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.

You can order the print versions direct from Untreed Reads and the e-book from Amazon.

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