Wednesday, December 22, 2004


"Naughty" by Steve Hockensmith, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 2005

"If you think about it, Santa Claus is a little like Dirty Harry. He's a vigilante."

With an opening like that, how could you NOT read the entire story? I'm of the opinion that the first couple of sentences in a short story, the first chapter of a book, the first ten minutes of a movie are the most important sentences, chapter, minutes in the work. You have to catch the interest of the person reading the story quickly (especially these days) or they move on to something else.

If a writer can nail that first sentence, he's usually got the chops to make the rest of the story work, and Steve did a terrific job with that as well. The characters are a little over the top, but not excessively so. In a humorous story over-the-top characters are required.

The basic plot is completely believable. A frustrated young woman feels that being good isn't getting her anywhere and decides to be naughty for a change. This attitude gets her into a situation of her own making (an important point) that makes her think that being naughty isn't all it's cracked up to be. The way she extracts herself really makes the story. The fact that the main character is a down-on-her-luck former child of privilege serves as the perfect setup for the ending set in the ritzy neighborhood where she grew up. Steve does exaggerate some aspects a little bit, but that is part of what makes humor work.

The nice thing about Steve is that I never know where he's going until he gets there. I had no idea how the main character was going to get out of the fix she was in. I loved the ending.

In short, read the story and have fun.


At 7:00 PM, Blogger Candace said...

Hello Bob,
Candace here. I had read "Naughty" a couple of weeks ago. Well done, isn't it? I also liked the illo which went with the character.

I unfortunately missed the November issue. Think it had a Deaver short story in it. One of the things I have enjoyed (comparatively speaking) are the P.I./mystery stories that are obviously post 9/11. No big deal is made out of it, but it's definitely in the literary landscape.

Happy Happy Joy Joy to You.
Candace Wiggins

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Naughty" is an excellent read with several laughs. It helps explain why I am a fan of Steve's writing.

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