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What If Jack the Ripper. . .

What if Jack the Ripper were alive today? Would he use Twitter? Would he understand it?

What if Jack the Ripper were alive in the 1950s and became a cardigan-wearing crooner? Would his music be any good? Would people think all the stabbing references unromantic? Imagine the holiday specials.

What if Jack the Ripper shot JFK? Has that been done before? It sounds like it's been done before. (Does it matter if it's been done before?)

What if Jack the Ripper were alive in the 1970s and got into est? How would that go?

What if Jack the Ripper were an extraterrestrial who gets befriended by a young boy who teaches him the meaning of family? The saccharine would be the deadliest part of that story.

What if Jack the Ripper were an ex-CIA agent? Trapped on a crippled passenger-filled spaceship? Being held hostage by Soviet agents? At Christmastime? Cue the clever quips.

What if Jack the Ripper joined a grunge band? A rap group? A boy band?

What if Jack the Ripper was turned into an accountant who didn’t have the most pleasant personality, oh but what he could do to a budget?

What if Jack the Ripper became a car salesman? What would he have to do for you to leave today with the best car on the lot?

What if Jack the Ripper were reborn as an opera singer? Would he be heralded for his work in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle? What if his heart was really in musical theater?

R U NORMALIZIN ME?

What if Jack the Ripper were a mystery writer? Would writing crime fiction quench his desires?

What if Jack the Ripper were a mystery writer who had to fill a blog post?

What if Jack the Ripper was a really cute and distracting puppy with big floppy ears and the most doleful eyes? Awwwww. Name him “Saucy Jack”! “He’s a cute pup,” you might say, “but the vet bills are from hell!”

What if Jack the Ripper were a cat? What if all cats are Jack the Ripper? They are, aren’t they?

What if Jack the Ripper were a modern teenager? What if all modern teenagers are Jack the Ripper? They are, aren’t they?

What if Jack the Ripper took a job as a department store clerk who enjoys his job and has pleasant relationships with everybody? Except fry cooks, for some reason.

What if Jack the Ripper took a job as a fry cook?

What if Jack the Ripper were alive today and ran for public office? Too easy? Would he more likely become a Hollywood producer?

What if Jack the Ripper were an attorney? Not much of a stretch there either. But what if Jack the Ripper sued for residuals?

What if Jack the Ripper lived in his parents’ basement but instead of going out at night or ever he just sat in front of telly all the time eating chips and talking about disemboweling this person and eviscerating that person so much that sometimes his parents feel the need to say, “Instead of just sitting there, get off your arse and do it. Just do something.” But then he still doesn’t. Although he does go on 4chan and Reddit a lot.

What if Jack the Ripper were your chiropractor? your allergist? your dentist? Too far?

What if Jack the Ripper were Hercule Poirot? What if Jack the Ripper were Miss Marple dressed as Hercule Poirot but not for Halloween?

What if Jack the Ripper were Sherlock Holmes?

What if Jack the Ripper were Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother who is also a vampire and a werewolf?

What if Jack the Ripper were Santa Claus? And you forgot to leave him cookies. . .

—Richie Narvaez

•     •     •

Richie Narvaez is the award-winning author of Roachkiller and Other Stories. His fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Sunshine Noir, Spinetingler, and more. His debut novel Hipster Death Rattle will be published in 2019.

Mug Shot: Kellye Garrett

Kellye Garrett spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released in August of this year. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month and described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.

•     •     •

What are you working on currently?
I just turned in the second book of the Detective by Day series. It's called Hollywood Ending and it takes place during Awards season, which is a three-month stretch at the beginning of the year when you have the Oscars, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards. and what feels like every other major awards show known to man.

When and how do you find time to write?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I commute from New Jersey to Manhattan every day for work so I'll compose scenes while on the train and quickly jot down ideas and dialogue bits on the Notes app on my phone. When it comes to actually sitting down at my laptop, I tend to do that in the evening right before bed.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I'm still trying to figure this one out since this is my first book. I do blog with five other amazing authors who also write amateur detective novels at ChicksontheCase.com. I'm also very active on Twitter. In addition, I'm lucky to be part of two amazing and supportive writing communities: Pitch Wars, which is a contest that pairs established authors with unagented writers to help them revise their manuscript for an Agent Round, and ’17 Scribes, which is a group of more than 100 debut authors with adult and New Adults book out this year.

Otherwise, I try to find creative way to promote my book so people don't get tired of me. Though I'm sure some still do! I recently started an online annotated guide to my book where I share background info and tidbits about the scenes, characters, etc.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
Hmmm. Maybe Detective Lou Norton from Rachel Howzell Hall’s series because she’s such a strong, smart and sometimes sarcastic black woman. Although I see that type of person a lot in my family and friends, I don’t see that nearly enough in mystery novels. On the flip side, it also might be fun to be Spenser for a day, just so I could spend the day kicking ass and cooking. Though I'd probably not choose a day where he has one of his brutal workout session with Hawk.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is rewriting.

Why? Why? Why?

I’m sure all the writers out there have been asked some variation of this question: Why did you become a writer? And I’m sure we’ve all given thoughtful answers. I know I’ve given my share of what I believed were honest answers and hoped were interesting ones, too.

But when I really think about this question, the most honest answer I can come up with is: I don’t know. At least, I don’t know of a single reason. There are really a bunch of reasons, some of them profound, some of them less so: I write because I have something to say about the world/because I can create my own world and not bother with the real one; because people’s lives fascinate me/because I don’t have to change out of my pajamas and deal with those annoyances known as people; because I love the intricacy, music, and rhythm of language/because I haven’t a clue how to do much of anything else. All true.

Inevitably, I’m asked why I write crime fiction. That one’s a bit trickier to talk about in polite company. How can one politely say, “Because I like crime?” “Because murder is interesting?” “Because murderers are interesting?” When saying these things to questioners, it’s not unusual for their follow-up to be either peculiar looks or some variation of “How do you sleep at night?”

Sometimes, in order to inject the conversation with something more palatable to my interlocutors, I’ll point out that crime fiction often deals with issues of justice or lack of it. This seems to interest — even satisfy — the moral sensitivities of some of my questioners. For more intellectual types, there’s always the issue of The Puzzle, the satisfaction of following clues to arrive at whodunnit. For questioners who insist on challenging the literary integrity of crime fiction, I remind them that issues of life and death, of murder and its consequences, have been explored by history’s most lauded literary lights. Homer, anyone? Shakespeare? Victor Hugo? This often results in thoughtful nods of the head.

But there is another answer to the question of why I write crime fiction, and though all of those other answers are true, this one is the answer I like best: because I don’t know how it will end. Some crime writers know the ending to their stories. I’m one of those who don’t. Who lives and who dies, who’s guilty and who’s not, who gets away with it and who meets justice, reveals itself as I write. The stakes are thus very high for my characters. And for me.

Okay, I guess I have to add yet one more answer to why I write crime fiction: for the thrill of it.

—Ann Aptaker

•     •     •

Lambda and Goldie winner Ann Aptaker isn’t shy about telling you how much she loves her hometown, New York City. She swears she even feels its history; all those triumphs and tragedies of the famous and the forgotten. She’s now old enough to be part of that history, which she likes, except for the “old” part, which she’s iffy about. Ann is happy to bring you into that history in her Cantor Gold crime series.

For the Love of Noir

Ask a roomful of writers or filmmakers to define what constitutes "noir" and you’ll get a roomful of answers. At one time or another, I’ve heard or read: it’s about the discontent of humanity, it’s about losers, it glorifies losers, everyone gets screwed, the subversion of justice, villains as heroes, even that old chestnut, “the dark night of the soul.” In other words, noir life ain’t pretty.

So if noir life ain’t pretty, what’s its lure? Why do people write it? Read it? Flock to its movies? Why are people willing to read hundreds of pages or sit through two hours of a movie about doomed souls in a world where everything is stacked against them and there’s probably no good way out?

Catharsis? There but for the grace of…? The satisfaction of “Aha! I knew the world is rotten?”

Could be. In part, anyway. But my gut tells me that’s not enough. There has to be something even deeper than mere catharsis, something seductive.

I suppose there could be many answers to my question about the lure and popularity of noir, but I think at its core it’s because noir is…beautiful.

There. I’ve said it. Noir is beautiful. It’s a seedy beauty bred in shadows, to be sure, but as any artist —painters, photographers and filmmakers in particular, even sculptors — will tell you, shadows can often be more interesting than light. Shadows carve, shadows clarify. And noir, if nothing else, is a narrative of shadows; real ones in its style, metaphysical ones in its morality. Noir, then, in its indelible and iconic visual style, even in literature, and its fearless embrace of a blurred philosophy of right and wrong, is art.

Noir, whether in dark alleys or on sun drenched streets, cracks open the surface of life where the bright smile and the positive attitude will, it is falsely promised, be rewarded, and instead reveals the shadowed life underneath. Emotions held in check on life's surface, noir releases in all their rawness: sadness, disappointment, desperation, rage, heartbreak, love curdling into hate. The men and women who live in the noir world, either by choice (criminals, sleazy business types, opportunists, corrupt officials, dirty cops, etc.) or circumstance (the victimized, the unfortunate, the helpless, the trapped), are either willing or forced to express emotions and engage in actions we might normally hold in check. Their lives may be going nowhere but to doom, but the trip there sure isn’t dull. It’s full of feeling, full of danger.

It’s beautiful.

—Ann Aptaker

•     •     •

Lambda and Goldie winner Ann Aptaker isn’t shy about telling you how much she loves her hometown, New York City. She swears she even feels its history; all those triumphs and tragedies of the famous and the forgotten. She’s now old enough to be part of that history, which she likes, except for the “old” part, which she’s iffy about. Ann is happy to bring you into that history in her Cantor Gold crime series.

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