"The Milky Way"

"Josh Pachter is a full-time lecturer for the University of Maryland, European Division, teaching courses to Americans abroad. In addition to an active career writing fiction, he published The Short Sheet, a monthly newsletter about crime stories. 'The Milky Way' features the protagonists of Mr. Pachter's forthcoming first novel, Dutch T(h)reat."

I don't remember all the gory details, but not long after my "Busman's Holiday" appeared in New Black Mask 7 in 1986, publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich changed the series' name to A Matter of Crime and shrank the format down from trade paperback to mass market dimensions. Editors Matthew J. Bruccoli and Richard Layman stayed at the helm.

"The Milky Way" takes place about a year after the action of my novel, Dutch Threat. Smartass American historian Jack Farmer has stayed on in Amsterdam after helping to solve the Begijnhof murders, and he and lovely Dutch nurse Jet Schilders now seem to be running a moderately successful investigation agency.

There are a number of private jokes in this tale of a college student gone missing. The opening scene is set in a bruin café (old-fashioned bar) I invented a decade earlier and used in "Time for a Change" and "Masquerade," two of the stories from my Uitnodiging tot Moord collection — and Nico d'Angelo and Frank Kuypers, the protagonists of those stories, make a cameo appearance here. Eke Capel's description ("a tall brunette with a sunlamp tan and a nice shape on her bones") fits my by-then ex-wife Lydia to a T, her last name was borrowed from Theo Capel (publisher of Thrillers & Detectives), and the Sorcerer's Apprentice poster hanging on her living-room wall is one Lydia and I used to have. The John Lennon quote in the missing girl's school agenda has long been a favorite of mine: it's the first one you'll find on this website's Quotes page, and some years ago I had an Ohio artist paint it onto a ceramic plaque which hangs in my bathroom. The movie playing at the Melkweg, by the way, is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, one of my all-time favorites.

But the main joke, I guess, is that, in Holland, a pachter is a tenant farmer, so Jack Farmer is apparently me. I used the character one other time, in "Caves in Cliffs," which was written before either the novel or "The Milky Way" but was apparently set some years later, after Jack and Jet's relationship had fizzled.

When Dutch Threat finally appeared in print in 2023, we included "The Milky Way" as a bonus story at the back of the book.

Return to Bibliography.