Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"King Flounder"

Quando sederis ut comedas cum principe, diligenter adtende quae posita sunt ante faciem tuam …

Hmmm? What is it, Johnny? Tyler Hooper's been waiting outside almost an hour? Who's Tyler Ho --

Oh. Yeah. The Good Samaritan. Fine, show him in.

Tyler! Glad you could stop by. Sorry if Johnny kept you waiting, but I'm a busy man. You know Johnny from the neighborhood? No? Remind me to tell you a story.
For some reason, I didn't have much exposure to Grimm's fairy tales as a child. Sure, I knew the Disneyfied versions of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but the gritty stuff had somehow escaped me. Then soon after I moved back to Florida in 2004, I picked up Black Swan, White Raven, an Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling-edited anthology featuring reworked versions of old folk stories.

I got hooked in no time at all.

Michael Cadnum's "The Flounder's Kiss" grabbed me in particular. That piece reimagined "The Fisherman and His Wife," a tale wherein a henpecked husband begs a magical fish for greater and greater blessings at the behest of his overbearing wife. In typical Grimm fashion, the woman's cupidity and the man's cowardice conspire to strip them of all the good they've gathered. Cadnum, though, gave his version a sheen of realistic detail, turned the wife physically abusive, and wrapped up everything up with a quietly horrific denouncement.

Not long after reading his take, I checked out an unabridged version of Grimm's Fairy Tales from the library, but "The Fisherman and His Wife" stuck with me even after finishing that volume. So when John Kenyon of Things I'd Rather Be Doing suggested penning a fairy tale-themed crime story, my mind started recontextualizing the tale. I quickly decided to feature a marginally likeable Mafioso as my protagonist and realized that I wanted to riff off of that famous scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone brazenly offs Sollozzo and McCluskey in an Italian restaurant. But how to work in a flounder? Well, my father and I had done a little bit of fly fishing on the salt flats in the Keys. So what if the flounder population in south Florida is notoriously sparse? A bit of creative license would have to do.

"King Flounder" appears in the Untreed Reads e-book anthology Grimm Tales, which features stories by Patti Abbott, Eric Beetner, Nigel Bird, Kaye George and longtime ISLF friend B. Nagel. You can buy the collection at the Untreed Reads Web site.

But we like free here at ISLF! The first person to email me at ISawLightningFall [at] gmail [dot] com and say where in the United States the flounder is typically found will get his very own copy of Grimm Tales.

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