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2017 Derringer Finalist Travis Richardson

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.

A Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words) finalist for the second consecutive year, Los Angeles author and filmmaker Travis Richardson's "THe Educator" appears in 44 Caliber Funk: Tales of Crime, Soul, and Payback, an anthology edited by Gary Phillips and Robert J. Randisi.

Describe your story in up to 20 words.

Set in the 1970s, The Educator brings vigilante justice in a crime-ridden city on schoolteacher’s salary. Can you dig it?

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

Figuring out the tone was hard. The story went through several drafts ranging from slapstick to dark and brooding. For research, I read a couple of Donald Goines novels and listened to 70s funk music including The Meters, Funkadelic, and James Brown. That was fun.

Do you have a (juicy) story about how your story came to be published?

Co-editor Gary Phillips invited me to submit a story to 44 Caliber Funk. I would have never written "The Educator" or received the Derringer nomination without him. I owe a tremendous debt to Mr. Phillips not only for including me in this anthology, but for his mentorship and editing other works including my novella, Keeping The Record.

When the edits came back for "The Educator" it was suggested that I use the "N-word" in a couple places to heighten emotion. In my previous writings I have used the racist term, but I was determined not use it in this story. (A few years ago I wrote an essay about my encounters with that word.) We reached a compromise using profanity instead.

How does it feel to be a Derringer finalist?

It feels awesome. It is a tremendous honor and I am thrilled to see so many great writers become finalists. I also gained a needed confidence boost. I feel my writing productivity has diminished over past couple of years and I’m hoping to get back to typing like I used to. Thank you, SMFS!

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