Written by Ronald James
This short story introduces my detective protagonist, Sammy Shovel. He's short and built like a rain barrel, similar to the English actor, Bob Hoskins. Street people dress better than he does. Five years ago, bullets which were meant for Sammy snuffed out his senior partner, Harry Hart. Since that fateful night, Sammy's had a constant chip on his shoulder. He will do anything to make a buck-even resort to dreaded repos.
Sammy is drinking up a storm at one of Harry's old spots when he sees an opportunity to make a quick buck. The time is December, when Christmas music blares and ornate decorations keep reminding Shovel he's alone in a city that doesn't care. This sacred season brings back memories of a happier childhood, and that irks Sammy even more. He has no one. Both his gentle mother and his forgiving father passed away about the same time Harry ate lead. Sammy has no siblings and has never married, because of shyness around the opposite sex. He knows why suicides increase from Thanksgiving to the New Year; the temptation lingers constantly within his own shallow life.
The adventure starts with two hit men, Guido and Bennie, waiting outside of a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco for old man Crowder, their target for tonight's shoot-to-kill fun.
Oakland-born during the Great Depression, I didn't have lots of toys, but I didn't know better. My father and mother loved the movies. The local theaters were cheap, about 15¢ for adults and 10¢ for me. I liked the musicals and cops and robbers best. These films were my training ground for future stories. I was treated to Humphrey Bogart's breakout role of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon as a child.
While watching films in the dark palaces of the Golden Age of movies was entertaining, maturity demanded: get a job. I went to Cal in Berkeley and became an architect. When the world of architecture changed from fun to drudgery, I still practiced architecture, but I looked around for something that would be exciting again. I don't know if I found creative writing or if it found me, but my first three-page story had a detective running about in an adventurous night. This novelette grew out of that story first written in 1989.
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