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Slim Randles' Home Country


Anita brought Dud some coffee at 9 p.m. and gave her husband a hug. He had two lines typed on a sheet of paper, with the rest of the manuscript sitting beside it.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"Slow right now, Hon."

"It'll come," she said. "You'll see." Then she left quietly.

Dud Campbell opened the desk drawer and pulled out the title page of the book again. He had typed it up specially, just the way he wanted it, and Anita had put it on the computer.

"Murder in the Soggy Bottoms," it read. "By Dudley M. Campbell."

He smiled.

Of course, the guys down at the Mule Barn truck stop referred to Dud's once-rejected mystery as "The Duchess and the Truck Driver," because the story involves, well, a duchess and a truck driver. After its initial rejection by the publisher, Dud decided to modify it so there would be only three murders in chapter one, rather than the original eight. It has taken some doing, but he plugs away at it when he gets time.

He sipped the coffee and looked out the window at the streetlight shining on the snow in the yard. Do you suppose every artist goes through this? How many mystery writers, Dud thought, face this very same dilemma? For two of the murders, not a problem. But he couldn't decide who murdered number three or why. This seems to be pretty important to the story, so he has to figure it out. Like a puzzle.

He could go with just two murders, he supposed, but that third victim deserved killing, that was the problem. Could he have two murderers? One could knock off the two, the other take care of the third?

Oh well, it's a cold, dark winter's night and a good time for thinking, and the coffee's good. And Dud still has his day job, of course. Such things are probably the cornerstones of great creative work.

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