In the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, near the Art Museum — yes, the museum with the steps from Rocky — there is a house, an impressive, well-kept three-story Italianate Brownstone, which many here mistakenly believe is the home of a notorious, real-life, long-time state senator (the man does own a house on the block, but it’s down the street). A corner property, this house immediately catches the eye.
The senator was an important man in Philadelphia politics for decades until he went to prison for fraud. For a while, I had played with the idea of a crew breaking into the house and stealing something (as my friend, the writer Eryk Pruitt likes to say, “Some people just need to be robbed.”), but I couldn’t get traction. I could envision the planning, and I had a few ways figured out for them to get inside, but I couldn’t visualize the guys who would do the job. More importantly, I couldn’t hear them. They didn’t say anything.
Around this time, I became acquainted with a woman who had briefly dated the real-life senator. I liked the idea of the job being initiated by an ex-girlfriend who might have an axe to grind. Coincidentally, I fought a fire in this woman’s apartment building (she got home after the fire) and now, being familiar with its layout, I decided this was also the character’s building. Important disclaimer: neither is my character anything like the actual woman, nor have I discussed any part of this woman’s dating history with her, only learning of this brief relationship third-hand.
Then I wrote a short story titled “Mister Wonderful.” It was an odd story for me – rather than any sort of substantive idea, it started with a visual, a premise – an injured man, trapped in a car that has come to rest upside down in an icy, shallow stream bed at dusk. I worked out some of who he was
anxious – which led me to make a critical change: instead of having the burglary be the centerpiece of the book, I have it take place in the first chapter. Things go bad quickly.
and why he was there, miles away from home or help, as I got him out of the car and through the woods, away from the police. I finished the story but realized that I wasn’t finished with him. I imagined that once he was on the mend, he’d be anxious for work.
Now, I had the house, the target, the inside person, and most importantly, the right guy for the job. Like I said, he was anxious to work – perhaps too
Thanks for this opportunity, Laura.
© 2017, Tony Knighton. All rights reserved.
Tony Knighton’s novel Three Hours Past Midnight will be published this spring by Crime Wave Press. His novella and story collection Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties was published in 2015 by Crime Wave Press. His story “The Scavengers” is included in the anthologies Shocklines: Fresh Voices in Terror, published by Cemetery Dance, and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume One, published by Comet Press. His story “Sunrise” is included in the anthology Equilibrium Overturned, published by Grey Matter Press. He has also published short fiction in Crime Factory, Static Movement Online and Dark Reveries.
Tony is a lieutenant in the Philadelphia Fire Department.