am.”

Then she smiled and leaned closer to his ear. “I’m just playing with you,” she said, and he seemed to loosen. She leaned across to his other ear. “I don’t really dislike violence at all.”

Othel’s face shifted as Henrietta stepped back and said, “Monroe.”

The sheriff took a deep breath, then stepped toward the softening man.


from Steve Weddle's Cottonmouth Tomlin and the Last Outlaw Camp 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Phillip Thompson in a Flash

Up next in our Flash Fiction Challenge is best-selling author Phillip Thompson. Phillip hails from rural East Mississippi, while there he received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ole Miss. A Marine Corps combat veteran, he’s worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in both Mississippi and Virginia. He has also worked as a defense analyst, media spokesman, consultant, speechwriter, and Senate aide.

Dedicated to his craft, Thompson has authored five novels. His most recent is OLD ANGER, the Amazon Best Seller OUTSIDE the LAW, DEEP BLOOD, A SIMPLE MURDER, and ENEMY WITHIN. His short fiction has appeared in O-Dark-Thirty; The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Out of the Gutter Online; Thrills, Kills 'N' Chaos; Near to the Knuckle; Yellow Mama; and The Shamus Sampler II.

If you are looking for more information on Phillip and his writing, you can find him on Twitter at @olemissgrad38 and online at We are excited to have Phillip join us in this challenge.

What is the challenge?

Write a fifty-word flash. That’s it. However, the story must incorporate three randomly selected words and revolve around a single, overall theme. The words have been drawn and shared; letter, afford, and yard. The theme is despair.


I sit alone on the front porch, running a cleaning rag through the barrel of my Ruger. I’ve already wiped down the only bullet I’ll need. My last whiskey bottle lies empty in the yard where I threw it, and I can’t afford another one.

The letter never came.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Happy Holidays from the Do Some Damage crew


Scott D. Parker

As is the case for most of my time here at Do Some Damage, I'm turning out the lights here at the blog until next year. Typically, I'll write a longer post or put a spin on the year, but things at the home office here in Houston have been rather hectic of late and I'm all tapped out.

But me and the rest of the writers here at Do Some Damage--which will turn thirteen in 2022!--will be back in January with fresh content.

For now, we wish you the happiest of holidays and have a safe and restful holiday season.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

In a jar with Beau


This week, Beau seems to have enjoyed JAR OF HEARTS

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he's something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo's first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela's death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Boy From County Hell

Scott's Note: Longtime Do Some Damage contributor Thomas Pluck is back today, and he's talking about his new novel, The Boy From County Hell. It's the second Jay Desmarteaux crime thriller, the follow-up to Bad Boy Boogie.  While Bad Boy Boogie, which was excellent, took place in New Jersey (where Thomas lives), The Boy From County Hell takes place in Louisiana. We'll learn a little here about why the author wanted to set this book in that particular place.

The Boy From County Hell

by Thomas Pluck

Why did I write The Boy From County Hell

Because I wanted to share everything I love and hate about Louisiana.

I learned of the state watching Justin Wilson, the Cajun chef, on PBS as a child. Then I read James Lee Burke, which culminated in a college road trip in a Mustang, from Rutgers Newark to Mulate's in New Orleans. I worked at the Port there, married a woman from Baton Rouge, and visited once or twice a year. 

There's a lot to love about Louisiana. 

And plenty not to. 

I'm from New Jersey, which has a lot in common. Swamps, corruption, and great food. Another place many have a love-hate relationship with. 

Mostly hate, to be honest, and we like it that way. It's crowded enough. 

When I was researching Bad Boy Boogie, I subscribed to a prison magazine. 

I had no idea that inmates were allowed to write a magazine, much less one as old and storied as The Angolite, the magazine of Louisiana State Penitentiary, aka Angola. We just accept the nickname, which comes from the nationality of the majority of the people in the  enslavement camp that existed on the land the prison sits on. "Plantation" isn't the right word, it never was, and after visiting The Whitney Plantation Museum on the Mississippi River—the only museum of such a place dedicated to the victims of slavery—I'll use "enslavement camp." 

Sugar was a deadly business, and we get the term "sold down the river" from the death sentence of being sold to a sugar enslavement camp. The life expectancy of the enslaved there was just 7 years, over boiling kettles of sweet napalm.

One might call also call the Penitentiary an enslavement camp, as the inmates grow all the vegetables for the incarcerated in the state of Louisiana. Which is where the prison gets its other nickname. 

The Farm. 

They can also make crafts to sell at the twice-yearly prison Rodeo, the only one of its kind. Where the inmates volunteer to face bulls and broncos, without any training, for our entertainment. "Volunteer" has little meaning when you're facing life, as the majority of the 5800 inmates are, and you have limited means to raise money to help your family or impress your children, who live with the stigma of a father in prison. After attending the rodeo I felt dirty. I went to the craft pavilion and spent what money I had on a belt buckle and a belt, and looked the men who made them in the eye with respect, the absolute least I could do. 

Former Warden Burl Cain was beyond parody. For one, a writer dreams of inventing a perfect name like Burl Cain...And Cain pushed the Farm to the limits, using the cheap labor and a folksy religious charm to make it about rehabilitation and redemption, which has little meaning when freedom is impossible. 

Much of the writing in The Angolite opines for the old days when life sentence meant 20 or so years. Now it means dying in the prison hospice. 

Cain resigned after he was found using the labor of his inmates for personal gain, but he walks free. 

No Shawshank Redemption ending here. 

There's a lot more corruption than the prison. Public defenders get no funding. Only recently did Louisiana begin requiring that a jury be unanimous to sentence you guilty. It had been 10 out of 12. 

But I love the state and its people. It is unique, much older than the United States of America, but also the perfect example of everything right and wrong with the country as a whole. 

That's why Jay Desmarteaux is The Boy From County Hell. 

And as Bon Scott of AC/DC would say, "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be." 

You can get The Boy From County Hell here.

Monday, December 13, 2021

J.T. Glover is up at Do Some Damage

RVA City Writers member J. T. Glover has published short fiction in Best New Horror, Pseudopod, and Nightscript, among other venues. Always discovering, his nonfiction has appeared in many publications, including The Silent Garden and Thinking Horror. By day he’s an academic librarian specializing in the humanities, and he lives in Central Virginia.

In addition, John diligently tends to his blog, Dark Stories and Hidden Roads, where you can find his musings on everything from new horror movies to his favorite quarantine reads. He regularly attends conventions, workshops, and conferences, both literary and academic, heartily supporting fellow writers as well as publicizing his own work.

Let’s jump into the cold of December with J.T. Glover’s flash fiction challenge piece. What is the challenge? Write a fifty-word flash. That’s it. However, the story must incorporate three randomly selected words and revolve around a single, overall theme. The words have been drawn and shared; letter, afford, and yard. The theme is despair.


J. T. Glover

The familiar back door still hung crooked.

“The letter of the agreement, Mac.”

“Didn’t know it’d be Mary,” I said, looking toward the minivan in the yard.

“Guys with your hobbies can’t afford questions. She won’t pay up.”

“They don’t deserve this.”

He laughed, the unspoken “whatever” loud and clear.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Christmas Playlist

Christmas Funk, Aloe Blacc

I baked cookies yesterday, which means Christmas music was playing most of the afternoon. I can’t share the cookies with you, but I can spread some auditory cheer. Here is my favorite playlist. I love some of the standards, but I definitely gravitate to original songs. I also like to mix my genres, so be prepared for both Run DMC and Dwight Yoakam.

Here you go, and Merry, Merry Christmas.

“We Need a Little Christmas,” Cast of the Glee TV show

“Last Christmas,” Wham!

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Bare Naked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLachlan

“I Got Your Christmas Right Here,” Aloe Blacc

“Sleigh Ride,” TLC

“Christmas in Hollis,” Run DMC

“What Christmas Means to Me,” Stevie Wonder

“Merry Christmas, Baby,” CeeLo Green, featuring Rod Stewart & Trombone Shorty

“One More Sleep,” Leona Lewis

“White Christmas,” Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

“Santa’s Coming For Us,” Sia

“Santa Can’t Stay,” Dwight Yoakam

“Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart,” LeAnn Rimes

“Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” Brad Paisley

“It Must Be Santa,” Bob Dylan

“Zydeco Christmas,” CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band

“Christmas Everyday,” Smokey Robinson

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (in a Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” The Tractors

“My Kind of Present,” Meghan Trainor

“Another Rock’n Roll Christmas,” Mistletoe Rock Train

Christmas in the Heart, Bob Dylan (pictured here headed over the hill to Grandma's house)

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Seasons' Readings


Scott D. Parker

I love Christmas anthologies. I have my small collection. They run the gamut from SF (Christmas Stars) to classic (Dickens Christmas tales; Christmas Classics) to mystery (Crime for Christmas) to scary (Christmas Ghosts; can't find a link; it's the Hartwell/Cramer one) and Sherlock Holmes (Holmes for the Holidays). I've even got my comics covered with A DC Universe Christmas and Lee Bermejo's Batman: Noel

This year, I've added some cozy Christmas tales like Louise R. Innes Death at Holly Lodge, Holiday Murder by Leslie Meier, and another helping of the Andy Carpenter series by David Rosenfelt.

But when it comes to a book you can read for year, I think there is a top dog: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. Released in 2013, this 650-page book has something for everybody.

Agatha Christie opens and closes the book, and in between these bookends, all your favorites are here: Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, Ellery Queen, Donald Westlake, Isaac Asimov, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, and more.

The stories are broken out by themes such as A Modern Little Christmas, A Puzzling Little Christmas, A Pulpy Little Christmas, and A Traditional Little Christmas. If the stories don't get you, the wonderful cover painting, evoking something from the golden age, certainly will.

A collection this large cannot possibly be finished in one season. I don’t even try. Instead, I dip in for the last eight years, reading a tale here and there. 

I always enjoy making new discoveries, even if the discovery is something older.

Have y’all read through this book? If so, what are your favorite stories?

And what are some of y'all's favorite Christmas stories?

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Now I Have A Staple Gun. Ho, ho, ho.

 By Jay Stringer. 

This was originally published on this here site OVER A DECADE AGO OMG when we ran a Christmas Noir season over the holidays. 



Santa Claus was a mean old bastard.

      That’s one of the first things I ever learned.

      It didn’t matter what I asked for, I’d get whatever Santa could pick up from the all night garage on his way home from the pub.

      My fourth Christmas I asked for Castle Grayskull. I got a mars bar. King Size. The next year I asked for Optimus Prime but I got a road atlas. Seven years old, I asked for the Michael Jackson album,  but I was the only kid who had a staple gun sitting under the tree on Christmas morning.

      It wasn’t even wrapped.

      My favorite was when I was thirteen. That year I’d asked for a Sega. I got a three packs of condoms and a little note instructing me on how to use them. Three packs. He had faith in me. 

      Fifteen and sixteen he got me good presents; Liquor. First cheap bourbon and then single malt. That final year we spent Christmas day drinking our way through the presents and talking. We started to understand each other a little more, somewhere between the final drop of amber and the start of the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

      Maybe it would have been different if my mum hadn’t walked out. Mrs Sanderson across the way once told me that Dad fell apart after that. If you go for that kind of excuse.

      Seventeen was the year.

      I’d been home from work a few hours when dad got back. One look at his face as he walked in the door told me he’d forgotten it was Christmas eve. He was empty handed. He mumbled something about being right back and headed out into the cold.

      I set out two empty glasses and waited for him to come back.

      And waited.


      4 AM two police officers knocked the door. A tired looking man in his forties and a very serious looking woman about ten years younger. She flashed her ID but said her name was Laura, and when she used her first name I already knew what they were going to say.

      Hit and run. He’d been on his way back from the garage on foot, holding two bottles of whiskey and a plastic robot. Laura said he wouldn’t have seen the car, it came up behind and the driver didn’t have his lights on. My dad was flipped over, landed on his back but somehow had kept the bottles from smashing. He crawled to the side of the road, to a payphone, and struggled to his feet to reach the receiver.

      Laura didn't come out and say it, but it sounded like it was the exertion that finally finished him off. His broken body couldn’t cope with the movement.

      A passerby found him a short while later, already dead.

      The driver had turned himself in an hour later. He said he'd been drinking and fled the scene, but couldn’t face his family when he got home. It was an open and shut case.

      The male cop handed me a bottle of whiskey, the glass was all scratched and the label was wet. He said it wasn’t really evidence and nobody would mind if I found a use for it.

      One other thing, Laura said, she passed ,e a piece of paper with a phone number written on it. My dad had managed to dial it before he died. Before she got someone running the number on the system, did I know who it was? 

      I said I had no idea and she took the paper back, but I’d had enough time to memorize it. I’m good with numbers.

      The two cops said they’d be back later with photographs for the formal ID. I sat and drank to my old man for a couple of hours. After I’d worked up enough Dutch courage I dialed the number. A woman answered on the other end, and I caught my breath.

      I said, Mum?

      She hung up.

      Santa Claus was a mean old bastard, but he was the only dad I ever had.

Got books?


This week, Beau has some suggestions for you.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

I Like to Write in America

Richie Narvaez guest blogs here today, talking about how a story he wrote for the recently published anthology Midnight Hour was inspired by West Side Story.  Which is all good timing of course, since the new film adaptation of the musical has just come out.

Here's Richie:

I Like to Write in America

by Richie Narvaez

West Side Story takes place in an area of Manhattan that used to be called “San Juan Hill,” and that was heavily populated by African Americans and Latinos from the 1920s to the 1950s. The tension between those populations and the lower class Italian, Irish, and Polish population they lived alongside was the context of the play and the movie. Only a few years after the story was set, the whole area was seized via eminent domain (Robert Moses strikes again), and thousands were evicted. The tenements were razed in order to make way for Lincoln Center. (Remember that the next time you’re taking in Shostakovich at Alice Tully Hall.)

If you know me, you know I can’t resist a good gentrification story.

When members of the Crime Writers of Color announced a call for stories for an anthology, I raised my hand high, “Oooh! Oooh!” The anthology would be themed around midnight, and deep in my brain was the memory of a line from West Side Story: “Doc’s at midnight.” Which was where and when the gangs would meet for a war council.

I have always been interested in surveying how Puerto Ricans are and have been portrayed in popular culture. Which is easy because there’s not much there. There’s Popi (Oy!) and The Believers (Double oy!), some JLo movies. But what looms above them all is West Side Story.

There are many issues with the movie. Very few of the cast were Puerto Rican or even Latino/a/x/e at all, and many of the actors were bronzed to fit preconceptions. Oh, and all of the men were gangmembers. Nice. But when I first saw the film as a child, none of that mattered. Natalie Wood was from Caguas as far as I was concerned—it was just nice to see Puerto Ricans on TV!

But as a writer today, I see those flaws, and I see that appropriation of my culture, and I feel as a Puerto Rican I am allowed to appropriate it back. (This will be my defense should Steven Spielberg, director of a remake coming out soon, and his lawyers send me a letter.)

I have often wondered what happened to Chino after the credits rolled. He’s given so little to do (much less than his counterpart, Paris, in Romeo and Juliet), he just seems like a patsy. He gets arrested for Tony’s murder and perp-walked away. But what’s the deal with his fiancée Maria not digging him? What was going on there, with her, with him, under the surface? There’s no room to tell that story, what with all the Jets’ cavorting in song.

So I let my imagination dance on the rooftops. I did my own episode of What If...? What if Chino meets Maria again years later, after he’s out of the pokey, and she’s been married for years to a rich man who doesn’t always keep her company. They’re from different worlds now—how do I crash them together? And where—well, where better than Lincoln Center? Who is/was Chino really? I was inspired quite a bit by Jose De Vega, the Filipino-Colombian actor who began his career playing Chino on Broadway and in the movie.

You can review the results (on page 65!) in Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction (Crooked Lane Books), edited by Abby L. Vandiver and published by Crooked Lane Press. Other authors in the anthology include such stalwarts as Tracy Clark, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Abby L. Vandiver, Callie Browning, Frankie Y. Bailey, E. A. Aymar, Valerie Burns, Delia Pitts, Faye Snowden, Jennifer Chow, H-C Chan, Gigi Pandian, Tina Kashian, Elizabeth Wilkerson, Stella Oni, Marla Bradeen, Christopher Chambers, Rhonda Crowder, and Raquel V. Reyes. Get it now! Go, man, go! (And thank you, Sondheim.

You can buy Midnight Hour right here.

Richie Narvaez writes frequently about Latinidad, Puerto Rico, urban culture, and social issues. His first novel, the gentrification thriller Hipster Death Rattle, was voted the premiere North Brooklyn Reads book selection by Brooklyn Public Library patrons. His most recent novel is the historical YA mystery Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, which won an Agatha Award and an Anthony Award and which Spielberg should immediately option. His latest work is the collection Noiryorican, which was nominated for an Anthony Award. He knows a boat you can get on.