by Paula Gail Benson
When I became serious about writing short stories, I started seeing the name Earl Staggs mentioned frequently. From his website, I learned that he devoted himself to fiction writing after moving south from Baltimore, Maryland, finally settling in Fort Worth, Texas. As a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, he served as Vice President and President as well as twice receiving the Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.
Sadly, Earl passed away on January 3, 2020. He left a significant body of work, including a collection of his short stories and two novels, which received a list of 5-star reviews. He had been Managing Editor for Futures Mystery Magazine and contributed to the blogs Make Mine Murder and Murderous Musings.
I never had the chance to meet Earl in person, but I experienced his kindness on two occasions. First, in November 19, 2013, I wrote a blog message for Writers Who Kill comparing Christmas mystery stories that he, Barb Goffman, and B.K. Stevens had written. All had used similar elements, yet come up with very different plots and characters. Here's Earl's comment to the post: "I'm honored, Paula, to see my story included with Bonnie's and Barb's. They're two of the best short mystery writers around. I love writing the short stuff and if--make that when--my novels sell in the millions, I'll continue to write short stories. Thanks for this mention and best regards to you."
The second occasion occurred a few days later, November 26, 2013, when my story "Only the Sacrifice Knows" was published online in Kings River Life. Earl gave me this comment that I still treasure: "Good work, Paula. I had several ideas as to how it would end. All of them wrong. I love it when that happens. Thanks for a fun and interesting read."
I remain grateful for Earl's wonderful stories and kind words of encouragement. He has left an enduring legacy.