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2018 Derringer Finalist David H. Hendrickson

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 15, the Society announced the finalists for its 2018 Derringer Awards. Members are voting to determine the winners, to be announced May 15.

David H. Hendrickson
In the meantime, as I did last year, I'm inviting the finalists for interviews. If you'd like to participate, email me your answers to the same following questions.

Two of Dave Hendrickson's Fiction River stories have made the finals: "The Kids Keep Coming" for the Best Short Story Derringer (1,001–4,000 words) and "Death in the Serengeti" for the Best Long Story Derringer (4,001–8,000 words).

Describe your stories in up to 20 words each.

"The Kids Keep Coming": When a good cop looks the other way, his personal Hell is having his heart ripped open time after time.

"Death in the Serengeti": A Serengeti park ranger discovers elephant carcasses. When he investigates, his Land Rover explodes. These poachers play for keeps.

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

"The Kids Keep Coming": I usually don’t set out to write controversial stories with "meaning" or "importance." I just try to be a storyteller. Have fun myself and share that fun with the reader.

Sometimes, however, a story like “The Kids Keep Coming” pops into my brain. I know I have to tell it, and it may be controversial. Then the challenge becomes making sure the reader doesn’t misunderstand what the story is trying to say. In our increasingly polarized society, this can be a tightrope act.

So it's extremely gratifying to see that “The Kids Keep Coming” seems to have achieved that goal. It doesn’t get much more enjoyable than that.

"Death in the Serengeti" was written for an anthology of thriller short stories, Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline. Thrillers naturally require a lot more than the stipulated limit of 6,000 words, so it was a challenge to stay within that limit while providing the reader experience I was after.

That said, I love challenges. What’s the point of staying in a boring, stagnant comfort zone?

I've also loved writing about Africa ever since my Trip of a Lifetime to Tanzania and Rwanda. I've used that captivating setting for several stories as well as my novel, No Defense. I enjoy every creative trip I take back there.

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

For "Death in the Serengeti", the hard deadline was on a Monday, 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I finished the story I had originally intended to submit more than a day early, but I wasn’t happy with it. All of a sudden, the idea for “Death in the Serengeti” began to form. I got started that night, wrote like a madman all day Sunday, and submitted the story at 2:58 a.m. Monday.

Hitting that deadline with two minutes to spare was a thriller in and of itself.

The editor, New York Times bestseller Kevin J. Anderson, loved the story, but wondered if we could amp up the thrills to make it even better. So over a Thai food lunch, we brainstormed ways to achieve that goal. The improvements were subtle, but effective. It also was an awesome look into the creative mind of a bestselling writer.

How does it feel to be a Derringer finalist?

I was overjoyed to read that one of my stories was a Derringer finalist. But I was absolutely gobsmacked when I realized that two of my stories were finalists. I couldn't believe it!

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