New Short Story- Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell

…you can imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, the old guy ups and says, “I ever tell you about the time I had a three-way with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner?”

Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell Ragazine, Sept 1 2019

So, I have a new short story out in the world this month. Two of them actually, but more about that in a minute. This one appears in Ragazine, which is a smart, eclectic collection with some world-class contributors. I’m always glad and a little surprised when places of this caliber let me come and play in their sandbox. I also think it’s a pretty nifty little story.

The story is called Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell. It’s a tale of Old Hollywood, memory, and day-drinking. There is also a story behind the story that I thought you’d find amusing.

Usually, writers hate the “where’d you get that idea from?” question. It’s what we do. But the fact is that this story actually has roots going back 20 years or more.

My wife, The Duchess, is an old Hollywood geek. Like the Rainman of old movies. Anyway, we were sitting at the table after dinner with friends one night and we were relating our favorite scandalous tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Out of the blue, she comes up with one that knocked us cold.

When she lived in Palm Springs in the 80s, there was a local urban legend that sometime in the 1950s, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner were having a bit of a lost weekend in The Springs. According to the tale, they picked up a local gas jockey and gave him the weekend of his life. Well, of course, everyone said, “Can you imagine? That had to be the luckiest SOB that ever lived. Must have been the greatest night of his life!”

The writer in me asked a different question: What if it wasn’t? What if instead, it started a downward spiral and the guy never recovered? Since then, we’ve talked about that story many times with people, and I had threatened to write about it but it just stayed so much cocktail chatter.

The Duchess thought it should be a novel. I actually considered making it part of a play (yeah, I had delusions of grandeur. Don’t worry, it will never happen). At any rate, this year as I was stuck on the last few chapters of Johnny Lycan and needed a distraction the story finally came to me.

As usual with these kinds of pieces, the research was a blast. I had to pick a year when Ava and Frank were on the skids, Lana wasn’t married and hadn’t yet gotten involved with Johnny Stompanato, and the kid could still mathematically be alive today to tell the story. I settled on the summer of 1957.

Then there were all the details about the Coachella Valley and the people who lived there. Go Arabs. Only they’re not the Arabs anymore, for reasons you can well imagine. You also shouldn’t use the word “beaners,” but the behavior of the characters is not always condoned by the management.

If I thought nobody would care about such an odd little tale, I was disabused of that notion when I brought it to my Sin City Writers critique group, blessings be upon them. Enter Mike Foldes and the good folks at Ragazine, and here we are.

I had another story, with an equally twisted history published this week in Twist in Time. Part 1 of Los Angeles, 1954 is here, and I’ll say more in another post.

I hope you enjoy it. If you want to read more of my short piece, you can find them on my website under Short Stories and other Pieces. Support the litmags who publish writers, and if you like the short stuff, imagine entire novels full of that brilliance. You can find The Count of the Sahara, Acre’s Bastard and its sequel Acre’s Orphans on my Amazon Author Page.

The Resurrection of a Short Story- Dien Bien Phu, 1954

This morning, one of my short stories was published in the nifty online litmag “Twist in Time Magazine.” It’s a short piece of historical fiction set in Vietnam before the French left. You can read “Dien Bien Phu, 1954” by clicking on the link and visiting their very lovely website.

This story means a lot to me. First of all, one of my goals was to be published this year by an American magazine. The Count of the Sahara? The Book Folks are based in London. Dodging the Rain is a lovely litmag and I’m a fan: Galway, Ireland. Storgy? There’s a big old bromance going on with Ross, Tomek and the team over there but they’re in London. On one hand it doesn’t matter–the internet is a big place and as a Canadian living in the US writing a short story about a French soldier in Vietnam, does where it is published really matter? Still, it bugged me. Now that’s handled. Blessing on the homes and camels of Tianna, Renee, Adrienne, and their team.

There’s a second reason I’m excited, and it is that this story nearly didn’t see the light of day at all.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might recognize the title. It was originally submitted–and accepted– as my last contribution to the annual anthology of the Naperville Writers Group. I even put it up on my website but eventually pulled it off because, through a bizarre combination of things, it never got published. The editor literally forgot to add it to the final version of the book. (At least that’s the story I choose to believe.)

This turned out to be something of a blessing. While I was disappointed, I could now submit what I thought was a pretty darned good story and find a larger audience.

You can read more of my short stories on my site here. This is a solid addition to the collection.

Of course, to be cynical, the idea of getting my short stories published is to draw attention to the novels. If you like the short pieces you read for free, consider buying a copy of The Count of the Sahara or the Lucca le Pou stories: Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans.

A New Short Story in a New Genre- The Forger of Cairo

I love the short story form, and the good folks at Storgy.com have seen fit to publish one of my new pieces, The Forger of Cairo (you can read it here. Please do- and support my friends in London, who seem strangely fond of me.)

When I write short stories, it’s usually as a form of exercise. It starts with a challenge: can I do X? With “On the End of Magick,” I tried to emulate the Victorian tone of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.” With “The Last Good Cigar Day of the Year,” it was hoping to capture that one, small, moment of zen I get sitting on the deck with a good cigar. Whatever I learn winds up in my longer work.

So, what was I trying to do with this one? A couple of things. For one thing, I notice that the market for horror fiction is much bigger than for the smaller, historical pieces in which I usually indulge (although if you read it you’ll see I did a little of both. Old habits dying hard and all.) I am, after all, trying to find an audience and perhaps a stray buck or two.

The second reason is that the new novel I’m working on is NOT a Lucca book, but a strange little contemporary thing that has horror/action elements in it. Before I invest the next 6 months or so of my life in such an effort, I wanted to see if I could pull it off. I guess you’ll tell me (and I hope that you do. Tell a brother, would ya?) Not only that, but the McGuffin in this story, as well as Lemuel in The Clairtangentist, are part of the new work. It’s like I’m creating my own private Marvel Universe.

If you haven’t read the new book yet, what’s keeping you for corn’s sake?

So I hope you enjoy this story. If this is your introduction to my work, Please check out the other short stories on my site and others. More importantly, if you haven’t read my novels, particularly the newest one, Acre’s Orphans, what’s stopping you? They’re available in all formats on my Amazon Author Page (and the paperbacks are available in any bookstore that will order them for you.)

Don’t let the weasels get you down!