Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Reading - Part I - Murder on Wheels

The end of the school year always meant the beginning of the library’s summer reading challenge. My goal was to read the most books for my age level while enjoying what I was reading. Recently, when I finished the first draft of my WIP, I closed my computer and kicked off ten days of fun summer reading.  I devoured mysteries, biographies, literary fiction, and an anthology of short stories.

This post and my July 10th blog will discuss my Summer Reading and a bit of its impact on my writing. Fair disclosure, although the next blog will be devoted to books I purchased, today I am writing about Murder on Wheels, a book given to me because of my interest in reading, writing and reviewing short stories.

Murder on Wheels, published by Wildside Press, LLC (2015), contains eleven stories written by Austin Mystery Writers Kathy Waller, V.P. Chandler, Gale Albright, Kaye George, Laura Oles, Scott Montgomery, and invited authors Earl Staggs and Reavis Z. Wortham.  Ramona DeFelice Long deftly edited the “11 Tales of Crime on the Move.”

The genesis for this wheel related vehicle was a trip Kaye George’s husband took on the Megabus, a commercial double-decker bus.  Seeing the bus, Kaye’s mind instinctively wondered how one could successfully commit a murder and hide the body on the bus.  She consulted members of her Austin Mystery Writers group and their imaginations ran wild.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round ties together George’s idea and the Austin Mystery Writers' suggestions for where to hide the body.  What I found to truly make the story is Kaye George’s excellent characterizations.  With few words, she brings a reader into the heart and soul of her characters.

Although the literal me needed to ignore how a few minor things might happen in real life, much as I do when I read the Harry Potter books, Kaye George’s The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round and Have a Nice Trip, and Kathy Waller’s Hell on Wheels and A Nice Set of Wheels hit the mark for delivering perfectly pitched characters.  Each story was different, as were its characters, but there wasn’t one character in the four stories I wouldn’t want to read about again.

Gale Albright’s stories Mome Rath, My Sweet and Aporkalypse Now also depicted characters well, but their literary references to Alice and Wonderland and play on words required a bit more attention than I anticipated sharing with an author during my mindless state of fun time reading.

Rota Fortunae by V.P. Chandler was not a cozy read.  Rather, it was compelling.  Very different than the other stories in the anthology, it used setting, characterization, dialogue, and a sinister feeling to evoke a feeling of unrest that carried this reader from the first to the last word.

Whether reading about tractor, bicycle, bus or car wheels, I found myself transported by Family Business (Reavis Z. Wortham), Buon Viaggio (Laura Oles) and Red’s White F-150 Blues (Scott Montgomery).  Each individually is worth the price of a ticket for a Murder on Wheels ride.

Because it left me thinking afterwards, my favorite story in the anthology is Dead Man on a School Bus by Earl Staggs.  Staggs is a master storyteller who didn’t let his perfect use of the mechanical aspects of short story writing get in the way of crafting distinct characters and plot points. Whether talking about a pencil that isn’t being twirled, using an internal thought flashback, or juxtaposing concrete and suggestive feelings, Staggs managed to summarize a lifetime of feelings into a few pages.

Watch for my July 10th blog to see what else I read during my summer reading excursion.


  1. I did that too, Debra--read everything I could get my hands on during summer vacation. I recall going into the stone-laden Carnegie library in my small Kansas hometown and pushing my little sailboat along the watery track, showing how many books I'd read. The mast was held up with a gumdrop. Weird the things that stick in one's mind...and do not drop out, ever. Other things that I wish would stick do not. Those summer reading spells were very important to me, and I can tell they were to you too, Debra.

    1. Kay, It is interesting what we remember. Yours was a sailboat, mine a car one year; a plane another year; and my favorite --a big foot that walked across the library wall. Nice memories - and wonderful reading.

  2. Replies
    1. Art,
      Thanks for stopping by. Being the short story writer you are, I appreciate your comment here and on the Short Mystery List Serve. Looking forward to reading your new collection of short stories.

  3. Thanks for your terrific review, Debra. You're the best!

  4. I'm reading Mary Higgins Clark's latest and enjoying it.

    1. Marilyn,
      I just read one of hers, too. Such a relaxing read.


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