If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken

The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken 

Texas has it all, from bustling big cities to sleepy small towns, and law enforcement alone can’t solve every crime. That’s where private eyes come in. They take the cases law enforcement can’t—or won’t. Private eyes may walk the mean streets of Dallas and Houston, but they also stroll through small West Texas towns where the secrets are sometimes more dangerous. Whether driving a Mustang or riding a Mustang, a private eye in Texas is unlike any other in the world.

The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods features seventeen original tales of Lone Star State private eyes from Trey R. Barker, Chuck Brownman, Michael Chandos, John M. Floyd, Debra H. Goldstein, James A. Hearn, Richard Helms, Robert S. Levinson, Scott Montgomery, Sandra Murphy, Josh Pachter, Michael Pool, Graham Powell, William Dylan Powell, Stephen D. Rogers, Mark Troy, and Bev Vincent. 

My included story, Harvey and the Red-Head, is my first private eye story. I wrote it in response to an open submissions call. I thought learning the backstory of The Eyes of Texas from its editor, Michael Bracken, might be fun for WWK readers.

1) How did The Eyes of Texas anthology come to be?

In the early 2000s, I edited five hardback anthologies of crime fiction—the three-volume Fedora series, Hardbroiled, and Small Crimes (all scheduled for rerelease as trade paperbacks)—and I was then, and have been ever since, pitching anthology concepts to various publishers.

I’ve lived in Texas since September 1994, and “The Eyes of Texas” is a well-known phrase here, being both the fight song for The University of Texas and part of a public safety campaign encouraging state residents to report criminal activity. As a crime fiction writer and someone who enjoys wordplay, I saw it as a reference to the private eyes of Texas.

I originally pitched the concept of an anthology of private eye stories set in Texas to a regional publisher who was interested, but only if all the contributors were Texans. Unfortunately, the opportunity fell through, and the concept disappeared into my idea file until February 2017 when I learned Bouchercon was coming to Texas.

I retrieved the original proposal from my files, updated it, and pitched it to Eric Campbell at Down & Out Books with the suggestion that The Eyes of Texas be released to coincide with the Dallas Bouchercon. Three days later Eric gave the project a thumbs up and work began. The Eyes of Texas now is available at https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/bracken-eyes-texas/ .

2) Why private eyes rather than cowboys or oil tycoons?

The original idea was sparked by the phrase “The Eyes of Texas,” and once I had the image of private eyes in Texas, nothing else made sense. I’m certainly not opposed to editing anthologies about cowboys or oil tycoons, but I have a fondness for private eye, hardboiled, and noir stories, so my mind tends to drift in that direction when I write and when I edit crime fiction.

3) There are seventeen stories in The Eyes of Texas. As an editor, what process did/do you use to select stories?

My original concept was to offer a range of stories that reflected the diversity of Texas. I think this, from my introduction, sums up my thinking:

“Texans drink a lot of beer, watch a lot of football, and listen to a lot of country music, but the Hill Country around Fredericksburg is one of the top wine destinations in the world, and Texas is home to world-class symphony orchestras, ballet companies, and art museums. With sprawling cattle ranches, Texas is still home to plenty of traditional cowboys, but with both NASA and SpaceX, Texas is also home to the space cowboys leading us beyond the confines of our planet.”

So, I wanted stories that reflected this diversity, not only in the characters, but also in the physical locations where the stories are set.

4) What did/do you use to reject stories?

Some submissions didn’t fit the parameters I set out in the guidelines, so they didn’t survive the first cut. After the first round, though, the decision process was quite difficult. Many of the stories were clearly publishable, so I had to, first, consider how well each story fit my vision for the anthology. For example, I tend to favor hardboiled and noir stories over cozies.

Next, I tried to ensure that the stories represented a range of settings within Texas, that there was diversity in the casts of characters, and that there was diversity in the types of cases the private eyes handled. I mostly accomplished this, but there are, if I remember correctly, five stories that deal, in one way or another, with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Last, but not least, I wanted stories that made me feel something as I read them. A story that put a tear in my eye or a lump in my throat always has an advantage over stories that are clever but without emotion.


Michael Bracken has received multiple awards for copywriting, two Derringer Awards for short fiction, and the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in short mystery fiction. The author of several books and more than 1,300 short stories, he has edited seven crime fiction anthologies. One of the most prolific living short-story writers, he had—before the streak ended in May 2018—one or more short stories published each and every month for 178 consecutive months.

His short crime fiction has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Black Mask, Crime Square, Down & Out: The Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Espionage Magazine, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, The Private Eye Writers of America Presents: Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017, and the Lambda Literary Award-nominated anthologies Show-Offs and Team Players.
In 2019, Bracken became co-editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine. He is also the co-creator/co-editor (with Trey R. Barker) of Guns + Tacos, a serial novella anthology series.


Debra H. Goldstein said...

Michael, thanks for being here today and talking about the process behind The Eyes of Texas. Thrilled to be part of it.....

Grace Topping said...

Quite an accomplishment, Michael. Congratulations. And congratulations to you Debra, for having your story selected. I'll be at Bouchercon and look forward to seeing you both.

Warren Bull said...

Good work Michael. I enjoy your writing.

KM Rockwood said...

Sounds like a book to add to my one-story-at-bedtime collection (maintained in addition to my TBR stack of books and my Kindle list.)

Michael Bracken said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and for your kind comments. Hope you enjoy the anthology!