Sometime in 2021, I think, somebody posted a comment to the Short Mystery Fiction Society's listserv complaining about the wave of anthologies inspired by songs that was hitting the market. I was contributing to the wave — by then I already had books of stories inspired by the songs of Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, and Billy Joel out — and I responded that I wasn't going to stop doing more of them just because this one guy didn't like them. Kidding, I added something along the lines of "But, hey, I promise you I won't edit an anthology of stories inspired by one-hit wonders."
Well, Jay Hartman — who was at the time the editor in chief at Untreed Reads (which had published my Joni and Billy books) — replied, "Stories inspired by one-hit wonders? I love that idea! If you're not going to edit that one, Josh, do you mind if I do?"
I didn't mind, and Jay invited me and several other fine short-story writers to contribute. I Googled a list of one-hit wonders and decided to write a story inspired by the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays," a song that was itself inspired by an actual school shooting in California back in the early 1970s. Jay accepted the story — but then Untreed Reads changed owners, Jay left the company, and the new owner, a nice guy who simply doesn't like short stories, cancelled the anthology.
I submitted "I Don't Like Mondays" to Mystery Magazine on May 23, 2023, and editor Kerry Carter accepted it on May 30 and ran it in her July 2023 issue.
When Jay's noncompete clause with Untreed's new owner expired, he revived the idea of a one-hit wonders book and asked me to write a new story. I did, and "The Rapper" was the result. Why did I pick that song this time around? Well, I did another Google search and looked up the histories of some of the one-hit-wonder songs I particularly enjoy listening to. And when I researched the Jaggerz' "The Rapper," I found to my surprise and delight that it was written by a guy named Donnie Ierace, who during the early '60s attended Slippery Rock State College — where from January 1978 to May 1979 I had my first-ever college teaching position! Given that several-degrees-of-separation personal connection to the song, picking it was a no-brainer.
I always like to fill my "inspired by" stories with Easter eggs, little buried treasures for the cognoscenti to discover. For "The Rapper," in which three irrepressible Slippery Rock coeds team up to take down a predatory professor, I named my randy prof Donald after Donnie Ierace, and named the coeds Allie George, Bonnie Faiella, and Kendra Koodrich after Donnie's original bandmates in the Jaggerz: Alan George, Benny Faiella, and Kenny Koodrich.
(I Just) Died in Your Arms: Crime Fiction Inspired by One-Hit Wonders was published by Misti Media Books in January 2024.
Return to Bibliography.