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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bit of Back Story for "One More Victim"

In many ways, One More Victim is one of the oddest works I've done.

I'm not sure it's wise to write about the genesis of a story. Joseph Conrad did so in a series of fascinating introductions for a collection of his stories. And I think of One More Victim as my own sort of Heart of Darkness, not that I would ever try to compare myself to the great master of fiction.

I remember circa 1975 looking out the back door of our house in Hutchinson, KS, in February, and seeing a group of crows pecking holes in our black garbage sacks. It started a poem in my head. The poem stated the essence of a story that took me almost 30 years to finish as I found the tale that expressed the poem and then finally wrote the last stanza of the poem that ends the story.

The Holocaust is critical to the plot and the atmosphere. Deep love -- not betrayed, but deep love not fully realized -- is an emotion most people don't want to explore. This writer did.

What genre is this novella? I have no idea.You tell me.

Katy Soezeva was an indefatigable reader, prolific reviewer, and an excellent editor. She deserved much thanks from me for her careful and sensitive editing and suggestions about this story. She was an ambassador of my works. She passed away several years ago but I, and her friends, still mourn her passing. At one time, she was a top 500 Amazon reviewer. Here is what she had to say about One More Victim:

"One More Victim is an amazing, heartbreaking, beautiful story (it says so on the cover) - but then, those are my words, the words I said right after I finished editing it - I cried while I was editing it, and I'm not the sort to easily become overly sentimental about a story. It is a coming-of-age story, a story of realizations, a story about beginnings and endings - it is a story I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-spun tale."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Too Much Fascination with Serial Killers?


Watching Hannibal, the TV series, made me realize I have rather a fascination with serial killers. And that made me do an inventory of my own fiction. Oh. Gosh. Perhaps rather too much of one. Here they are in order they were published.

First is Blow Up the Roses. Mr. Brown rents one side of the duplex that Mrs. Keene owns. Mr. Brown likes to take pictures and has created a sound-proof room in his basement where despicable things are being done to increasingly younger girls. But now he has an idea for a master project that surpasses any other.







Next was The Notebook. A professor who returns to his old college town for a seminar wonders if the notebook he left in the attic of the house where he rented a room might still be there. It is and what it reveals results in a story for which no reader yet has foretold the ending.








After that, Heart Chants, tells about a half-Navajo, half-White young man who needs to kill special Navajo women students so that he do the chant to open the gates once again to the Holy People in this second novel in the Phillip McGuire series.








Then The Fat Cat, which features Ellie who five years ago ran from her job as a TV newscaster in another city because two things. Now, managing a strip club, one of those things is happening again. Dancers are being found dead in dumpsters with their thumbs and little fingers cut off.








My most recent short story Drive, Chip, Putt, and Kill features a professional golfer who gets in some extra work while he's out on the tour. It will take a golfer to catch a golfer.









And last, Indigenous Clay, the third in that Phillip McGuire series--my current work in progress in which I am baffling stalled--has a character who has started killing the daughters of board members who run or ran the boy’s home where he was castrated.

Monday, December 24, 2018

An Experiment My Newspaper Columns

 In 16 years working for two newspapers I wrote a lot of columns. I had thought to publish selected ones in a book, but never did so. But I did assemble and retype the ones I wanted to use and had them edited. And they have languished all this time. Thought I'd see what scans of those sheets would look like online. What think ye?

Monday, November 19, 2018

How I Came to Write the Lovecraftian Tale: "The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley"


Edward Hawthorne had no premonition of the at first disturbing and later horrifying consequences that would result from his joining the Friends of Pilley Park Garden Society.


Thus begins The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley, which one reviewer said out-Lovecrafted Lovecraft. Thought I'd tell the back story of how I came to write it.

Shortly after we moved into our house south of The Plaza here in Kansas City, they started draining the pond at Loose Park, one of KC's most beloved walking spots.

In one of the stately mansions that faced Loose Park occurred an horrific murder. A brother and sister lived in the house and one night the brother beat the sister to the proverbial pulp. I followed the story in the newspaper. At first appearance the brother sat in his bench banging his head against it. The next day the newspaper reported the man had died in his cell. A few days later the autopsy report said the man had died of "total system collapse," a cause of death I had never seen before nor since.

Loose Park was also the site of a major Civil War battle in Kansas City.

Something clicked. I had been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft since high school. I had just finished a writing project and I wanted to do something in a completely different style. The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley.

Here's what an early reviewer thought of it:

"Back in college when everyone seemed to be reading Tolkien, I was entranced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was one of the writers from an earlier era who depended more on a creeping feeling of unease instead of over-the-top gross-out effects that seems to be favored by modern writers.

"Now Lovecraft has been reborn for a new generation in Randy Attwood's The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley. The story has no vampires or werewolves that seem to proliferate in modern thrillers. Instead, it follows the path laid out by Lovecraft. There's the modern every-man who slowly descends into increasingly weird situations. There's the "bad guy" who may not be really bad, just a bit toys-in-the-attic crazy. Then there's the setting ... in this case, as in some many of Lovecraft's stories, a passage that goes further and further into the earth toward ... well, to say more would spoil the story. (I always wonder what Freud would say of Lovecraft's frequent use of damp, dark underground settings, but I digress.)

"Amping up the creepiness factor are a Civil War backstory, hordes of workers who seem kin to zombies and the dry rattle of bones coming from cells along the passages of this underworld. Together is makes for top-notch story telling. This isn't the type of horror that makes you gag on grossness. Instead, it's the kind of story that's the literary equivalent of a shudder caused be a cold hand brushing against you in the dark."

Later, I felt so proud of this note that the Lovecraftian scholar William E. Hart sent me:
"Randy,
"I received your excellent story today, The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley, read it, and having found it to be a marvelous tale that touches upon Lovecraftian mood, and events somewhat similar to those in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, with your own original spin on the past haunting the present; I now also recommend it as a bargain to download in a Kindle format from Amazon."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Collection of Stories Set in Kansas




I decided to collect all of my shorter works set in Kansas and publish them. The title is pretty trite: Kansas Stories and the cover is a sunflower, but it’s a nice big sunflower picture taken by Kansas City photographer Roy Inman.

There are eight stories in the collection, although one of them, Hospital Days is made up of 10 short-short works. The longest is around 30,000 words.

I guess I would classify the genre of each story as “literary.” Hope that doesn’t scare you off. The ebook version is here. The paperback version is here:

(A thank you to my friend Rob McKnight for suggesting this collection.)

Below are the titles and a link to the individual story if you’d rather just read just that one:

A Kansas snowstorm forces a car of college students returning home for the holidays to take refuge in the hotel of a small town where they encounter a fellow traveler who also seeks shelter and has a story to tell about the consequences of another snow storm decades before when a hideous truth is revealed about an old woman, stuck in her own time slot.


Reviewer: “It’s no small feat to write such a richly-layered story that spans several decades in a scant 62 pages, but Randy Atwood has managed to pull it off. One More Victim is a coming-of-age story, a love story and a story about extraordinary secrets hidden by outwardly ordinary people. Most of all, it’s a story about how war can leave victims in its wake long after it has officially ended.”


Opening: There really is a Kansas sky, wide as the land is flat. On fall mornings it seems as if the stratosphere drops down just before dawn to touch the trees, make crisp the leaves of brown and red and yellow, rise again to paint the sky a deep blue, and leave the air as clean and as fresh as a newly-cut lemon.

This Saturday the crystals of the first light frost melt on the buffalo grass and wet my shoes as I go to catch a ride to town on the bus for the insane.


No reader yet has foretold the ending to this story.

Reviewer: “Loved it! The ending came too soon, being so captivated by their story. This is a story I would recommend to my reader friends. This is also an author I will be following and waiting for more amazing stories. So much was told in a short time...it leaves you wanting for more…”


Reviewer: “An absolutely gorgeous story, voluptuous descriptions that just beg for someone to paint the scenes in oils. Who thought that a short story about golf could be so intense, so vivid and so engaging - I literally walked out to the mailbox with my Kindle in my hand, reading. You don't want to miss this latest from Randy Attwood - go get it, and his other works while you're at it. You really won't regret it.”

(ten shorts)

Reviewer: “This is a different type of read. It takes the reader into the life behind the scenes of a hospital. It is not like a TV show with heroics and handsome doctors getting all the attention. This is the grittier side of life with a true feel to the happenings as the reader is shown the life of a candy striper at first would like to be a doctor, but after what he sees in the real raw world a change of occupation might be in order.”


A tale of innocence lost, as two adventurous boys discover tragic hidden secrets and their own true nature.


Two teen boys take on the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Read the Original Version of SPILL

The original version of SPILL is now available as an ebook. One day before my publisher was scheduled to publish the book they got cold feet because I used Bob Dole and Dan Aykyroyd in cameo appearances, which was really hilarious. I would have had to pay a significant amount of money to buy the book back from them so I knuckled under and made changes and the scene still works pretty well. But not as well as the original. The rights have now reverted to me so I've published my version. Fred Underwood (Yes, I used the Underwood name well before House of Cards) is a failed and fired English teacher who makes his living as a small package contract delivery guy. One day he gets an idea how he can scam the political system and it works: he gets the girl, the money and a really cool skateboard video game. SPILL is a damn fun read. Take that, Big Oil! $3.99

Friday, August 24, 2018

Two New Special Readers for Crazy About You

Crazy About You continues to find new readers and I learn about it in the most unusual and delightful ways. One reader, Sandi Roper, asked to be my Facebook friend, and when I visited her page I found this:


"Just began reading Crazy About You  by Randy Atwood. The more I read, the story became eerily familiar. I took another look at the book's setting, synopsis and author and then I knew why. Mr. Atwood was telling MY story as well as his own. I also lived in Larned KS, and graduated four years after him. My dad was a minister, and part of the revolving clergy sent into the asylum to try and comfort its miserable inmates. I often accompanied him and came to know many of the higher functioning patients. They were my friends, but to my shame, I told as many sensational horror stories as anybody else about the big brick compound which swallowed up our little town. My first job was at the drugstore Atwood described the druggist's wife, it was surreal, because he described her spot-on! I later went to work for the old "Tiller & Toiler" he mentioned. Ironically, I later bought that old drugstore building and opened a gift shop there. After this remarkable trip through my memories, I will buy and read every book Atwood puts out. He is a remarkable writer and every Larned-native is sure to enjoy this book. I will now be "following " him on FB, and am anxious to read the rest of his books. Hope to become a friend on FB.

"And all you (Larned) natives, pick up this book . It's good a great read!"

And then the other day came this pleasure jolt.

We get a yearly termite exam and the guy who came today I recognized from the past. He greeted me and said "I really enjoyed your book" and I remembered from last year he had seen my books in a box in the basement and asked if I was a writer. Ended up selling him a novel. So I asked him what book he had read "Crazy About You. I couldn't put it down." How neat is that? This time around he bought SPILL.