Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Magical Steven Steinbock

At the Malice Domestic Convention last month, Janet Hutchings, the editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, moderated a panel “Remembering Ed Hoch.” She was the natural choice because Ed had been published at least once (and sometimes twice under a pseudonym) in every issue of the last 30-odd years, so she got to pick the panel.

She chose Mary Higgins Clark because Mary had known Ed for years as part of MWA’s New York Chapter. Doug Greene was there because he had published collections of Ed’s stories, I was there because I was evidence of Ed’s generosity in welcoming unknowns into the tribe of mystery writers, and we had served overlapping terms on the MWA board of directors; but who was this fourth panelist, Steven Steinbock?

None of my closer writers friends seemed to know him, so I did what anyone else would do: I Googled him. Hmmmmm. His Facebook page said he liked detective fiction. Okay. Nothing about writing it though, while Ed had written a scant handful of novels and nearly a thousand short stories. And there he was on Crime Space—a place for readers and writers to meet.

Reader? Okay. But writer? I checked out and found three books on Judaism. What in the world did arcane Judaica have to do with Ed?

When the panel convened, I soon found out. The mystery world is indeed an interlocking series of friendships. Steve had met Doug at one of the gatherings of the tribe and discovered a mutual interest in debating religion. At one point, it was decided that a Protestant and a Jew weren’t enough. Doug looked around, spotted Ed across the room and hollered, “Hey, Ed! Over here! We need a Catholic.” Thus was the friendship born.

After the panel, while hanging out in the lounge with my husband and Julian Cannell, I spotted Steve and invited him over to meet Julian since they both live in Maine now. He immediately noticed that Julian’s wedding band was engraved in Hebrew and read it out loud, first in Hebrew, then the beautiful translation: “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”

When Dan Stashower’s family joined us and he pulled a coin out of one of the boys’ ear, I was smitten. I adore tabletop magic and so does Dan. They mentioned some simple tricks, including something called the ring-and-string trick, but Steve couldn’t demonstrate because he needed a long string. “What about the cord on my ID tag?” I asked. Before he could stop me, I’d cut it free and handed it to him. He slid his wedding band onto the string, let us all tug it, then let us hold the two ends while he covered the ring itself with his hand. When we jerked the string taut, the ring remained behind in his hand. Two or three variations followed and I was as entranced as the Stashower boys.

After coming home, I learned that Steve is a bona fide mystery writer after all. His first short story was published in a spring issue of EQMM. Can’t wait to read it and I bet Ed would have liked it, too.

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