"Won't You Come Out Tonight?"
"In 1969, after the publication of his first story in EQMM, Josh Pachter became the youngest active member in the history of the MWA. Since then, more than fifty of his stories have appeared in the pages of EQMM, AHMM, and dozens of other magazines and anthologies published in the U.S. and around the world. Mr. Pachter is also an award-winning translator who recently provided a story from the Dutch for our Passport to Crime series."
There's a lot to say about this one. For starters, I wrote it more or less on a dare from my daughter, Becca, who announced to me one day in 2001 that she didn't think I could produce a publishable short story any more. "I'll show you," I said, and sat down and wrote "Won't You Come Out Tonight?"
The story is about a woman named Sheri Lane, whose parents named her after the Four Seasons' song "Sherry" and who is stalked by a creepy guy from work named Darrin Stephens.
Well, not long after I moved to Cleveland in 1991, I became close friends with a woman named Carrie Anne Rhoads, whose parents named her after the Hollies' song "Carrie Anne" and who was stalked for a while by a creepy guy from work named Darren.
Carrie's Darren was Darren, not Darrin, and his last name wasn't Stephens. Another old friend of mine, though Lorel Janiszewski wound up dating a guy named Darrin Stephens, just like Samantha's husband on Bewitched, and it was with Lorel's Darrin in mind that I named Sheri's Darrin Darrin Stephens. Meanwhile, the Four Seasons' song was called "Sherry," not "Sheri," but I decided to change the spelling of my character's name as a nod to yet another old friend, Sheri Punday. And, if that's not enough old-friend references for you, Sheri Lane's friend Lynn Kasza is named after my old friend Lynn Kasza, and, when Lynn refers in passing to a Lisa and a Carrie, those are references to my old friend Lisa O'Stasik and, of course, to the original Carrie Anne Rhoads.
I need some new friends.
Okay, what else? In the third paragraph of the story, Sheri "picked up the jeweled souvenir dagger she used as a letter opener, slit the envelope open carefully, and slid out a folded sheet of cream-colored notepaper." That's a very close paraphrase of the second paragraph of my August 1972 EQMM story, "Invitation to a Murder." And Sheri's call to the police on page 104 is a close paraphrase of a scene from my September 1972 AHMM story, "Crank Call." (This is not plagiarism, it's a pair of in jokes. Okay?)
The cryptic "upper lip" reference on page 100 is to Humphrey Bogart. I have no idea why Darrin bought the roses in tens, instead of springing for a full dozen. And the abbreviation RFC on page 103 stands for nothing whatsoever; I made it up. (All the gun stuff on page 102, however, was very carefully researched although I'm sure there are gun nuts out there somewhere who will write in to point out mistakes.)
The reference to a "Passport to Crime" story in the introduction is misleading: it makes it sound like that story appeared in EQMM before this one. In fact, my translation of Theo Capel's "The Red Mercedes" was published several months after "Won't You Come Out Tonight?," in the June 2004 issue of the magazine.The publication of "Won't You Come Out Tonight?" marked the fifth consecutive decade that my work appeared in the pages of EQMM. (As of October 2020, I am the first -- and, so far, only -- person ever to publish new fiction in EQMM in seven consecutive decades!) In August 2013, I read the story for EQMM's monthly podcast series, and you can listen to it here. In November 2020, "Won't You Come Out Tonight?" was reprinted in Sandra Murphy's collection Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the '60s (Untreed Reads).
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