Blog Tour, Day #9: Earl Staggs

December 2nd, 2011

Earl Staggs is a Derringer-Award winning writer who not only writes extremely good stuff, but also helps others write better through a great column called “Write Tight.”

He’s a widely anthologized short-story author; some of his work is collected In SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.  His other work includes the highly praised novel MEMORY OF A MURDER and the novella WHERE BILLY DIED, about Billy the Kid.  Staggs lives in the only state big enough for his personality, Texas.


People get away with murder. Even if they’re obviously guilty, it must be proven in court and that doesn’t always happen. There are many reasons why they get away with it. They hire lawyers who know enough legal tricks and gimmicks to plant reasonable doubt in the jury’s collective mind. Conclusive evidence of guilt is not found. Investigating officers don’t do their jobs as well as they should. Sometimes the perpetrator is just too damn smart to get caught.

Whatever the reason, it bothers me. We grow up thinking people who commit murder and do other terrible things will be arrested, tried, convicted and put in jail. That principle gives us a feeling of comfort and safety. Then we become adults and learn it doesn’t always work that way. People do get away with it. That’s reality, that’s life as it is, and that bothers me.

There’s not much I can do about it as a citizen, but as a writer, I can. A recurring theme in my mystery stories is making sure the guilty are punished even if it’s a step or two outside the law. I don’t use that theme in all my stories, but I have in a few.

In one called “Brother-in-Law,” a cop knows his sister’s death was not an accident and knows who killed her. There is no evidence so the killer thinks he’ll get away with it. The cop thinks otherwise and finds a way to see justice done his own way. He steps over the letter of the law to do what he feels is justified.

In a story titled “Taking Richie Gold Down,” a veteran cop, John Lawler, is tired of seeing murderers slip through the cracks in the legal system. Richie Gold killed two innocent teenagers and walked out of court a free man. John tricks Richie into killing Robert Blanchard, a man who raped and killed a thirteen-year-old girl and also beat the system.

Some people may think it’s wrong to do things not in keeping with the law and may call it vigilante justice. They may argue that good people who do unlawful things are as bad as the criminals even if they feel it’s justified. Even in fiction it’s not right, they may say. They’re entitled to that opinion, and I’m entitled not to share it. As long as there are holes in the legal system and people find ways to wiggle through them, I have no problem writing stories in which those people are dealt with in unlawful ways if true justice is achieved.

In “Taking Richie Gold Down,” John Lawler explains it this way:

“Sometimes,you don’t think about what happened. You think about what didn’t happen. Richie Gold and Robert Blanchard didn’t kill any more innocent kids. On bad days, when I have trouble seeing that thin gray line between them and me, I remind myself of that.”

So call me a vigilante writer if you want. Please remember, however, I only do these things in my fictional stories. I think of it as a therapeutic remedy to the revulsion I feel with someone gets away with murder. I would never do it in real life.

Absolutely not.

Well. . .

. . .probably not.


Both stories mentioned above – “Taking Richie Gold Down” and “Brother-In-Law” are included in SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection available for $2.99 at and

I hope you’ll drop by my Blog/Website at: and visit with my special guest for the day.

While you’re there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.

Also while you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for the drawing on December 9. The first name drawn from those who comment will receive a print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER.  The second winner will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of sixteen of my best short stories.

Anybody who’s looking for me (Tim?  Remember Tim?) today will find me talking about “The Joy of Mysteries” with Ron Benrey over at

11 Responses to “Blog Tour, Day #9: Earl Staggs”

  1. W.S. Gager Says:

    Earl: I love poetic justice and can’t wait to read about it in your shorts! Hmm. Not sure that came out right.
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  2. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    I’m with you, Earl. Justice isn’t always served. Great post and I love your “shorts.”

  3. Barry Ergang Says:

    Having read the stories Earl discusses, I can assure others that they’re well worth the time (see, as is MEMORY OF A MURDER.

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thank you, Earl. I love this post, and I’m glad to see Barry weighing in with those reviews.

    Thanks so much for coming by. Maybe we can meet up next year, depending on where you are in Texas, because I’ll be driving to Houston on a tour for the new book.

  5. John Lindquist Says:

    I so enjoyed your very tightly-written story “Where Billy Died.” Posing the three theories of how Billy the Kid had his “final confrontation” with Pat Garrett – and then formulating a plan following the (probably) most plausable theory to have justice met regarding Billy Joe’s crime – really made for a good resolution of the story. It was a very enjoyable read easily done in one sitting. Now I gotta visit Hico some day.

    One of my non-fiction writing projects (which involves a lot of exploration and cartography of my own) deals with the ultimate source(s) of what we call the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Park System does the geography and history of exploration a great injustice by hiding the Army engineer (Lt. James Allen) who fixed the actual position of Lake Itasca’s outlet and by essentially glorifying a plagiarist (not worth mentioning) who claimed so much credit out of thin air. This is generally the case all around, but hopefully someday Lt. Allen’s short and tragic story will come out in a popular work, possibly as a sub-story in a larger work on exploration, Indian affairs or the great Mormon Battalion of 1846 – or maybe even a fictional, modern-day story of crime and injustice.

    But I’ve digressed somewhat. “Where Billy Died” turns out to be one of the best things I’ve read all year. Short, satisfying and a great application of an interesting sub-story.

  6. Jenny Milchman Says:

    Wow, theme of the day. Tim writes about the “restoration of order” and you are a vigilante writer, Earl. I could not agree more. Crime fiction orders a disordered universe. It provides justice and right. There is no place I feel safer than in a crime novel or short story. Thanks, Earl, for sharing your thoughts–it’s nice to see you here.

  7. Theresa de Valence Says:

    Earl, I loved this post
    … especially the ending.


  8. Alice Duncan Says:

    Love your idea of vigilantism, Earl! “Where Billy Died” is next up on my reading list 🙂

  9. Jackie King Says:

    I feel safer already, Earl, knowing that you’re keeping order in the world of fiction.
    Who also loves justice!

  10. Earl Staggs Says:

    Wendy, I love the way you express yourself. 😉

    Thanks for the support, Jean, and for liking my shorts.

    Barry! Thanks much for the great review of my short story collection. Your opinion matters, my friend.

    Tim, I’m in Fort Worth, so when you head to Houston, getting together is a definite can-do. Let’s make it happen.

    John, it sounds like Lt. Allen’s story needs to be told. You should write it. Thanks for the kind words about my Billy story. If you get to Hico, you won’t regret it.

    Jenny, what a pleasure to see you here and I’m so glad you agree. We who write crime fiction really do create a safe harbor, don’t we?

  11. Earl Staggs Says:

    Theresa, thanks for visiting. It’s always good to see another person in favor of true justice.

    Alice, after you’ve read “Where Billy Died,” you’ll change your mind about what really happened in Fort Sumner. Trust me.

    Jackie, I’ll keep you safe in fiction. In the real world, be very, very careful.

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