When I first started reading crime fiction, Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine and others like it were the place to go. You’d not only get the old masters like Chandler, Ed Lacy, Fredric Brown, Lawrence Block, and Donald Westlake (in their may guises) but the up-and-comers too. It was a place for the aspiring crime writers to cut his or her teeth, and make next month's beer money. But, somewhere along the line, sadly, either the magazines didn’t feed the need or the authors found other outlets with higher allowances for beer money. EQMM as it is known, is the exception. Maybe it was because they always had higher standards for the quality of the writing, or maybe it was because they recognized new talent, but as the other pulps faded into memory, Ellery Queen survived.
Lately, or maybe I just started paying attention again, there have been some great stories, and great authors finding their way back to these publications. I ran across Grant O’Neill, the pen name for California author Don Ray Aldridge, who is also a songwriter. The story in July's issue is "Malibu Waltz." And it is a beaut.
The story would make Chandler proud, which isn’t surprising since, as O’Neill told me, he was inspired by reading a collection of Raymond Chandler short stories in 2009, to try his hand. The plot here isn’t that new as far as crime stories go: boy meets girl, boy gets blinded by the anatomy, throw in "a boy will do practically anything for her"... impractically too, and you have all the ingredients of a good crime story. But it takes a special cook nowadays to carry it off, and O'Neill is just such a cook.
Nick Tranor could be just any hustler in the L.A. area. He’s an ex-cop, kicked off the force after killing a politically connected strip club owner and small time hood. Over a woman. So, naturally, this being L.A., he only finds a bigger scam than the PD to make his living. He’s into "real estate investments." Not real estate, but real estate investments.