The Beat of Black Wings:

Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell

edited by Josh Pachter

In the Acknowledgments section at the back of this book, I thank "the letter K for setting everything in motion." Readers will -- or at least I hope they will -- wonder what the heck that cryptic comment means, and this seems like a good place to explain.

On the morning of the day I turned sixty-six, I woke up early and, not wanting to awaken my wife Laurie, settled in at my computer with, for once, nothing important that needed doing. On a whim, I decided to create an alphabetical list of the titles of the almost a hundred short stories I'd written over the preceding fifty years. When the list was done, I realized that there were only half a dozen (well, seven) letters I'd never used at the beginning of a story title: K, P, R, U, V, X, and Z.

I know what I'll do, I decided, I'll write stories to fill in the blank spaces!

Since the first missing letter was K, I figured I'd start there. So, hmm, a story title beginning with the letter K. "Kill Shot," "Killing Me Softly," "Killer...."

And then I remembered Joni Mitchell's "The Beat of Black Wings," which is one of my favorites of her songs, and which is about "a young soldier, his name was Killer Kyle." So I wrote a story called "Killer Kyle."

Right around then, though, I became aware of the existence of several books of crime stories inspired by the lyrics of such songwriters as Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash, and I thought it might be fun to put together a book of stories inspired by Joni Mitchell songs. The Beat of Black Wings seemed like a logical title ... but that meant I'd have to change the name of my Killer Kyle story, dammit! (Just in case anyone's interested, I later wrote a story called "KLDI," which will be in Michael Bracken's Mickey Finn 2 in 2021.)

Anyway, I contacted a bunch of writer friends (many but not all of them members of the local Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime) and almost everyone I contacted was enthusiastic about the project, as were Jay Hartman and K.D. Sullivan of Untreed Reads, who eagerly offered to publish the collection in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

A nice interview about the book appeared on the Wicked Authors blog on April 6, 2020. On April 7, the official launch date, a dozen of the authors commented on their stories at SleuthSayers. On April 11, the book was featured at Jungle Red Writers. And a number of the contributors and I also made an appearance on Pam Stack's Authors on the Air internet radio show.

Early in 2021, two of the book's stories were named finalists for "Best Short Story" awards -- Elaine Viets' "Dog Eat Dog" for the International Thriller Writers' Thriller Award and Stacy Woodson's "River" for the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer -- and on May 1, 2021, it was announced that Stacy's story had tied for first, so we have a winnah! Then, on May 5, I found out that The Beat of Black Wings itself is a finalist for Bouchercon's Anthony Award in the "Best Anthology or Collection" category....

You can order the print and e-book versions direct from Untreed Reads and it's also available from Amazon.

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