Bulletin photo by Kareya Saleh
Dan Szczesny, editor of “Murder Ink,” gestures to the audience before introducing the 10 authors who read excerpts from the book.
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M.J. O’Connor’s, a classic Irish pub in Boston, is not a place usually associated with book premieres.
But there, in a back corner away from patrons watching basketball and drinking beer on a Saturday afternoon, publisher George L. Geers began the Luncheon Book Premiere for “Murder Ink,” an anthology that revolves around fictional newspaper-related murders. More than 30 people attended the premiere, which took place Feb. 20 as part of the New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention next door in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
Geers and his two daughters run Plaidswede Publishing Co., based in Concord, N.H. Plaidswede specializes in New Hampshire and other books based in New England. Plaidswede has published more than 60 titles, the majority of them in four main categories: romance, detective, horror, or science fiction. Some have titles related to New Hampshire’s state motto “Live Free or Die.” The variations on that theme include “Live Free or Ride,” “Love Free or Die,” and the current work in progress, “Live Free or Dragons.”
In the past year, Geers formed the idea of a pulp fiction book based in New England, and thought of murder in a New England newsroom as a good subject.
“Many journalists dream about writing the great American novel, and we hope to offer our New England journalists a foot in the door with a crime short story,” Geers said.
Dan Szczesny, formerly a police reporter in Trenton, N.J., edited the anthology. Szczesny introduced the writers and discussed the origins of “Murder Ink,” which falls into a genre Szczensy calls “New England pulp fiction.” The anthology, subtitled “Thirteen Tales of New England Newsroom Crime,” contains 13 stories from 14 writers, nine of whom participated in the premiere. All of the stories are set in one of the six New England states and revolve around journalists from different time periods and walks of life.
The contributors in attendance included Oreste D'Arconte, former publisher at The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro, Mass.; Mark Arsenault, a metro reporter at The Boston Globe; and Victor Infante, entertainment editor at the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass. Besides the journalists who contributed to the book, authors Dan Rothman, Amy Ray, Greg Norris, Judi Calhoun, S.J. Cahill, and sisters Roxanne Dent and Karen Dent were also present.
As waiters scurried around the tables taking orders, D’Arconte, the first reader at the event, headed to the microphone. He was easily identifiable by his black hat with a card bearing the name The Sun Chronicle. He described his short story, “One Way Dead End,” as a shorter version of his novelette-in-progress, “Pine Street Blues.”
As the readings continued, each could be categorized as being about a reporter working for the greater good or having an obsession with getting his or her story placed above the fold. All revolved around standard murder scenarios, except for a piece by Arsenault titled “Murder by the letter,” which also dealt with the death of the newspaper industry.
Szczesny described Arsenault’s story as one about laid-off reporters getting together to solve one last crime. The piece follows Chad, a reporter for a newspaper outside Boston where reporting is being outsourced to the Chinese. When Chad protests the changes, Papa Bill, the Texas editor, fires him, leading to the one-last-adventure experience.
The Dent sisters, who live in Haverhill, Mass., collaborated on a story about a 25-year-old advice columnist itching to cover a death that initially seemed like a potential suicide. The story was set in 1945 and Szczesny teased the audience by mentioning that Nazis play a role in the tale.
Ray’s story, set in Maine, is about a reporter covering her first murder, with a dog as the main protagonist.
Szczesny told the audience that because many of the story submissions came from journalists, a lot of the entries were pieces of deadline writing. Infante began writing his story at 6 a.m. the day submissions were due. The work is aptly titled, “The Death of a Copy Editor.”
The final reading of the luncheon was a story Szczesny had been rooting for since reading the first line: “I was busy pissing on a birch tree like a dog.” Written by Calhoun, “Murder at the Monitor” told the story of a detective trying to do his job while also trying to get his wife back.
Susan Shultz, editor of The Darien (Conn.) Times; Ron DesJarlais, a copy editor at The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass.; and authors Tom Sheehan and Brendan DuBois also contributed stories to “Murder Ink,” but did not attend the premiere.
A second volume of “Murder
Ink” is set to come out in 2017.
(Information from a news release about the publication of “Murder Ink” can be found here.)
audience greeted the readings from ‘Murder Ink’ with enthusiasm.
Xandie Kuenning is an undergraduate student in the Northeastern University School of Journalism.
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