I’m one of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore’s Top Ten Bestsellers for 2nd Qtr 2008.
This is the second David Diangelo/Odd Jobs story that hasn’t been on the web for almost five years. Check out the latest page here.
Latest page is here
Thinking about my first David Diangelo/Odd Jobs story always brings back mixed emotions, probably due to the real-life mysteries the story was based upon.
I’m going tell you about those mysteries now, but please note that they’re MAJOR SPOILERS, so you can go read the entire story starting here, for free on the web, before proceeding with this blog post.
The main part of the story concerns an old man who hires David to go down south, to central Illinois where his daughter disappeared years before.
This is based on a real-life incident that, well, I guess has haunted me for years. A young college student was traveling home one weekend in the ’80s, much like almost every other college student does. She was coming north on I-57 – the same road I used to travel to and from Eastern Illinois University.
Witnesses at the time say she was stopped on the side of the road. Maybe a flat tire or she threw a fan belt. Happened all the time with those older cars we used to drive. No one stopped because a truck was already there, parked in back of her. Most of the time, you see something like that and you know the person is in good hands.
Not this time. Her body was found a few days later in a corn field.
For months afterward, fliers were posted at toll plazas, gas stations and various oasis looking for that truck. It was pretty distinctive too, if I recall – blue with a blue strip on the trailer. To my knowlege it was never found.
I wondered – how does a killer with a fairly distinctive vehicle escape like that? How are they never found? In Lost Child, I proposed it was because they were already dead – killed and hidden themselves.
I hope that real woman’s family somehow got that kind of justice.
The secondary story isn’t as sad, but it is creepy. Again, in the ’80s, I was working nights at a local newspaper when the cops reporter came in. He looked like he had a story to tell and he did.
An elderly man walked into a hardware store on Archer Ave. in Chicago. Nothing unusual about that, and the clerk at the register waved to him as he walked toward the back of the store. After a bit, the clerk decided to go see if the old guy needed some assistance.
He walked toward the back of the store, looking for him among the shelves. Checked in the very back by the washrooms but didn’t find him. That’s when he heard it: a dull, rhythmic thumping, coming from the area where larger tools were kept behind a counter.
When he made his way over there, he was met with a shocking sight: The old man had gotten a hand axe from behind the counter, and with the axe in his left hand – and without making a sound except for the thumping of the axe head against the wooden counter, he was systematically chopping off his own right hand.
Cops, ambulances and all were called, and as the old guy was taken out of the store strapped to a gurney, one of the cops turned to the reporter and asked him:
“What do you think he did with it that so offended his god that he had to chop off his own right hand?”
The interesting thing about being in two different publishing worlds – comics and mysteries – is the times when one world’s opinions don’t exactly translate to the other.
That’s the case with self-publishing.
In the mystery field, quite understandably, self-publishing is not well thought of. There’s a lot of reasons for this: You can’t get the books into bookstores, there’s a perception (many times justified) that they lack quality and at the end of the day sale numbers are very low.
But the main reason is that there are a lot of publishing outlets for people who write mysteries so if your novel is good enough you can probably find a publisher.
In a recent twitter comment, publicist Dana Kaye said in reference to this blog post that she agreed self-publishing was nothing like being in an Indy band. And for the mystery field, she’s probably right.
In comics, though – and I think she’d agree – that’s not quite right.
Things have changed quite a bit in the past few years – for the better – but because of the dearth of publishing companies in comics over the years, and the overwhelming focus on one genre, a great tradition of self-publishing and small-press publishers developed in comics.
Along with that, venues for those products sprang up, cons large and small but always with space for the small independant. Not unlike the clubs and venues that give Indy bands opportunities to play and develop a following.
This weekend, mystery writers from all over are congregating in Indianapolis for Bouchercon, the big con for the mystery genre. But as large as it is, its attendance pales when compared to cons in the comics genre. Chicago’s attracts more than ten thousand fans, and even that’s nothing compared to the one in San Diego.
That’s not taking anything away from Bouchercon – I’ve been to two and if I could have managed to get to Indy I would.
But it does illustrate a difference between the two – comics conventions are far more sales-centric than mystery cons out of necessity for the “Indy band” culture in comics, something that isn’t needed at mystery cons.
And that’s not a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for not having to work sales to pay for a table in artists’ alley at a comiccon, as opposed to simply attending a con for the panels, networking and comradery such as is happening in Indianapolis at Bouchercon right now.
Wish I were there!