Being part of all three releases -- Murder Ink with my short story "Exhuming Secrets on a Hot August Day", and my sports-themed "Murder at Channel Ten" in 2017's Murder Ink 2 -- has been a complete joy, and I would like to thank Plaidswede publisher George Geers and series editor Dan Szczesny for giving my work such an incredible home. While conducting a forensic-style run through every notebook I've kept since I was fifteen for stray ideas last December, I discovered notes for a sequel to "Murder at Channel Ten" -- whether or not the Murder Ink franchise continues for a fourth volume, I plan to dive into that tale this spring.
Many of my fellow Murderers shared the back-stories behind their stories in Murder Ink 3.
Karen Dent and Roxanne Dent on "Killing Secrets": "Our last story in Murder Ink 2 ended in 1948 with Ruby solving ‘The Werewolf Murders.’ Judi Calhoun, a friend and fellow scribe (who is also included in Murder Ink 3), suggested we write about Ruby’s early years. “Killing Secrets” was born. In 1935, the Depression is far from over. Ruby is sixteen-years-old, and working on the Portsmouth High school newspaper. Her goal is to be a journalist. Walking to school, Ruby is almost flattened when Betty, the resident mean girl, takes a nosedive from a third story window. With no evidence of foul play, it’s declared a suicide. Ruby’s gut tells her different. This is her chance to prove herself. Ruby’s dogged determination to follow clues leads her to uncover a long-buried secret that could get her killed."
Patrick Sullivan on "You Never Know What You've Hooked": "Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, like everyplace else, has a bad problem with opioid drug use. We have dealers who are not exactly subtle about their trade. We have overdoses and occasional drug-related violence. And we have meetings -- oh boy, do we have meetings -- about the problem. It was at one of these meetings that a woman -- a minister, no less -- suggested that if something wasn’t done about the dope dealers, people might take matters into their own hands. Nobody formed a posse as a result, as far as I know. But the remark, made in a room full of people and with print and television reporters present, did get my attention. The main events in this story all happened, with the exception of the murder itself. All I did was change them around to avoid libel lawsuits and work in a few jokes."
Mary Duquette on "Masterpieces": "I have a literary fiction background, so I suppose because I originated from that angle, I was initially inspired by the characters. As I wrote the story, it sort of unfolded itself, and I wasn’t sure where it was going until the end. The idea of creating art using a dead body was intriguing and horrifying and was the running-off point for the plot of the piece. Also interesting to me was the idea of a reporter becoming fixated with a story (and the person in the story) to the point of obsession -- particularly when the fixation reveals something going on within that person’s own life. I also wanted to explore how deep love and grief can propel people to act in dangerous, unthinking ways. And, that something gruesome and tragic can also somehow be crazily gorgeous -- that there is a certain magic in finding magnificence in the ghastly, the moral within the immoral, the divine in the macabre. Is there an inherent art and beauty in all things? If not, where do you draw the line? I’m also fascinated by the idea of loving characters, and forgiving them, even when they do horrible things. I hope I achieved that!"
Oreste D'Arconte on "Beta Theta Pieman": "The last book in the Randy Dixon trilogy has some of my favorite elements in it: college fraternity life, the wonderful game of women’s rugby, witchcraft, the Patriots fan train to Gillette, Kurt Vonnegut, legal pot and Alcatraz. Oh, and a couple of murders and attempted murders along the way. Newspaper reporter Randy Dixon is in the middle of it, as usual, and pays in the end a heavy price for eluding a crushing conclusion of certain death. This third story follows ‘One Way Dead End’ and ‘Obituary Mambo’ (in Murder Ink anthologies 1 and 2) and ends with a broken Randy seeking a less exciting career than the noir-ish newsrooms of New England."
Amy Ray on "Last Resort": "This is my third story to be included in the Murder Ink series and all have featured Kay Leavitt, a reporter for a small weekly newspaper. Kay finds it hard to make ends meet on a reporter’s salary so she takes a second job caring for an elderly woman, Evelyn Lea. Evelyn is the owner of a sprawling beach resort and when she dies on Kay’s watch, Kay teams up with her bumbling editor and his crime-solving pug named Poe to investigate the suspicious death. I got the victim’s name from my first car, a secondhand Volvo nicknamed Evelyn. ‘Last Resort’ is set in Hampton Beach and I’ve spent many happy hours there listening to music at the Sea Shell Stage, just like Evelyn does in the opening of the story. Evelyn’s fictional resort would be located on Ashworth Avenue, one block from the ocean. It’s not my first story to use the picturesque coast of New Hampshire as a backdrop -- my novel, Dangerous Denial, was set there as well. The ocean spray and crisp summer breeze will always be a source of inspiration for me.”
S. J. Cahill on "The Canine Solution": "In Murder Ink 1, Gailene Palmer, an ambitious young reporter, murders the publisher-owner of Granite State Press as a short-cut to the top. In the ‘Solution 151’ story, Gailene introduces 151 proof rum as a weapon of convenience and a cover for the murder. With her name on the masthead of the paper, she begins using police detective Sanford Moulton as a background source for her prize-winning columns and writing her way to a Pulitzer. Unfortunately for her, Dan Szczesny created Murder Ink 2 and in ‘The Moulton Solution’ story, Sanford Moulton discovers that Gailene is a serial killer. Realizing he can’t prove it, he goes rogue, telling us that ‘Cops make the best killers.’ and becomes a vigilante. Unfortunately for Detective Moulton, Editor Szczesny extends the series to Murder Ink 3 and freelance pet columnist Alexis Logan, who runs a Doggie daycare, discovers what detective Moulton is doing and realizes he is coming for her. In ‘The Canine Solution’ story, Lexie Logan is able to stop him by letting every dog have its day. Let’s hope Dan Szczesny convinces Plaidswede Press to publish Murder Inc 4 before Lexie Logan comes down off the porch to run with the big dogs."
Judith Janoo on "Tangled Trawl Lines": "Ted Holmes, owner and editor of a small weekly newspaper, The Coastal Chronicle, plunges into a new mystery. He’s been working a feature on the lobster industry in his coastal Maine town but finds the subject of his profile, a seasoned lobsterman, has drowned. Why would an experienced fisherman, cautious and meticulous, end up overboard tangled in his own trap line? And did someone want him out of the harbor? Ted sets aside his profile casting a light on the industry that sustains his community to get at the truth of this man’s death. Ted has had a few successes, like stumbling into the murderer in Volume II of this series and covering that story, but mostly he struggles to sell enough papers to pay Rocko, his ace reporter, and a few part-time columnists. In matters of the heart Ted’s been schooled in the hard knocks of female rejection. But like any real newshound, he considers persistence his virtue. Holmesport may resemble the harbor town where I learned many of the mysteries of life, but the characters and events of this story floated in from somewhere miles offshore."
Lisa Eckelbecker on "Flea Market Felony": "If you’ve ever thought that shopping could be the death of you, you might be right. My story was inspired by a real death in 2008 at the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in Brimfield, Mass. A Florida man who’d been selling general merchandise at the ‘fleas’ for years was found dead in a sleeping bag in his van. A brief news report indicated he’d been feeling ill the day before. I don’t know what killed him, but I was struck by how the fields of a New England flea market could be the backdrop for tragedy. I’ve shopped at the Brimfield market for years, and I’ve written about it more than once, so I had a lot of experience to bring to this story. However, I’m also indebted to photographer Christine Peterson, who has sold antiques at Brimfield and offered invaluable suggestions about how collectibles dealers think and operate. This is my first piece of fictional writing, and I’m also incredibly grateful to author and journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose mystery writing workshop at a Goat Hill Writers conference in Rhode Island gave me the confidence and tools to write this."
And artist Donna Catanzaro on creating Murder Ink 3's cover: "The bombshell blonde and the handsome hulk return for the third Murder Ink cover. Here the two reporters investigate a murder on a shadowy city street. The police have come and gone, their chalk tracings of a body and a tommie gun remain on the slick cobblestone street. A gunshot-laden, leaking wooden crate of rum gives a clue as to the nature of the crime: it’s the height of Prohibition, and a rum-runner has had a run-in with the competition. But the two reporters are not alone. In the distance a man stands outside a car, watching. The shadow of a man with a gun lurks behind the female reporter. If you look closely you’ll see she has a weapon in the pocket of her trench coat. She senses the danger, from the strangers in the shadows who may be the murderers, and from the other reporter, who she has had an on-again off-again romantic relationship with since the cover of Murder Ink 1. Will they get back together someday, and grace the cover of a hot and steamy romance novel?'