S. T. Joshi as Fiction Writer

As you know from my biographical sketch, I began my career as a would-be fiction writer. My first story, written I believe in 1972, was entitled "Murder." Incredibly, the story was actually published in a school publication (Burris Laboratory School, Muncie, Indiana) entitled Literary Lapses (an unwittingly appropriate title)—but I do not have a copy of this publication. It was both a crime story and a supernatural story, reflecting my two chief literary interests of the period. Over the next four years, I went on to write hundreds of stories short and long. Some, but only some, were written under the influence of H. P. Lovecraft; some, indeed, were closely modelled upon Lovecraft's tales, but I had become so saturated with Lovecraft that I was unaware of the resemblance. One story (not a Lovecraftian one), "You'll Reach There in Time," won honourable mention in a Purdue University short story contest for high school students, around 1975. This story was published in Ken Neily's Lovecraftian Ramblings (Esoteric Order of Dagon apa).

By the time I entered college I had pretty much given up fiction writing, although I allowed a few of my older stories—significantly revised—to appear in the Brown University student literary magazine, Issues. I still have copies of these. But in the summer of 1979, while not doing much of anything at Brown, I sat down and wrote a very short detective novel (really a novella, probably no more than 30,000 words) called Tragedy at Sarsfield Manor. This was a pure detective story pretty much modelled on Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr. I actually sent it out to some publishers, but mercifully it was not accepted.

A number of years passed, and by the late 1990s the fiction-writing bug hit me again. I was working on assembling the short stories of W. C. Morrow for publication by Midnight House. One story, "The Removal Company," struck me as so potentially interesting—and capable of exhaustive expansion into a novella or short novel—that I sat down and, in a matter of about three weeks, wrote The Removal Company in the year 2000. It came to about 55,000 words, but was still a bit too short to be published by a mainstream publisher. A small press in the mystery field did consider it for some time, asking for several revisions, but ultimately declined it.

Then, in 2009, I learned that Robert Reginald of Borgo Press had revived his publishing operation under the Wildside Press imprint. Robert would basically accept any work, fiction or nonfiction, by a select few authors whom he trusted to do good work; and I was evidently one of these. I first sent him my treatise Junk Fiction, and then sent him The Removal Company. He issued it in the fall of 2009. I published it under the pseudonym J. K. Maxwell, because I somehow wished to keep my persona as a critic separate from my persona as a fiction writer. To my surprise, the book got a favourable review in Publishers Weekly and at least one online mystery magazine. So I suppose it is not entirely an incompetent piece of work.

To my mortification, however, I discovered that the name J. K. Maxwell—which I devised as early as 1980—is being used by another writer (whether it is his real name or a pseudonym, I don't know), and this fellow has published three novels (mystery and detective novels at that!) under this name: The Phantom Sleuth (2002), Then There's Murder (2002), and Heaven Scent (2009). THESE ARE NOT BY ME!!! I suppose I ought to choose another pseudonym, but I have such an emotional stake in the J. K. Maxwell name that I want to stick with it.

There will be more Maxwell mysteries coming soon, as I will announce in my blog.

August 3, 2010