A 2023 anthology of crime/noir forward (read a free excerpt below and order the book)
January 2023; Kelp Books, USA; Anthology
***** 5/5 Rating at IndieReader: “As each tale contains a compelling feature that makes it shine on its own, THE DARK WAVES OF WINTER is a first-rate anthology for literary short story fans with consistently excellent writing throughout.”
The Dark Waves of Winter is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed anthology, The Silver Waves of Summer (Kelp Books, 2021). In this installment, the beach again takes center stage in stories from some of the biggest names in literary and noir fiction. From Edgar and Shamus award winners to a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, the sun-bleached noir in these pages features old-school legends alongside the brightest emerging writers in the game. Contributors include Lawrence Block, Hilary Davidson, Gar Anthony Haywood, JoAnn Chaney, Michael Scott Moore, Jenny Bhatt, Lindsay Jamieson, Brian Asman, Nik Xandir Wolf, David Zimmerle, Billy Minshall, John Palisano, Vinnie Hansen, Ewan A. Dougall, Shannon Hollinger, and Gary Grace.
BUY A COPY:
Read a ~500-word excerpt from my story, 'Lili's Song'.
Lili, an Indian American teenager, is in India for a vacation with her family. On a road trip along the Konkan coast from Mumbai to Goa, there is a terrible accident. At each scenic stopping point, things get progressively more complicated until she is left with no choice but to confront her demons.
On a personal note: this Konkan coast road trip is one of my all-time favorite childhood memories, as our entire family would travel from Bombay to Goa along this very route. So I always wanted to bring this road trip into a story somehow. Despite this story being dark and noirish, writing it has only made me cherish those road trip memories more. Here’s a map of the main stopping points in the story:
A megaphone calls for order. When she’s sure no one will notice, Lili slips away into cooler shadows and up a dusty marble staircase. On the first landing, a door opens onto a tiny balcony with a glittering view of Murud Beach. A few kilometers into the sea, there is another smaller fort on a rock island. Little black boats drift about as if lazily circling prey. The lapping waves are a welcome respite after the noise below.
“Kasa Fort.” Umeshbhai is beside her. “Shivaji built it to take on the Siddis of Janjira.” Gripping the balcony railing with both hands, he emphasizes, “The Siddis who were here.”
They look ahead as if a big dramatic scene is unfolding. A sea bird glides by, crying out. Another one answers more insistently. Sunlight crisscrosses the frothy blue water like gold-edged darts. A trapped piece of driftwood knocks against a jutting rock as the tide draws in and out.
He clears his throat. “The people of this place have a story about a Siddi princess, maybe as old as you. The night before she was to be married to a prince she had never met, she came to this balcony for a signal from her Maratha warrior lover. He came in a fishing boat at night to steal her away to Padmadurg Fort, as Kasa was known then. But they were caught by the fort chief in the underground pathway connected to another fort, Sindhudurg.”
He’s so close to her, Lili could count the pores on his face. She listens to his story but hears something else—something more dangerous—under the words.
“Before they executed her, she begged to be brought back to the palace, her home. They agreed and, the same night, left her dead on this beach. In the morning, she was nowhere to be found. It is believed she haunts the palace, coming to this balcony on Amavasya nights—not even a sliver of the moon is visible—singing for her warrior lover. And all the sailors come forward, dash their boats against rocks they cannot see, and die foolishly.”
Now, his hand is on the small of her back. She remains still and quiet.
“You’re thinking, ‘This is so clichéd.’” He mimics her Texan drawl. “I ask you: Isn’t life clichéd? We’re born; we live; we die.”
She wants to spit in his grinning face and tell him that the last bit of his story is kind of stolen from Greek mythology. The sirens were bird-women who enticed sailors to their deaths with their haunting songs. Breathing deep into the salty air, she realizes that she doesn’t feel as sad for the dying sailors as for the sirens—sitting, waiting, singing the same lament for Persephone. Their endless punishment for failing to save Persephone from being abducted by Hades. They had no choice, no control. She knows how that feels.