Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


by Paula Gail Benson


It is a thrill and honor to welcome the 2018 Anthony short story nominated authors to be with us at Writers Who Kill. All these writers have distinguished careers and bring their best game to these stories, which offer a terrific assortment (in time periods and genres) for end of summer reading.


Here are links to this year’s nominated stories:


“The Trial of Madame Pelletier” by Susanna Calkins, Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical: 


“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Jen Conley, Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash 


“My Side of the Matter” by Hilary Davidson, KillingMalmon:


“Whose Wine Is it Anyway” by Barb Goffman, 50 Shades of Cabernet:


“The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017: 


“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor, Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea: 


If you haven’t already, please take time to read the stories being recognized this year. If you are a short story writer, they will make you proud (and very likely envious!), and if you aren’t, they will make you want to try your hand at the craft.


Thank you, Susie, Jen, Hilary, Barb, Debra, and Art, for taking time to answer a few questions!




Susanna Calkins: There are two central characters in my “The Trial of Madame Pelletier”—Anna Pequod, a 17 year-old maidservant serving in the Pelletier household, and Madame Pelletier, who has been accused of poisoning her husband. While the story revolves around the trial of Madame Pelletier, which is occurring both in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion in 1840’s France, I wanted her story to be told through someone else’s lens. Since we are privy to Anna’s thoughts, we can see her sift through the evidence as it is presented, allowing us insights into the trial that even the judge does not have.


Jen Conley: My main character is a 40-something guy named Eric, recently divorced from a brief marriage, who is very uneasy about joining his brother and father in an act of brutal revenge.


Hilary Davidson: The central character is Zachary Streckfus, who slowly reveals how and why he killed a man. Streckfus was a name borrowed from Truman Capote, whose birth name was Truman Streckfus Persons. The title of my story, "My Side of the Matter," is also borrowed from Capote, though his story was more of a comedy about a very immature man meeting his new wife's relatives, and mine is about a very immature man determined to seduce a woman who hates him.


Barb Goffman: My protagonist is Myra, a secretary in a large DC law firm. For 40 years, Myra has worked for Douglas, from his earliest days as an attorney through his rise to run the firm’s litigation department. She’s always felt like a vital member of his team, and she thinks of Douglas like her brother. But now, in her final week before retirement, Myra learns that Douglas doesn’t value her in the same way. She feels neglected. Unappreciated. Angry. And she decides before she leaves the firm for the last time, she’s going to teach some lessons about what’s really important in life. But Myra’s bitterness leads her to make potentially disastrous decisions—for others, as well as for herself.


Debra H. Goldstein: The protagonist in “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” is a black nine-year-old boy. Except for one reference as “Maisie’s boy,” he is unnamed. His name is unnecessary because in the greater realm of literature, he could be any child coming of age while observing the racial, civil, and political strife in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960’s.


The child is the narrator, so the events and other characters are seen through his eyes. As he tells the story of the night and an obvious murder, he also serves to raise the subtle specter of other societal crimes. The protagonist’s innocent retelling of “The Night they Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” is what makes the story go beyond being a simple whodunit to subliminally allowing the reader to contemplate diversity and tolerance.


Art Taylor: Ambrose Thornton is the son of a very successful businessman in a mid-sized Southern town—a trust fund baby you might call him, living simultaneously off of his father’s wealth but also in the shadow of that father’s success. He doesn’t necessarily need to work, but his father expects him to have drive, determination, and a solid work ethic anyway. So because of his love of classic private eye fiction—Hammett and Chandler and Ross Macdonald and more—Ambrose sets up his own private eye office. But he doesn’t pursue any actual business because all he wants to do is hide in that office, away from his father, and read more of those stories he loves … unless a young woman (herself a twist on the conventions of the genre!) knocks on his door and hires him for a case. She’s a chef, has just opened a new restaurant in town, and has heard that someone in the area is growing tonka beans, outlawed by the FDA but a prized delicacy in French cuisine—and can’t Ambrose please help her find them?





Susanna Calkins
Susanna Calkins: The figure of Madame Pelletier came to me fairly easily, as I drew some of the details from a real poisoning case that occurred in mid-nineteenth century France. She had been tricked into the marriage by a marriage broker, and had come to discover that her husband was not as well-off financially as he had claimed. Her new home was falling apart, and there were rats everywhere. As a result she was miserable and did not socialize much with other women in Tulle, making her a bit of a social outcast and an object of suspicion and scorn. While the real historical figure was reviled in the papers, I viewed her as a bit of a lonely and depressed soul who might have felt imprisoned in a once-grand estate now over-ridden by rats. I created the character of Anna specifically to serve not only as a witness to the prosecution, but also as a witness to Madame Pelletier’s personal trials at home and in the community.


Jen Conley
Jen Conley: I wanted to write about the conflict between familial loyalty, masculinity, and revenge versus doing what your soul tells you to do. I’m always interested in male characters, about the codes men live bydon’t show emotion, be tough, handle your drink, and so on. Eric agrees that avenging his sister’s gruesome murder is justified, but the act of participating in it troubles him deeply.


When I was asked to write for the anthology, I picked the song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” It has a very foreboding tone, heavy with dread and darkness. I wanted to write a story that captured the same sound.


This character is made up but the story was inspired by the recent release of a local murderer in Ocean County, where I live. In 1985 a fifteen-year-old boy gruesomely killed his 13-year-old neighbor. I was a teen when it happened and I suppose it always stuck with me.


Hilary Davidson
Hilary Davidson: The story is part of a collection called KILLING MALMON, and each story had to include the death of Dan Malmon. (Please don't think that the authors are terrible people —Dan was co-editor of the project, and it raises money to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.) I was a little uneasy about writing about the fictional murder of a friend, so I started to think about the murderer instead. What kind of person would kill someone as kind and good-hearted as Dan? That was how the idea of Zachary as an entitled man-child came about. I wrote the story a year before the #MeToo movement came up, but Zachary exactly is the guy who won't take no for an answer.


Barb Goffman
Barb Goffman: I knew I wanted to write a story about an office worker, someone who plays an important role at work but whose value is overlooked by her boss. I’d had this character in my story-idea file for a while, her existence stemming from a conversation at my old law firm that involved this sentence: “I’m supposed to plan my own goodbye party?” It’s a little thing that strikes the character as a slap in the face, and the more I thought about her, the more I wanted to tell her story and use this sentence in the story. (It makes great dialogue, in my humble opinion.) What excited me most about this character, who I ultimately named Myra, is that her story isn’t about getting revenge. Others might see it that way but not Myra. To her, this story is about helping someone she loves see the error of his ways and become a better person.


Debra H. Goldstein
Debra H. Goldstein: I have always been interested in diversity, tolerance, politics, and brothels. When I was in law school in Georgia, there was a one block red light district that every local politician campaigned to destroy and which most frequented regularly. Coupling my memory of that now non-exist street with what I’ve learned about the civil rights movement in the 1960’s in Birmingham, Alabama was the inspiration for “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place.” The problem was that the story didn’t work in an honest manner if told through the eyes of a politician or Madame. It needed an element of innocence. When I started to write it from the perspective of the nine-year-old boy, everything clicked into place. Consequently, I knew that if I was going to best explain the murder and bring in other societal crimes and diverse opinions, the protagonist had to be the child.


Art Taylor
Art Taylor: Ambrose was more of an image or an idea than a character at first—that image of a reader who suddenly finds himself in the world he’s been reading about. I pictured the classic office from those old hardboiled detective novels (and crime films) with the hand-lettered glass door and the single desk and the light coming in through a set of venetian blinds… and then the beautiful client strolling in, damsel in distress asking the tough-guy PI for help. Except he’s not a tough guy, of course, and he’s not sure he can really help, and so the question persists: Will reading about these kinds of cases help with actually solving one? Image and idea suddenly became challenge and character … and the story proceeded from there.

For more information about the lives and work of these very talented authors, please check out the following:

Susanna Calkins was born and raised in Philadelphia, and lives outside Chicago with her husband and two sons. Holding a PhD in history, Susanna writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries as well as the forthcoming Speakeasy Murders, both from St. Martin’s Minotaur. MURDER KNOCKS TWICE, set in Prohibition-Era Chicago, will be out Spring 2019. “The Trial of Madame Pelletier,” her first published short story, appeared in Malice Domestic: Mystery Most Historical (Wayside Press, 2017). Read more about her work at


Jen Conley’s short stories have appeared in Beat to a Pulp, Just To Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and many others. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books, has been shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories and is one of the former editors at Shotgun Honey. Her Anthony Award nominated story collection, Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens, is available now. She lives in Brick, New Jersey. Check out her website at


Hilary Davidson is the author of the Lily Moore series—which includes The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and Evil in All Its Disguises. She also the author of the standalone thriller Blood Always Tells and a short-story collection called The Black Widow Club. Her next novel, One Small Sacrifice, will be published by Thomas & Mercer in May 2019. Visit her online at

Barb Goffman loves writing, reading, air conditioning, and her dog, not necessarily in that order. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national mystery short-story awards twenty-two times, including eleven times for the Agatha (a category record). Her book Don’t Get Mad, Get Even won the Silver Falchion for the best collection of 2013. Barb is thrilled to be a current Anthony and Macavity award finalist for her story “Whose Wine is it Anyway?” from the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet.  She works as a freelance editor and proofreader and lives with her dog in Winchester, Virginia. Learn more at

Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein’s is the author One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on SinC’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA. Find out more about her writings at

Art Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He has won three additional Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, two Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction, and his work has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories. He also edited Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, winner of the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University. Check out his website at


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

congrats and best wishes to all

Kait said...

What wonderful stories. I have read several, now I will have to track down and check out the rest.

Best of luck to all!

Warren Bull said...

Fantastic stories one and all. Congratulations!

KM Rockwood said...

Thank you, Paula, for your wonderful interviews and the chance to read these stories! I'm very glad I'm not someone who has to choose among them.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thank you all! I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to talk with these terrific authors and share their work. They are all winners!

Barb Goffman said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. Thanks especially to Paula Benson for your support of short stories.