"Eb and Flo" and "The ABCs of Murder"

"This story is a tribute to my Uncle Ben and Aunt Florence, who really did meet on a Santa Fe street corner in 1944, when he was a private in the US Army and she was a WAC assigned to the Manhattan Project. For fiction's sake, I have changed my relatives' names and moved them from the Northeast to Mississippi, but the story about General Homma's wife and Mount Fuji was a regular part of my uncle's repertoire and my aunt was a hell of a speller until the very end. They are both gone, now, and I miss them every day."

As the Afterword above indicates, I wrote "Eb and Flo" as a tribute to Ben and Florence Schulkin, a couple of years after my aunt passed on and shortly after my uncle's passing.

I first sold the story to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, which is published by Wildside Press, the same folks who published my The Tree of Life collection, but a year went by without them publishing it, and I finally got an email from editor Marvin Kaye telling me he'd misplaced the manuscript and asking me to resubmit it. Right around the same time, Wildside's John Betancourt and Carla Coupe invited me to submit a story to a brand-new magazine they were putting together, Black Cat Mystery Magazine. I sent "Eb and Flo" to them instead of resending it to Marvin, and they loved it and bought it for BCMM's debut issue.

"The ABCs of Murder" is something else altogether. I originally wrote it sometime in the 1980s, and sent it to EQMM. Editor Eleanor Sullivan wanted to use it, but somehow she never did, and I wound up including it in the October 1987 issue of The Short Sheet, a monthly newsletter about short crime fiction that I edited through eight issues before finally deciding it was too much work and abandoning it.

In the '90s, when my daughter Becca was in grade school, one of her teachers assigned her students to memorize a poem and deliver it to the class and my dear daughter selected "The ABCs of Murder," which she still knows by heart to this day.

Later, Janet Hutchings, Eleanor's successor at EQMM, also liked the poem, but she also wasn't able to find room for it, so, when John and Carla approached me about contributing to BCMM, I sent it to them, and they ran it on the back cover of the magazine's first issue.

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