"Zero Hour"

In recent years, I've been fortunate to see most of my stories sell to the first place I send them. Sometimes, though, their route to publication takes a few twists and turns. For "When You Sue, You Begin With Do, Re, Me," for example, I originally set the story in southern Florida with the 2018 St. Petersburg Bouchercon anthology in mind. When the editors passed on it, I changed the setting to Texas and submitted it to the 2019 Dallas B'con anthology, for which editor Rick Ollerman accepted it.

"Zero Hour" had two additional steps between its original version and the version that ultimately appeared in print. I wrote it as a submission to Barb Goffman's collection of tales featuring time travel and murder, Crime Travel. Barb told me that she liked it, but that she'd already accepted a story in which time travel was used to kill Adolph Hitler before he could slaughter six million Jews (not to mention millions of Russians, gypsies, and homosexuals). I did a Hitler-free revision, but by then Barb's deadline had passed. When the Malice Domestic conference announced that its next anthology would be Mystery Most Magical, I did a much more comprehensive revision, changing the method of traveling through time from a scientific invention to a witch's spell and renaming the story "A Spell of Bad Luck." (See what I did there? I love a good pun ... and love a bad one even more.) Again, though, the editors decided against it, and it languished on my hard drive for a while....

... until, early in 2021, I got a call from my friend Kris Kisska, informing me that editor Teresa Inge was looking at the last minute for a story for an anthology she and Yvonne Saxon were putting together. One of the contributors had, for whatever reason, pulled her story, which left the book with a hole that needed to be filled right away, so did I happen to have something lying around that included a reference to an alcoholic beverage?

At that time, the only story I had that wasn't either published, purchased, or under consideration was "Zero Hour"/"A Spell of Bad Luck." It contained no reference to anything alcoholic, but it would be a simple matter to put a glass of sangria into the first-person narrator's hands. I decided to go with the Hitler-free version of "Zero Hour," because I'd never sold a story whose title began with the letter Z, and I was looking to fill that gap in my alphabetical bibliography. I also name-checked Barb Goffman and Crime Travel and sent Teresa the story. She accepted it, and Murder by the Glass was published by Untreed Reads in September 2021.

In early November, Untreed publisher Jay Hartman sent me a screenshot of a one-star Amazon review of the book, titled "Jesus Christ is blasphemed in the story Zero Hour on page 91." Here's what the reviewer had to say: "I was very much enjoying Murder by the Glass until I read the story Zero Hour by Josh Pachter. In this story Jesus Christ was taken down from the cross before he could die for our sins. He was treated for his wounds and called a poor SOB. As a devout Christian this crossed a line for me and I was horrified! I know that not everyone will feel like I do. I can't read anymore of this book and plan to delete it. This is very personal to me." I posted the screenshot to Facebook, and within ten minutes there were half a dozen comments, all saying words along the line of "How can I get a copy of Zero Hour? Now I wanna read it!" As they say, all publicity is good publicity....

If you too want to read "Zero Hour" (and/or the rest of the book!), you can order the trade paperback or e-book at this link.

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