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2017 Derringer Finalist Bruce Arthurs

I'm a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, an informal association of writers, publishers, and fans that has kept mystery & crime short stories in the public eye since 1996. On April 1, the Society announced the finalists for its 2017 Derringer Awards, and I had the idea to promote the finalists with interviews.

With 2017 Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words) finalist "Beks and the Second Note", fantasy and science fiction writer Bruce Arthurs crossed into the pages of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (December 2016).

Describe your story in up to 20 words.

A man killed stopping a bank robbery had a second holdup note in his own pocket. Detective Beks investigates why.

What were the most difficult and most enjoyable parts of writing the story?

I usually try to think stories out in my head, to have a clear idea and plot before putting words onto paper. I call this "writing the second draft first". When it works, it saves a lot of time and wasted effort. (Sometimes plot and characters end up veering off in unexpected directions anyway, despite my screams of protest and frustration. Sometimes that ends up for the best. Sometimes.)

"Beks and the Second Note" was one with very few changes between the story in my head and the one that ended up on paper. A couple of passes for tightening and editing, and it was ready to go. That's always a welcome experience.

I was also working with a familiar character, which helped; the oddly-named Bok Beks appeared once before, in a very-small-press chapbook-sized anthology, in a story set after his police career. I'm hoping to write more stories with Bok, revealing more of his personal background and some of the secrets hinted at in "Second Note".

How does it feel to be a Derringer finalist?

A weird combination of "stunned" and "stoked". I've been a published (occasionally; what's the opposite of "prolific"?) writer since 1975, but "Beks and the Second Note" is my first work to garner an award nomination. I hope this overnight success thing doesn't go to my head.

[Also of interest, Bruce previously blogged about "Beks and the Second Note" for AHMM's Trace Evidence.]

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