I’m a big fan of hard-boiled mysteries and have read them for years. It’s getting harder to find new stories written in that style, so that makes me doubly glad to have found Jas R. Peterin’s “Car Trouble.” The story was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 2007, so it’s still under copyright. I can’t provide you with a link so you can read the story, but I can give you a taste of Petrin’s writing and direct you to a good place to find it.
The story grabbed me from the start, the way a short story must do if it is to retain its audience. The protagonist’s name is Leo “Skig” Skorzeny, and if that’s not a hard-boiled name, I don’t know what is. He and his old friend Eva are sitting in her kitchen while she cuts his hair. She’s been doing it for years, but he still tells her how he wants it done. She pretty much ignores him.
Eva tells Skig she’s going to trade in her car and get a new one. She tells him about the deal she made, and he knows instantly that she’s been cheated. Skig decides to get her a better deal, and that’s the beginning of the mystery. I do want to point out that Skig is quite ill at the time, and that gives the story needed depth. Too many short stories don’t offer layers, but that’s because it’s hard to do. Time and space is limited; a point has to be made. Petrin does just fine on both counts.
In this sample, Skig is telling the used-car salesman what’s what:
Skig said, “There’s not a car salesman alive wouldn’t hose a woman like that, unless he’s a saint, and you got no halo floatin’ over your head.” He watched Happy Dan turn purple. “Here’s what you do. You come down fifteen hundred on the MSRP — cash-back covers that — an’ you give her three, not two, for the trade, which is more what it’s worth. That’s forty-five hunnerd, good for ninety bucks off the monthly payment, an’ you still do okay. An’ don’t suck it all up with some BS prepping fees, like you polished the mirrors or something, or I’ll be back here for more negotiating. You getting all this?”
Me again. 🙂
Is your interest piqued? If so, you can find “Car Trouble” and many more good stories in the 2008 edition of “The Best American Mystery Stories.” If your library doesn’t have it, see if you can get it through interlibrary loan. The compilation is well worth the effort.
Here’s a list of the stories Petrin has written for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/Jas._R._Petrin
The magazine cover featuring the story: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock%27s_Mystery_Magazine_%28December_2007%29
Petrin tells us how he met Skig Skorzeny: http://trace-evidence.net/tag/jas-r-petrin/