Ghosts of Stories Past: Roachkiller Redux

I am very pleased to welcome back New York writer Richie Narvaez to Pulp Curry. Richie is a friend and he is also a hell of a writer, a fact I discovered when I read his first publishing effort, an anthology of noir stories entitled Roachkiller and Other Stories. It is a top notch anthology of noir stories, ranging from hardboiled crime pieces in the vein of Edwin Torres to dark dystopian tales. So when Richie told me recently that he had updated the anthology, I invited him to visit and talk about the process of revisiting old stories. Roachkiller is available at Amazon here. And while you are picking it up, can I suggest that you also get a copy of Hipster Death Rattle, he debut crime novel against the backdrop of the gentrification of Brooklyn, published by Down and Out Books. Both books are the perfect antidote to any lockdown spare time you may currently find yourself having.

Most of us, given a chance to go back in time to change something from our pasts, would do it. Besides obvious revisions to world history, we might save a loved one, reverse a career path, avoid that pub that one night. I recently had a time travel opportunity of sorts, although on a very mundane scale.

In 2012 I was lucky enough to have an ebook of short fiction published, Roachkiller and Other Stories. It was my first book, won a Spinetingler Award, sold a few copies, was my calling card at Noir at the Bars. Recently the people responsible for getting it published* kicked the rights back to me. I decided, what the heck, I’ll republish the thing myself.

The process was quite like rummaging through a moldy garage. First, you take stock, become depressed, procrastinate, drink, and finally you attack the easy stuff first. There were stories I was fairly comfy with, just needed some dusting and polishing. I cleaned up the last paragraphs of “In the Kitchen with Johnny Albino,” clarifying it; I added more hurricane to “Juracán,” per a reviewer’s lament; and I cut scene fat from “GhostD” for better flow.

But some things in the moldy garage, you realize, need a little more work, indeed a complete overhaul. I’ve always known “Santa’s Little Helper” was the weakest story in the book and that has always bothered me. It had featured two alternating points of view, neither particularly sympathetic or interesting. So I chucked one POV and focused on the less sympathetic character as a challenge. Giving him more room to come alive helped the plot, and I ended up with a story I can live with now.

And then there’s the stuff in the corner of that garage that you frankly have no idea what to do with. I wrote “Unsynchronicity” years ago to answer a call for postmodern noir. I don’t know what that is now any more than I did then, but the story works so I left it alone. As far as the orally fixated “Ibarra Goes Down,” it feels silly, a little juvenile, and I wouldn’t write a story like it now (maybe), but I’m glad to have written it. Minor edits—it’s still wistfully prurient.

Similarly, “Watching the Iguanas” evolved from a sketch I originally did in the ‘90s and rereading it now was like visiting a former self. But it was a pleasant visit, and I chastised the writer I used to be only for minor logic gaps. Then there was “Zinger,” a story first published in Roachkiller. One or two reviewers thought it was a twist on “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which it most certainly is not. If anything, it’s Shocker (1989) meets The Change-Up (2011), dammit. I knew exactly how to revise the story to make that obvious. I declined to do so. More people got it than didn’t.

So now the reboot is out in the world, to all the great fanfare that can be expected for an indie tome. Now, with new and improved cover art and being available in paperback, it’ll likely top the Times Best Seller list any moment now. But more importantly, I am happy that I can now sign physical copies for friends and I can send books to people back in Puerto Rico. You know, it’s very hard to impress family in the old country with an ebook.

* I can’t quite say “publisher” because the outfit was an indie press and then within a year it turned into a comprehensive publishing services provider for authors. It was all very confusing, but I must say they were nothing but kind to me.


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