By Martin Morse Wooster: On August 25 I went to a Noir at the Bar, a short story reading for mystery writers held at a Busboys and Poets in Shirlington in Washington’s Virginia suburbs. The event drew about 60 people. It was sponsored by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which donated 50 copies of their September/October 2019 issue and a year’s subscription to a lucky raffle winner (not me).
The event had a strong Ellery Queen presence among the eight readers of short stories. The organizer was Josh Pachter, who has been selling short stories to Ellery Queen and other mystery magazines for over 50 years; his first sale to Ellery Queen in 1968 made him, at 17, the magazine’s second-youngest contributor in the magazine’s 78-year history. In addition, Pachter has published 20 translations in mystery magazines of stories by Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish authors.
Every year Ellery Queen holds a “Reader’s Award,” which is their version of the Analytical Laboratory. All three winners of the 2018 Reader’s Award—Pachter, David Dean, and Stacy Woodson—read at the event. Woodson was the first-place winner, and the first person to win the Reader’s Award with her first story. Also present from Ellery Queen was Kristopher Zgorski, who writes a column about blogs mystery readers would find interesting.
Of the eight writers who read, clearly the best was Shawn A. Cosby, an African-American author whose day job is working in his family’s funeral home, where he deals with a great many clients who were prisoners. Cosby’s sharply etched story dealt with the problems felons face when they are released from prison. I’d like to hear more from him. I’ll give second and third prizes to Pachter and David Dean, a former police chief who read his story about a deal gone sour in a passable Irish accent. I thought the other stories were OK, although I could have done without the one about a two-year-old who flunks toilet training in a spectacularly disgusting manner.
E.A. Aymar had the most imaginative story, which was a Choose Your Own Adventure style of fiction. A criminal gets stewed in a bar. Do we want him to a) get even more wasted or b) do something pointlessly stupid and violent? Well, guess what the audience wanted!
Busboys and Poets promises to let Noir at the Bar meet quarterly if the customers bought enough meals. Based on the crowd, I’m pretty sure the event will be held again.
(Hat tip: Todd Mason)