An Agatha Award winner and a a number of nominee for a lot of different awards within the thriller area underneath her actual title (talked about on this publish!), Leigh Perry makes her pseudonymous EQMM debut with the story “The Skeleton Rides a Horse” in our present challenge (September/October 2022). Over time, she has contributed various tales to EQMM that match squarely throughout the style, all underneath her actual title; her mysteries underneath the byline Leigh Perry make use of paranormal components—good for our fall challenge. I hadn’t realized till studying this publish that various the writer’s earlier EQMM tales include Easter Eggs. I’m trying ahead to revisiting these tales to find them. —Janet Hutchings
In studying over a number of the current entries right here at One thing Is Going to Occur, I observed that fairly a number of EQMM contributors cite works of literature that impressed them: John Dziuban and Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Mark Harrison and Nick Hornsby, Artwork Taylor and Chekhov, David Dean and Robert Louis Stevenson. And because it occurs, I additionally drew inspiration for my current EQMM story from a thriller novel.
In “The Skeleton Rides a Horse,” a homicide investigation takes place at a conference for followers of the traditional Western TV present Cowtown, however that present doesn’t exist exterior the pages of Who Killed the Pinup Queen? by Toni L.P. Kelner. The character Ruben Timmons and his Cowtown Companion additionally present up within the Kelner guide. There’s only one factor that retains this story from being a professional literary homage: I actually am Toni L.P. Kelner. I wrote various books underneath that title earlier than morphing to Leigh Perry for the Household Skeleton collection. So I feel that makes my use of Cowtown extra of an Easter egg than something literary.
To be clear, I’m not speaking about dyed hard-boiled eggs and even the plastic type with sweet tucked inside. I’m going by the Wikipedia definition: “An Easter egg is a message, picture, or function hidden in software program, a online game, a movie, or one other, often digital, medium.” In my case, it wasn’t a lot a function or message because it was a joke, however I didn’t actually count on anyone to snort at it aside from me. Actually, a lot of my writing choices are made to amuse myself. I hid a whole lot of Easter eggs in “The Skeleton Rides a Horse.”
The obvious egg is the truth that there are three males named some variation of Mark, in order that they’re referred to as the Marks—an affordable reference to the Marx Brothers. Their descriptions are primarily based on Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, too. Many of the character names within the story got here from the Marx Brothers Western Go West,and the cranky horse my protagonist rides is called after the Marx Brothers’ mom. (Why did I decide on the Marx Brothers? My causes are sophisticated, however they made sense on the time.)
That is, for higher or worse, this isn’t the primary time I’ve loaded a brief story with Easter eggs. In “Cranium & Cross-Examinations,” an EQMM story a few lawyer aboard a pirate ship, I named characters after actual and fictional legal professionals. I don’t know if my husband’s grandfather or Rex Stout would have appreciated the shout-outs, however they’d most likely haven’t discovered them actionable. In my carnival thriller “Sleeping With the Plush,” the characters are named for the authors of my favourite carnival memoirs. And to reveal that I’ve completely no disgrace, once I used a lingerie store setting for “An Unmentionable Crime,” I named characters Frederick and Vicky for Frederick’s of Hollywood and Victoria’s Secret.
I do have an vital rule for hiding Easter eggs, thoughts you. Discovering an Easter egg or bit o’ trivia should not be essential to the enjoyment of the story. You don’t have to acknowledge that Melody is a personality in Go West to learn “The Skeleton Rides a Horse” or know that pirate Nathaniel Parker is called for Nero Wolfe’s favourite lawyer to unravel the thriller in “Cranium & Cross-Examinations.” If a reader catches a reference, that’s pretty, however it isn’t vital to anyone however me. Plus there’s a bonus. Planting Easter eggs truly helps me throughout the writing course of.
You see, writing a bit of fiction requires me to make decisions concerning the setting, character names, homicide weapons, placement of clues, again tales, first individual versus third individual, advert infinitum. Utilizing Easter eggs helps me make a few of these decisions. As an illustration, as soon as I made a decision to make use of Cowtown references, I already had stuff I may use as background and plot factors. The main points of that imaginary present, the existence of the guide Cowtown Companion, pompous sayings from the Cowtown code, and the concept of a TV-Western-themed dude ranch in Massachusetts all got here from my guide. These have been the bits and items I began with to create the remainder of the story. References to the film Go West gave me the concept of an IOU of some type being concerned, and established the Groucho-inspired character as not being completely reliable.
After all, in trying over my notes for the story, I’m reminded of numerous issues I didn’t use. Go West had a romantic subplot I thought of emulating, I used to be initially going to make use of extra characters from Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, and the Marks have been going to be brothers at one level within the story’s genesis. I jettisoned all of that with out prejudice. I imply, I really like my Easter eggs, however Easter eggs that don’t serve the story are just like the one my sister and I missed that one 12 months and located in a hole underneath a tree months later—they actually stink!
So in the event you learn any of my brief tales, bear in mind there’ll probably be Easter eggs hidden among the many pages, however not like the hardboiled type, missed Easter eggs gained’t have an effect on your studying of the story.