Tuesday, August 8, 2023

And How Do We Keep Our Balance

Scott's Note: The always interesting Richie Narvaez joins us this week as guest blogger, talking about how he finds variety is the spice of writing.

Take it away, Richie...

 And How Do We Keep Our Balance?

By Richie Narvaez

I am usually, as Jason Keep the Motor Running Beech once noted, a writer of “noir corkers.” But of late I’ve been scribbling old-fashioned traditional whodunnits, for no reason. Except maybe as procrastination from writing longer works. But maybe also because I answered some recent calls for anthologies (there do seem to be a lot of those lately, am I right?), and they took me back.

I wrote “The Stolen Tent” for School of Hard Knox (Crippen and Landru, August 2023), edited by Jeffrey Marks and including the work of Donna Andrews, Nikki Dolson, Naomi Hirahara, Greg Herren, SJ Rozan, Daniel Stashower, and Art Taylor. The book features stories nodding to/noodling with Ronald Knox’s famous/infamous Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction.

I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about which rule I riff on (Jeffrey loves surprises), but my story involves a Sherlock- and Poirot-like detective named Balthazar MirĂ³ and his sidekick, Dr. Dusfrene, investigating a murder aboard a German Zeppelin in the 1930s. Intrigue and art deco ensue.

It was fun to play in this era and with the traditional crime-clues-comeuppance structure. I’ve done so before. What was new was the historical throwback that far. Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco is situated in the 1970s, but I was alive then, I know the turf. The 1930s — not by a long shot. As of this writing, I am still going back and forth with Jaunty Jeff about what slang is apropos for the era.

I did something similar for a story in Killin’ Time in San Diego: Bouchercon Anthology 2023 (Down & Out Books, August 2023), edited by Holly The Money Block West. Other contributors include Wesley Browne, Ann Cleeves, Naomi Hirahara (she’s stalking me!), Emilya Naymark, and Victoria Weisfeld.

Staying in my own era, I donned Wolfe’s clothing — Nero Wolfe’s, that is. I had been reading a lot of Rex Stout and wanting to do something Stoutly. Stoutish? Since the B’con antho story had to involve San Diego in some way, I wondered who or what might be an avatar of the famous armchair detective in “America’s Finest City.” The answer came to me in a splash.

In my story, “Shamu: World’s Greatest Detective,” the killer whale and her land-based assistant, Angie Gomez (see what I did there?), investigate crimes professionally in order to save up enough money to buy Shamu’s freedom from SeaWorld. Wolfe’s fans have high standards, so I hope I didn’t offend too many of them incorporating some of Stout’s tropes in my story about the murder of a Padre. Is it pastiche? Is it parody? Little of both? Let’s discuss on Goodreads.

I found that playing in these other less familiar (for me) sandboxes was not only fun, but also healthy for my creativity. Noir corkers, with their nebulous sense of justice, are always amusing, but sometimes you need the sleuth to summon the suspects and spring the trap. It’s all about, to quote Tevye, “balance.”


Richie Narvaez is the Agatha- and Anthony-winning author of the thriller Hipster Death Rattle and the YA whodunnit Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, as well as the collections Roachkiller and Other Stories and Noiryorican.


Jeffrey Marks said...

I've read Richie's story (I think that's probably expected of the editor) and I have to say that I'm excited to share it in this collection.

Holly West said...

Love this, Richie. And I loved Shamu, World’s Greatest Detective as soon as I read the title. You really went for it and with great success, IMO.

Richie Narvaez said...

Thank you both so much!