My new title, ARDEN COURT, is actually not new. I wrote it nearly twenty years ago. It’s a short novel (45,000 words), as opposed to a “novella” (20,000-35,000 words), but that’s a matter of semantics. Originally intended as a full-length novel, my next one after SCAVENGER (2000), it developed a mind of its own and morphed into a shorter work, even as I was writing it. I seemed to know instinctively that it would have to be brief in order to create the desired effect. My agent told me it was too short to be published on its own, which was true at that time. I set it aside, sleeping in a file in my computer, waiting for better days.
Three years ago, I gathered several of my short mystery stories together for my first collection, JUMBIE TEA AND OTHER THINGS. The seven stories weren’t enough for a full-length work, so I decided to add my never-before-published short novel to round it out. I updated and polished ARDEN COURT, and presented it as the finale to the collection. That might have been the end of its publishing history, but recent events in America and the world prompted me to look at it again.
On rereading ARDEN COURT, I realized that I’d written a story with a message. I don’t usually do that; my thrillers are tense and visceral and (I hope) surprising, but they aren’t usually tales with morals like Aesop’s fables. But ARDEN COURT actually has something to say.
I’m not going to tell you the plot of the story, but it’s essentially a “fem jep,” a woman-in-distress nightmare. When I wrote it all those years ago, I was simply imagining a sort of worst-case scenario for my heroine—the most horrible thing I could think of for her to confront. That was then, this is now. Now, the theme of ARDEN COURT is suddenly relevant, and the shocking situation that was a fantasy in 2000 is something else. So, I’ve decided to publish the work on its own for the first time.
America and the world are currently facing dark times, so dark that my clever horror story from 2000 is now a prescient portrait of 2018 and beyond. Writers usually feel satisfaction when we “get things right,” but this particular case gives me no joy. I think ARDEN COURT is a pretty solid little thriller, and I hope people enjoy reading it, but I fervently hope that my once-outrageous theme manages to remain what I intended it to be: fiction.