Can a Mystery Writer Find Inspiration in Bronxville?

It’s no mystery! A local mystery writer tells how one of her holiday stories was “born” in Bronxville. And now the story, published in print several years ago, can be read online for free.

By Gail Farrelly

You betcha!

Case in point. On a Sunday afternoon in December of 2006, I had just left St. Joseph’s Church and was on Cedar Street across from the A&P. I happened to glance over and see a Salvation Army Santa Claus ringing his bell outside the store and chatting with a group of teens. I liked that scene; it stayed in my mind.

As a mystery writer, I’m always on the lookout for story ideas, so when I got home I put the Santa-and- teens scenario into my computer. But not before I added this: what would happen if Santa were accused of a crime (stealing from a poor box at the church across the street, for example), and a teen had to come to his defense? The story idea sat on my computer for a few months. Almost forgotten, but not quite.

Fast forward to the spring of 2007 when I saw a call for short story submissions for a planned anthology of holiday crime stories, Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters, to be published later that year by Wolfmont Press, with profits going to the Toys for Tots Foundation. It seemed like the perfect home for what I had come to think of as my “Santa and the Poor Box” story. In fact, I never even toyed with the idea of thinking up an overly clever title for my story. “Santa and the Poor Box” suited it just fine.

I started to write the story and it came together really quickly. I didn’t mention Bronxville, but the action takes place in a small, quiet town in the suburbs of New York City. Sound familiar?

The characters and plot took shape. Santa was a Vietnam Vet who had a somewhat checkered past. The teenager who had a starring role, 14-year-old Lily, was willful, determined, and very smart. She was the only child of a widowed mom, Roberta (I have a sister named Roberta, and I’ve always loved that name) McHugh, who just happened to be an attorney. Eureka!

The story was one of 15 stories accepted for publication in the anthology. It was fun to see my story in print. The anthology is now on the Kindle.

I’ve published quite a few short stories, but “Santa and the Poor Box” is my favorite, and I think it always will be. I was thrilled when it got a second life in 2010, read on the radio by British voiceover artist Pearl Hewitt, on the Taping for the Blind show out of Houston, Texas. And now it has a third life (hey, like a cat, it may have six more!), just published by the online Kings River Life Magazine. Here’s the link (read for free): http://kingsriverlife.com/12/01/santa-and-the-poor-box/

If you check it out, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Happy Holidays!


     Gail’s most recent holiday short stories are published by Untreed Reads: “They eDone Him Wrong” (in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping), “The Christmas Exception,” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” In addition to being sold at The Untreed Reads Store, they are also sold at Amazon and many other eretailers throughout the world. The first two are now in the Westchester Library System’s Digital Collection; the third should be available there soon.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gail Farrelly December 05, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Update from author Gail Farrelly: Just wanted readers to know that my latest holiday story "What Are you Doing New Year's Eve?" (mentioned in my note after the above blog post) is now available in the Westchester Library Digital Collection. It joins my other two holiday stories that were already there. Westchester authors are lucky. Westchester librarians are so supportive of our work.
Gail Farrelly December 22, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Another update from author Gail Farrelly: Merry Christmas to PATCH readers. I thought you might like to know that I have another holiday short story, SILVER BELLS, free online at Kings River Life Magazine: http://kingsriverlife.com/12/22/silver-bells-a-christmas-mystery-short-story/ The short link is: http://is.gd/tYSjvP. The story is about a killer who is desperate to hide a murder weapon.


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