So 12 years ago, Where Angels Fear to Lunch came out in Realms of Fantasy. And now it’s out again, courtesy of Digital Fantasy Fiction (image by brunogm, all rights to image reside with current holder)So as usual, here’s the story of the story’s genesis.
As near as I can remember, it started with the image of an angel walking into a PI’s office (“It never bodes well when an angel shows up at my office first thing before breakfast.” is the opening line—I think it was there from the start). Then I started writing and came up with a plot that involved rebel angels hoping to succeed where Lucifer failed, a break-in in Heaven and … I don’t remember what else. Suffice to say while I kept the rebel-angel hook, it plays out very differently than in the early drafts.
And then at some point my hardboiled protagonist (very 1930s in style, even though the story took place in the 1990s), turned into Al Soares, the Wandering Jew (yes, the same Al who appeared recently in No Good Deed Goes Unpunished over at Crimson Streets). Pissed off that for one smart-mouth crack at the Messiah, he was sentenced to walk the Earth forever, feeling ill-used and unjustly treated, and doing what he could to balance the scales for others. And quite experienced at moving through the strange supernatural world of the Big Apple. It seemed to fit perfectly with the classic, cynical, hardboiled gumshoes of the 1930s, so I went with it.
And I threw in one little detail of religious history that I’d thought about for years. But I can’t detail it without blowing a big twist.
The story sold fairly quickly (well, for me) to Realms of Fantasy, my first sale of the 21st century (and second most profitable, they paid pro rates). Regrettably I was never able to sell to ’em again, but still, it was a big boost to my spirits (and yeah, the money didn’t hurt either).
And a few years later I had the pleasant surprise of hearing someone in an online discussion quote the story, which she didn’t know was mine. The discussion was on the way writers can show the signs of something uncanny happening (e.g., the classic of dogs snarling at the person who’s actually a demon or an ET) and she paraphrased my line—after the angel has assured Al that his presence is completely cloaked—”Outside my window, I could see a skinhead and a Black Muslim helping Rabbi Gould’s mother across the street; Maeriel’s presence was about as subtle as the ten plagues.”
If you read both this and No Good Deed you may notice the two Al’s seem very different. No Good Deed is set in the 1930s, Al’s much more mundane, and not enmeshed in the supernatural. He’s a burn-out with no interest in helping balance anything. And he’s also much more Jewish. While I can’t say I designed his character arc, I did have in mind that the second story represents a turning point, setting him on the path to becoming the guy in Angels. And that his attitude to God, religion, Judaism and Christianity tends to swing wildly over the centuries (I don’t spell this out, but it’s definitely in my head) as he tries to make sense of an act that really doesn’t fit a just God.
And now I’m thinking of a third story, something set maybe in the 1960s when Al’s in yet another mood … But until that comes out, read one of his stories, or both.