by Cynthia Chow
& Four Of A Kind authors
Along with a review of Four Of A Kind: Four Tales of Mystery and Suspense, we have a guest post from each of the four authors sharing how they came up with their stories-J.R. Lindermuth, Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz, Webb Sawyer and Sara Williams. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of the book.
Four Of A Kind: Four Tales of Mystery and Suspense
Edited by Douglas Quinn
Review by Cynthia Chow
Poker is a game that revolves around skill, guile, and perhaps most of all, luck. In these four novella-length stories all play a factor in influencing the fate of their main characters, many of whom are often as deceptive as their opponents. While the successfulness of their heroes may vary, all the stories share a noir tone and enough twists and turns to surprise the canniest of mystery readers.
In one of the darker stories, J.R. Lindermuth’s “Papa’s Girl” features a young soldier in 1957 whose visit home to Pennsylvania is derailed by a possibly crazy one-armed man who invites him home to visit the daughter. Whether or not the daughter actually exists leads to a series of choices that are just as murky.
Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz livens up the collection with “Jigsaw,” in which a very noir private detective gets sucked into the manipulations of a psychic client who believes that she is targets for death. Lester T. Hayes has a smart-mouthed but prone to malapropisms sexy secretary, a limited budget, and a tendency of calling women, “Sweetheart.” Whether he is an honorable detective or simply prideful with a healthy ego is up to the reader to decide.
“I Lost My Happy Days” brings in Webb Sawyer, the hero of the novels by Douglas Quinn and the inspiration for this collection. Here, Quinn attempts to aid a friend who was the victim of a poker scam, but the results will be a surprise to both men.
Finally, in Sara Williams’ very unusual “Millie McCall’s Full Moon Poker Night,” Jim Halprin gets sucked in as a replacement in a poker game by a Harley-riding heiress who perhaps relates a little too much to the movie “Thelma and Louise.”
Structurally, the collection could have benefitted from a table of contents and headers that would identify the sections and authors. However, this is a lively collection where legal justice and moral justice are definitely not the same. Poker aficionados and fans of twisty plots and twistier characters will find much to enjoy.
The Authors of The Four Tales in, Four of a Kind, Share The Stories of Their Stories
J. R. Lindermuth’s Papa’s Girl
Like a good cup of coffee, sometimes an idea needs to percolate until it’s really ready. The seed for “Papa’s Girl” was planted many years ago when I met a character like Tony on a bus headed for a new military assignment. The first incarnation was in a play written for a college assignment. Danny didn’t even meet Anna in that version and my prof saw it more as a character study than a drama. Over the years I wrote a couple more short story versions, none of which truly satisfied me. When Doug approached me with the Four Of A Kind project and the card game theme I remembered my old bus acquaintance telling me about Polish Poker. I dug out my old notes (writers never throw anything away) and started looking at different angles. It wasn’t long before Anna and Tony took over and poor Danny didn’t stand a chance.
Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz’s Jigsaw
When it came to writing a story for the collection, Four of a Kind, although excited about the prospect, I originally had no idea where or how to begin. In fact, I thought my creative muse had packed her bags and departed for parts unknown. Then my husband and I began what we called a “noir film fest,” during which we watched the classics The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Out of the Past, and Farewell My Lovely. About midway through the second film, voila, the idea for “Jigsaw” was born: It would be about a down-and-out private eye, a femme fatale, and a high-stacks poker game; and in keeping with the noir genre, it would blend suspense with elements of humor.
Douglas Quinn’s I Lost My Happy Days
This story had been milling around in my mind for some time, but I didn’t have a place in the queue of Webb Sawyer mystery novels to work it in without trying to create a full-blown book out of it, so I decided to make a long, short story out of it. The only problem was, who would buy a 20,000 word work? So I created a poker-themed anthology and invited three other worthy authors to participate. Since my easy-going protagonist, Webb Sawyer, likes to help his friends out of a jam, who better than his loveable, but not all that savvy, ex-military buddy, Dave “The Wave” Meekins, who gets suckered into a bet he wished he’d never made during a fixed poker game.
Sara Williams’ Milly McCall’s Full Moon Poker Night
Douglas Quinn’s request for poker-themed short stories offered a perfect opportunity for me to thread together a number of tales about the San Juan Islands of Washington State, where rugged individualism is a prized character trait and skill at poker was–and still is–much admired. The tale of the heiress who rode her Harley down from her mansion to play poker with the loggers, wearing her flaming red nightgown is a true story that had neither beginning nor end; I gave the story a new heroine, time frame, and setting, and let the story be told through the eyes of a young Islander wanna-be who is determined to fit in.
To enter to win a copy of Four Of A Kind, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Four”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 29, 2012. U.S. residents only.