Double Deceit is a novella of 21,000 words that was published in November 2020 by Five Star Publishing. I wrote this story in the late fall of 2019, and it appeared in a quartet of frontier crime novellas entitled Perilous Frontier.
I have written a few other works in the novella range. As I mention in other commentaries on my work, I enjoy working in different lengths. Some people consider the typical length for a commercial story to be about 5000 words, while many literary magazines have limits such as 1500, 2500, 3500, and so on. Over the years, I have written stories of just about every length from 1000 to 28,000 words. In this past year alone, I have written stories at 1000, 5000, 8000, 10,000, and 20,000 words, plus a novel at 70,000. So when the opportunity came up to write a work in the 20,000 range, I was happy to give it a try.
This novella has a couple of crossover features. The narrator is Katie Moran, who narrates an earlier story entitled “In the Breaks,” which was included in a Five Star anthology entitled The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories. This second story is a sequel to the earlier one, and Katie makes reference to a couple of incidents in the first story, where as a girl of sixteen she left the orphanage in Pennsylvania and came to live with her grandfather in Wyoming.
Another crossover feature between Double Deceit and my other work is that this is a Dunbar story. Prior to this story, the enigmatic sleuth J.R. Dunbar appears in four novels and a short story, and every story of his is narrated by an observer narrator. Here, Katie observes and relates the events.
Dunbar is not only a sleuth but an agent of justice who seems to answer a higher call. He does not investigate just any old crime like forging or cattle rustling. The crimes in his stories are sinister and interpersonal, and they often entail old crimes that the perpetrator has hoped to get away with.
Such is the crime in this story. Dunbar has come to seek out a man who, in his earlier life as a priest, violated and murdered a young Hispanic woman after hearing her confession at Easter time. The perpetrator is now living a comfortable life as a doctor (though without a license) in a frontier town, where an earlier investigator and a witness have disappeared.
I wrote this story based on a case about which I had notes for a few years. The case took place in Texas in about 1960, a time in which a priest such as the one in my story could be protected by the church and by local law enforcement. The priest got away with his crime for more than fifty years and was finally brought to justice. I first took interest in the case when the perpetrator was still at liberty, being smug and sarcastic with his interviewers. It seemed like the type of case that Dunbar should deal with, as he takes cases that threaten the social body by being insidious to begin with and by not being punished. I also wrote this story out of an interest in frauds in general, as I have known a few professional frauds and have known of others. It took me a while to find the right story in which to deal with the subject matter, and when this novella opportunity came around, it seemed as if I had the right format and the right length.
I was pleased with the shape that the story took, and I was pleased with the format in which it was released. I hope it does well in the world of fiction and readers, and I hope it adds to the total of positive thoughts about justice in the world we live in.
“Double Deceit” is available in Perilous Frontier at Amazon.