Not Your Grandmother’s Murders
by Gregory Adams
forum: Not Your Grandmother’s Murders
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..


Not Your Grandmother’s Murders


         It was a fine restaurant, and Patrick could see that Karen was impressed. "Of course I'd do this just because," he said as the waiter brought them their drinks. "Bring you here to a fine restaurant for no other reason than you're my girl, and you deserve it." Karen blushed at this, and her eyes flicked to the red shopping bag he'd been carrying. The bag was tied with a ribbon, and although she hadn't said so, Patrick knew she believed it contained gifts for her.

         "What do you know about this restaurant?" he asked. "What do you know about this restaurant, and you and me?"

         A cold, pale look passed over her. "Patrick, if you're going to propose to me..." she began.

         "No, no it's not that," he said quickly. He let one hand slide across the tablecloth to cover her fingers with his own. "Think back, a long time ago, when we had first started seeing each other, we were walking home from another place just down the street, that pizza restaurant…"

         "The one with the giant margaritas?" she asked.

         "That's the one," he said. "As we passed this restaurant, I pointed to it and said that when I sold my first piece of writing, I would use the money I made to buy you dinner here." She took her hand from his and shifted in her chair, not quite putting it all together. Patrick lifted the shopping bag and handed it to her. Karen's face still held some uncertainty as she reached into the bag and came out with a small digest-sized magazine. She looked over the lurid cover and read the title: Killer's Alleyway. Opening the magazine where it was marked, she at once recognized Patrick's pseudonym.

         "Oh wow," she said, her voice limp. She scanned the first few lines of the story and then turned the magazine in her hands, examining the front and back covers before opening it to the title page. "I've never heard of this magazine." She put the magazine back inside the bag and set the bag on the floor.

         "It's a detective magazine. Most of the stories are about murders and killings, that sort of thing."

         "I thought that you were trying for literary magazines," she said. "Big ones like The New Yorker."

         "You don't just start in the biggest markets, Karen," Patrick said, his own voice quickening. "You need to start in the small markets and work your way up."

         Their waiter arrived and they sat in silence as he laid out Karen's ricotta cavatelli and Patrick's veal chop. "I though that was the whole point for you," Karen said once the waiter was gone. "I thought you were going to just explode onto the scene." She waved her fingers in suggestion of an explosion.

         Patrick smirked. "Look, baby, we can't always do things that way. It took me a while to learn, I admit, but I'm wiser now, I know better. I saw that my stories weren't getting accepted—they probably weren't even getting read. I didn't have an agent or a publishing history. Genre magazines are willing to give new writers a break, so I wrote a few things with these markets in mind."

         Karen had relaxed a bit. "So did you get paid enough for the story to pay for this dinner?" she asked.

         "Well, no, not entirely." She kept her eyes on her plate and kept eating. Actually, his check for the story wouldn't even pay for his martini, but Karen didn't need to know that. "Dinner's still on me, of course," he said. "Do you want to know what the story is about?"

         "Sure," Karen replied, still concentrating on her dinner.

         Patrick's expression became earnest. "It's about a man who is plotting to kill his wife. She's trying to kill him also, but their young daughter poisons them both first." He took a bite of his own food.

         Karen made a face. "How'd you come up with that?"

         "I didn't." He leaned back and took a sip from his cocktail.

         Karen looked confused. Patrick set his drink down and got right to the point. "It's simple. I knew that I had to come up with stories that would play in the genre markets, but I didn't have any good ideas, not having read much of that sort of thing. I knew that I could write well enough, but I needed a solid plot, a strong central premise. I tried and tried, but I couldn't come up with anything that seemed, well, clever enough." There was a hitch in his voice as he admitted this. "With these types of story, it's all twist, and if you don't have a surprise ending, then you don't have a good story. Then it came to me, the idea"—Karen could hear the bold font in his voice.—"I knew that mystery magazines have been around for a long time. So, I began collecting all of the oldest mystery collections I could find. I originally started reading them to get the flavor of genre writing, but then it occurred to me that I could borrow a twist from one of them, and make my own."

         "Wait, stop." Karen set down her silverware and raised her palms. "You stole someone's story?"

         Patrick looked hurt. "Of course not. This isn't plagiarism; it's more inspiration. The idea came from one of those old-fashioned murder mysteries, you know the ones—a mayor or heiress or some such is killed and some old biddy or retired lawyer solves the thing, the kind that grandmothers read. There's no market for that sort of thing anymore, no one wants to read placid mysteries with tidy endings and rational outcomes. But the truth is, there's a story in there; there's a murder in there, one with a twist, something unexpected, just waiting to evolve into something stronger. So, I come along, and I change a million details and almost all the facts."

         Karen just stared at him. Patrick took his eyes from hers, but just for a moment. He swallowed and pressed on. "Look, it's true that in both stories, a husband, wife and child are plotting to murder each other, but that's the only similarity. In the original, some pipe-smoking professor solves the mystery and muses philosophically as the child—who is seventeen, by the way, hardly even a child at all—is led off by the police, all neat and clean. In my story, the girl is eleven, and she isn't caught. The story ends with her standing alone in a house empty except for the corpses of her parents." His elbows were on the table with his hands held high, fingers spread wide, as if casting a spell. "My version is much richer in the stuff of humanity than the first. In the original, the murders were all about money. In mine, they're a rancorous outcry against nameless insults borne too long in silence." He took another sip of his martini and settled back in his chair. "I see it as a partnership. It's like the original idea is the rigging that I hang the sails of my story upon, and together, we move forward. It should be flattering to the original author. You could see it as their spirit living on beyond their lives."

         Karen listened patiently until she was certain he was finished. "You know what this sounds like, Patrick?" she asked, rising from her chair. "This sounds like that time you made out with your old girlfriend but it wasn't cheating on me somehow." She threw her napkin on her plate and walked out, knocking over the gift bag as she left. Patrick rose to follow her, but the other diners were looking him, now, and their fixed attention stopped him in his tracks. If he chased her, it would be a scene, and he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction.

         Patrick stooped and picked up the gift bag from the floor, and placed it on the cushion of her empty chair. He had lost his appetite, but he finished eating anyway. Then he asked to have Karen's mostly uneaten meal packaged to go.

* * *

         "Karen, listen, I'm sorry about, well, whatever it was that I did to upset you." This message wasn't going well. Of the five or six voice mail messages Patrick had left her in the past few weeks, this one was the worst. No wonder she wasn't calling him back.

         Patrick hung up the phone and walked back to his computer. He realized that he was calling Karen whenever he got stuck in his writing, but that didn't mean he could stop himself from doing it. Like rearranging his email inbox, it was something he drifted into when his neurons that controlled drafting and editing stopped firing.

         Still, there was good news: these motivational blackouts were happening less and less. With a story published, Patrick's energy for writing was stronger than it had ever been. Even after a day at the office, he could come home and spend three, five, even eight hours at the computer, putting stories together, cutting them down, and sending them out. At his best, he was too productive to miss Karen at all.

         Patrick wanted to be published again as soon as possible, so he attacked on two fronts: he continued to write and submit his own, wholly original, more literate stories to the quality magazines. These stories Patrick wove together with exquisite care. The hardworking men and women in these tales suffered, struggled and often failed, but in the end they were victims of nothing worse than poor decisions or the pitiless ironies of everyday life, and these manuscripts were rejected with perfect reliability.

         He also updated more old mystery stories. While this proved faster than writing a story from scratch, it wasn't easy. Patrick had built a slush pile of his own—stacks and stacks of ancient mystery collections he had gotten cheap at a second hand paperback shop. The books had an old, musty stink about them, and the smell hung in the air and clung to Patrick's fingers as he handled them.

         Once Patrick had settled on a good candidate for 'inspiration', the work really began. He had to turn the stories inside out to get something useable out of them: more character, more leaning, less shock and surprise. He submitted these stories to genre magazines, and these manuscripts were nearly always accepted, leaving Patrick awash in a flood of shame and delight.

         Over time, the shame lessened, and Patrick began to feel like an author. And then, at the peak, when nearly everything was going Patrick's way, it suddenly got better.

* * *

         The letter came on a Thursday afternoon, and Patrick knew at once by the thick, bone-white paper of the envelope that the letter was something special. Inside was a note congratulating Patrick on his recent successes. The writer went on to inquire about the rights of his stories, with the intent of collecting some of his writing in a forthcoming anthology. The signature read George Lockerbie, President and Chairman, Mortal Coil Publishing.

         Patrick did a small dance in his driveway, before he ran into his apartment and at once telephoned George Lockerbie, President and Chairman.

* * *

         They agreed to lunch in a pub not far from Patrick's apartment. Patrick had no trouble identifying Mr. Lockerbie. On the phone Mr. Lockerbie had said 'look for a distinguished older gentleman, and that will be myself,' and there could be no doubt. George Lockerbie was old—very old. His long face was creased with wrinkles so deep that his eyes were practically hidden in their shadows. His eyebrows were bushy tangles, and there were silver hairs jutting boldly from his ears. Patrick shook the man's hand and it was like handling a dead fish wrapped in a plastic bag.

         Despite his advanced age, there was a look of money about George Lockerbie, small glimpses of success and privilege, like the heavy gold wristwatch or the fine silver pen settled in his pocket. His suit may have been out of style, but was it clearly expensive and well cared for. "I am a great fan of your work," Mr. Lockerbie said. "It's quite… remarkable, if I may say so."

         "Thank you." Patrick said.

         "You will be our youngest contributor in some time," Mr. Lockerbie continued, encouraged. "It will be well, to have some fresh perspective mixed in with our own writing."

         "This is such great news." Patrick said. "No one had taken notice of me before. Mostly I was sending work to quality magazines, you know, the literary ones, and they never accepted anything." He hadn't meant to talk of his earlier frustrations, but found that he couldn't help himself. "They didn't even bother to comment on it, the high-horse bastards. Then I discovered genres, and these editors know what they're about. They know good writing when they see it." Patrick reigned himself in.

         Lockerbie continued to smile gently at Patrick. "You speak as if being published were the principle point of writing. For most, writing is a quest to describe the truths of life, not to see their names in print."

         "Well, of course," Patrick replied. "I get closer to truth every day, but if no one notices, what's the point? It's like with the mysteries I've been writing…"

         George Lockerbie interrupted him. "Yes, your stories. They are quite brutal, you know."

         "I think it's necessary." Patrick replied. "I read a lot of the old collections—it's part of getting it right, reading what's already been done—but there is such a quaintness to these old stories." He pronounced 'quaintness' as if it were a dirty word. "People are more sophisticated today, they know the world's going to hell and they know murderers aren't little old ladies slipping arsenic into tea."

         Mr. Lockerbie dabbed at his colorless lips with a napkin. "I see," he said.

         Patrick went on. "Poe had it right, from the very beginning: the killer in The Telltale Heart didn't do it for money or to repay an insult or for any cause at all. It was senseless, it was brutal, and ended in dismemberment."

         "Yet Poe left much to the imagination," Mr. Lockerbie said. "There is something to be said for the unspoken."

         "Well, people have less imagination these days." Patrick replied. "I blame television."

         "I still write a little, myself." Mr. Lockerbie said, surprising Patrick with the sudden shift from Patrick's work. "I do seem to be experiencing less success in being published than I did in my younger days." There was a palpable note of regret in his voice. "You would think it gets easier, but then, tastes change, editors you've come to rely on die…" The old man began to drift into a brown study, but caught himself and returned to the moment. "Perhaps you have a point. Something may be needed, to further define the murder mystery as a unique genre amidst the post-modern clap trap that passes for 'good writing' these days." He gave a defeated sigh. "Modern literature is about the world outside our windows, the inner lives of our neighbors, perhaps even ourselves, to explore the commonplace miseries therein. Well, I've lived a long life, Patrick. I've been through all the loneliness and despair I care to experience. Give me an adventure, give me mystery, a thing I've never done but wanted to, a thing I've never seen, but wished for my entire life, even if I could never bring myself to ask."

         "Mr. Lockerbie, I could sit here and talk shop all day," Patrick interrupted, struggling to get the conversation back to the topic of his future, "but I was hoping we could discuss the collection you suggested in the letter. What sort of terms were you considering?" He silently cursed himself for sounding so anxious.

         Mr. Lockerbie gave a gentle smile. "I'm afraid you misunderstand the point of our meeting today. Yes, I am the Chairman, but my responsibility is principally content. I am as adrift as any novice when it comes to the details of rights and such. I simply wanted to meet you, to talk shop and so on. Our lawyers handle the paperwork." He beamed as an idea took hold of him. "You know, we're having a bit of a get-together this weekend, at Bill Doctrow's place. It's our annual board meeting. We make a dinner out of it, nothing too fancy, but it's good to dress up occasionally. You know Bill's writing, of course."

         Patrick thought for a moment. He had read scores of short story collections in preparing his stories but the name Bill Doctrow didn't ring any bells. He shook his head.

         Mr. Lockerbie held his look of anticipation for a moment longer, and then surrendered to disappointment when it became evident that Patrick didn't know the name. "Well, you'll get to meet him soon enough." Patrick made to decline, but the old man cut him off. "I insist. I'm certain that the others are as anxious to make your acquaintance as I was. I'll have my girl call you and set up the date and time."

         The word 'girl' set off a spark in Patrick's head. "May I bring a guest?"

         Mr. Lockerbie rose from the booth and began to pull on his jacket. "Of course." He smiled. "The more, the merrier." Patrick watched him leave. A uniformed driver helped the old man into a silver Mercedes.

* * *

         It had been several months since he had spoken to Karen, but dinner was an easy sell. Patrick knew that she had missed him just by the sound of her voice in the phone, and he was a little surprised to discover he had missed her as well. He apologized for his behavior and assured her that he had gone out of the story-borrowing business forever. He had certainly learned his lesson—too much honesty could be bad for a relationship.

         The night of the dinner arrived. Patrick met Karen at her apartment, and she looked stunning. They exchanged polite greetings, got into the car, and had to pull over after a few minutes to hold a spontaneous, enthusiastic and physical reunion.

         They were back on the road after a short time. The Mortal Coil was meeting at a private residence about an hour's drive away, so Karen had time to neaten her dress and reapply her lipstick. They chatted back and forth, warmly recalling their good times together. Their spirits remained high until they actually saw the house.

         More mansion than house, Bill Doctrow's place was a looming shape on a hill, thrusting its heavy square shadow into the pale night sky. The windows were blazing with light, in violent contrast to the dark trees that circled the property. Patrick killed the radio and crept the car up the gravel driveway. He had expected to find Cadillacs and Mercedes lining the driveway, but there were no cars here at all. "This is the place?" Karen asked, even though she was holding the directions in her lap. Patrick didn't answer. No valet emerged from the shadows and asked for his keys.

         There was no bell, so Patrick rapped lightly on the door, Karen standing beside him. He was aware of her shifting her weight from one heeled shoe to the other with apprehension. After a moment, a young man wearing cook's whites opened the door. The front of his apron was smeared with various stains, and his eyes seemed to lack focus. He didn't greet Patrick or Karen, only turned and headed back into the house without a word.

         Mr. Lockerbie emerged from a lighted doorway and exclaimed, "The guest of honor, the man of the hour has arrived!" The old man crossed the foyer with his hand thrusts out in enthusiastic greeting. Patrick returned the greeting with equal fervor. "Mr. Lockerbie," he began as he stepped aside to allow Karen to cross the threshold. "Wonderful to see you. Allow me to present my companion for the evening, Ms. Karen Stepmeyer."

         Karen smiled as Mr. Lockerbie took her hand and kissed it. "The honor is mine, Miss Stepmeyer," he said. Mr. Lockerbie helped Karen out of her light wrap. She was wearing a black dress that left her shoulders exposed and Patrick caught the flash of excitement in Lockerbie's eyes at the sight of Karen's luminous skin. "Well, allow me to introduce you to the others before they accuse me of trying to keep you two all to myself." Mr. Lockerbie said as he put a hand on Patrick's shoulder and guided his guests into a long dining room. In keeping with the house, the dining room was majestic in scope. There was a great table, large enough for a score of guests, set out with candles and centerpieces and graceful, high backed chairs. Each place had full banquet silver laid out, and the china plates and crystal goblets sparked in the light of the great chandelier, but the opulence was not what first caught Patrick's eye. Rather, it was the guests that commanded his attention.

         There were perhaps a dozen people seated around the grand table, and they were all old. Karen and Patrick gaped at the guests, the shrunken men, with their great hanging earlobes and swollen noses, and the antique women who stared back at them bleary-eyed from beneath impossible wigs.

         George Lockerbie gestured towards Karen and Patrick as if the couple were a marble statue that he had just unveiled. "Assembled board members of the Mortal Coil, may I present to you our guests of honor…" Mr. Lockerbie went on with the introduction, but Patrick's concentration was too engrossed by the members of the Mortal Coil to hear. One woman had obviously suffered a stroke, and the left side of her body hung completely slack. A clear tube ran above her upper lip, with short hoses jutting up onto her nose. Another tube hung from the corner of her mouth. Patrick was reminded of the tube a dentist uses to collect spit, and indeed, he saw there was an unknown liquid bubbling in the tube. He heard Karen moan with irrepressible revulsion.

         Lockerbie continued the introductions, and each guest responded to their names in turn, looking Karen and Patrick up and down with weak, unfocused eyes and greeting them with lifeless gestures. George seated Patrick and Karen beside each other, and then took his own seat at the head of the table. He put a napkin over his lap with great enthusiasm.

         "We are all writers, here." Mr. Lockerbie began. "With the exception of Miss Stepmeyer, of course, but that's all right, you'll find we're quite accepting here." Karen smiled demurely but Patrick could see anxiety lurking behind her polite expression.

         "You have a lovely home." Karen said to Mr. Doctrow. "You must have had a very successful career to afford such a large estate." Patrick shot her a cautionary look—he didn't think these people would appreciate being discussed in the past tense.

         Some life came into Mr. Doctrow. "Writing, you mean?" he gave an amused chuckle. "I never paid for a damn thing by writing. My father invented air conditioning." Quiet laughter traveled around the table; even the woman with the tube in her mouth gave a pleased gurgle.

         The man who had answered the door entered then. Still dressed in his stained cooks whites, he appeared even less hospitable than he had at the threshold. He silently poured their wine, his thick lips folded into a frown above his huge chin. "A toast," Mr. Lockerbie said as soon as Patrick's glass was full, not even waiting for the others to be served. "To the newest friend of Mortal Coil." He raised his glass and drank. Patrick did the same.

         Patrick drained his glass; he wanted to take the edge off. He realized that all of the guests were watching him with heightened attention—except for Karen, who was polishing off her own glass of wine. The cook at once refilled their glasses.

         Another of the guests, Mr. Kellogg, spoke to Karen. "Are you a fan of the murder mystery, my dear?" he asked.

         Karen smiled politely. "Not really," she replied. "That is, I haven't read very many of them."

         "That's a pity," Mr. Kellogg replied. "Here you are in the company of some of the greatest mystery writers of the last century." He smiled broadly, his dentures as blank and white as fence posts. "Many of the stories we have written, although a bit old fashioned now, were quite well received in their day. There was a need for them. Our little stories showed how death is always with us. Something you come to understand all too well when you reach our age."

         "Here, here," said Mr. Doctrow. He raised his wine glass towards Patrick and drank. Patrick took another sip of his own wine in response.

         "Will this take much longer?" Beatrice asked. "I don't want to be up all night again."

         Mr. Lockerbie spoke up. "No, things should be happening quite soon." He looked at Patrick expectantly.

         "So as I was saying," Mr. Kellogg continued, "Our stories spoke to a murderous urge in all of us, an urge ironically repressed in the age of world wars, but perhaps those of us who lived in such times saw murder as a thing too real to be treated lightly. We lived in fear of it. Perhaps that's why our manners were always so much better than those of young people today."

         "Proletarian little hacks, all of them," said Mr. Doctrow. "Now he's got that girl mixed up in it as well."

         "Bill, please," Mr. Lockerbie said. "Just a touch of patience will go far."

         "Well, it's taking too long," Bill Doctrow said. "I want to see the little felon get what's coming to him."

         Karen's expression turned from one of confusion to growing anger. "Oh my God," she said, twisting in her seat. "Patrick, what are they getting at?" She joined the other guests in staring at him.

         Patrick's eyes moved warily from one geriatric guest to the next. While a few were absorbed in nonchalantly studying their dinnerware, most were staring straight back at him, their eyes clouded with age but nevertheless bright. "All right, I see it now." Patrick said, taking his napkin from his lap and putting it on his plate. "Fine, the game is up. I did it. I did it in the study, with the typewriter. Satisfied?" He took another long drink of wine. "If it's money you're after, I didn't make much at this. I still have my day job, for Christ's sake." One of the old ladies pouted at his blasphemy. "Look, whatever you had in mind inviting me up here, I have a better idea. Now that the whole 'mystery has been solved,"—he said this in a mocking voice and waved his fingers in the air—"let's get down to business."

         "Business?" Mr. Lockerbie asked. "What business could we have, my boy?"

         "Well, isn't it obvious?" Patrick replied. "Here you guys are trying to get your work published, but you're not able to because you're too old fashioned. I can't seem to come up with any really original ideas for my stories but I can take your ideas and make them modern. I can get them published." He leaned forward and his voice took on a conspiratorial air. "It just makes sense. We all work together and everyone gets what they want." There were several impatient sighs from around the table. Bill Doctrow looked at his watch.

         Karen stood up, threw her napkin down on her plate, and said, "Patrick, you're a dick." She began to walk to the front door.

         "Fine, I'm a dick." Patrick said. "Let's go." He set his hands on the table as if to rise. "How was I to know they were all still alive, never mind still reading pulp fiction, for Christ's sake?"

         "Of course we read the journals," Beatrice said. "What else are we going to do with our time? The murder mystery has always been our lives. We can't be expected to give it up simply because we are no longer being published. "

Patrick tried to rise but found that he hadn't the strength. He looked towards the door and was surprised to see Karen folded up into a small mound on the floor. He had not even heard her collapse.

         "Indeed," said George Lockerbie. "Each of us has spent countless hours imagining the deaths of others—more often than not a lingering death, I might add. These murders may seem gentle by today's standard, or even… How did our young guest phrase it?" He rested a finger against his pale lip.

         "Quaint," Bill Doctrow said with obvious disgust. "He called our work quaint."

         "Yes, thank you, Bill. Quaint was the word he used," said Mr. Lockerbie. "Still, I imagine that our killings seemed gentle because you were not experiencing them. Being poisoned or struck on the head by an ornamental vase may seem less brutal than being cut up by a chainsaw, but I imagine that all of these sensations remain unpleasant."

         Patrick slumped in his chair, a strange non-sensation traveling steadily up his arms. He could still see, could still feel, but his limbs were quickly moving beyond the reach of his mind.

         "We all had our favorite ways, Patrick. Mr. Kellogg was devoted to the knife; his tales would always entail a good stabbing, while our lovely Beatrice preferred the blunt object." Beatrice nodded slightly, the folds of her wrinkled neck creasing in an unflattering way. "Mr. Doctrow, by contrast, favored death by gunshot—powerful handguns exploding in a cloud of blue smoke, bullets tearing through flesh, all that sort of thing. Harriet usually schemed her victims into enough liquid to drown them. Quite ingenious, really. Now I myself," he put a modest hand on his chest, "I have always been an enthusiast of the silent death; the victims in my stories were almost always killed through poison, usually taken through ingestion. How was your wine, by the way, Mr. Kershaw?" Mr. Lockerbie looked at Patrick and saw that the younger man was disoriented. He snapped his fingers loudly several times in Patrick's direction, and Patrick swung his head slowly to face him.

         "So you see, Mr. Kershaw, your grand idea, as with your writing itself, lacked a certain originality. We have been plagiarized before. In response to this, we always offer the scoundrel an award, and they always accept. Do you know what your reward is to be, Mr. Kershaw?" Patrick could still move his eyes, and he watched as the brutish young man in the cook's whites arranged knives, guns, vials and other sinister objects along the dining room table. "We are going to invite you to be one with our study. Each of us has a different method, Mr. Kershaw, and with Mr. Cook's help, we are going to share our talents and inspiration with you. In short, Mr. Kershaw, we are going to take turns." He smiled, revealing his long smoke-stained canines once more. "First with you, and then the young lady you so generously provided us." The light that had glowed in Mr. Lockerbie's eyes when he first saw Karen shone there again. "But you first, Mr. Kershaw, you first. Mrs. Finn, you have the honor."

         Mrs. Finn, smiling through her stroke-ravaged face, gestured, and the young man in the stained apron lifted a large silver candlestick from the table. As Patrick watched, he tossed the candlestick in his hand, flipping it so the heavy base hung from his hand like an ornate silver club.

         Patrick did his best to beg forgiveness, but his body was wholly rigid now and the words would not come.





copyright 2006 Gregory Adams.

Gregory Adams lives and writes in Roslindale, Massachusetts. His inspirations include James Ellroy, Neil Gaimen, Ray Bradbury and Christina Stead - and that's just authors he had in mind when he wrote this one.