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Monday, January 30, 2023


The Neighborhood
Merrilee Robson’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery MagazineAlfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineThe People’s FriendMystery Magazine, and many other magazines and anthologies. Her traditional mystery, Murder is Uncooperative, is set in a non-profit housing co-op. Along with serving on the boards of several writing organizations, she’s served two years on the Vancouver Police Board, which provides civilian oversight to the Vancouver Police Department. Learn more about Merrilee and her mysteries at her website. 

There Goes the Neighborhood

My neighbors are lovely. I live on a street with block parties, an active neighborhood watch program, and outdoor caroling events each winter. We share gardening tips over the back fence and invite neighbours over for a glass of wine on summer evenings.


So why is my short story, “The Ass-in,” recently published in Hook, Line and Sinker: The Seventh Guppy Anthology, about a very bad neighbor?


Maybe it’s because almost everyone has had experiences with problem neighbors. Maybe the older woman in the apartment who pounded on the ceiling and complained to the landlord whenever the students above walked across the floor in their own home. The people borrowing things they never return. Or the guy learning to play the bagpipes!


Or maybe the idea was prompted by temporary irritation at the electric saws and hammering that are part of the inevitable home renovation projects necessary in my neighborhood of 100-year-old homes.


In any case, although my short stories are often traditional mysteries solved by amateur sleuths, one of the things I love most about writing short stories is the chance to try writing different types of crime fiction. I thought it would be fun (and funny) to write about an apartment building occupied by Wally, a problem neighbor.


But it wasn’t. I wasn’t happy with my first draft. Written from the point of view of Keira, the victim of her criminal neighbor, it was more in line with the traditional mysteries I usually write.


But it didn’t work in the way I wanted. Keira wasn’t really taking action. She was simply reacting to the things Wally was doing. It wasn’t interesting. And it wasn’t funny.


In a writing class I once took, the instructor advised us that, if a scene wasn’t working, try writing it from the perspective of a different character.




Wally’s voice took hold. He was taking action, however haplessly. It was funny. At least I thought so.


So, when I saw the call for submissions for Hook, Line and Sinker, looking for stories of grifters, con artists and their victims, I knew this story had found a home.

In this new anthology, twenty-three authors have taken the common theme and created an array of very different stories, from cozy to noir and from historical to contemporary. Vulnerable seniors or small town innocents turn the tables on slick con artists, and things don't always work out the way the grifters expect.

Of course, as Wally explains in my story, none of this was his fault. It was all because of the dog.


Hook, Line & Sinker

The Seventh Guppy Anthology


Mystery deep inside, in that place you hide from the world, have you ever considered how you would carry off a great con? Or maybe secretly plotted revenge for falling prey to a grifter, liar, or cheat? As these twenty-three authors of devious plot twists show, whether it’s running a con or extracting revenge, it doesn’t always go the way you expected. In this seventh anthology of short stories from the 1,100 - member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the stakes are high: money, power, love, and life itself. The stories range from Tudor England to tomorrow’s headline after another fish takes the bait. Hook, line, and Sinker.


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Marcelle Dubé said...

Knowing Merrilee's writing, the anthology will be worth picking up, if only for her story! Congratulations to all.

Anonymous said...

Having read Merrilee’s story, I can vouch that she found the right voice. Debra

KM Rockwood said...

A fun story in a fun anthology!

Mary Monnin said...

Blame the dog! Haha. Great story, Merrilee!

Susan Daly said...

Sounds great, Merrilee.
I'm looking forward to reading them all, since I just got my hard copy.

Kaia Misk, Author said...

Great idea! I'm new to the SinC

Merrilee Robson said...

Thanks so much everyone. I have found that, even if I don't want to change the voice, thinking of a scene from the point of view of another character is a great way to add depth. Again, I was so impressed by how different the 23 stories are, even if they all started from the same theme.