All Stories, Literally Reruns, Writing

Literally Reruns – The Sicilian by James Hanna

Leila has rootled down in the archives again and pulled out this from a long time supporter of the site, a multiple contributor. This is what she said.

I admire crime stories. And I can’t help but respect the authors of the good yarns because they seem so much more organized and agile in both their thinking and ability to relate their thoughts than I’ll ever be. Hammet, Chandler, Spillaine, MacDonalad, love dem mugs.

The main attraction of a good crime story is trying to figure out what has really happened before the end arrives. This, for me, anyway, is impossible to accomplish because even in a short piece like James Hanna’s The Sicilian the possibilities are as complex and twisty as a thread of DNA. However, there lurks a great three-headed beast in the shadows for the writers of this kind of fiction: Head One: The Payoff had better be awfully damn good and make me go “Maaaan, I didn’t see that coming.”; Head Two: The Payoff had better be honest. Failed writers in this genre try to cover up holes with thin lies.; Head Three: Since these tales are always best told in the first person, that first person (no matter what he or she does) had better be somebody I want to spend time with, like Sam spade or Nick and Nora Charles.

Fortunately, Mr. Hanna was able to deftly avoid all three of the chomping heads and was somehow able to create a very short and funny version of this kind of yarn.

Let’s ask him how he did it:

Q: I enjoyed the pace. This kind of stuff has to move for it to be effective. Did you find it a challenge to incorporate the modern day technology (email exchanges and such) and still keep the time honored cop vs bad guy a personal story?

Q: Speaking of technology, is it more difficult to work up a good whodunit since there are now so many tools available to law enforcement that a caper like, say, The Red Headed League wouldn’t require the services of a smart cookie like Mr. Holmes to get to the bottom of it?

Leila Allison


The Sicilian

James’ response.

Did you find it a challenge to incorporate the modern day technology and still keep the time-honored cop vs. bad guy a personal story?
Not at all. The story is based on a true event. When I was a San Francisco probation officer, I had to put a stalker in jail. He was on probation for wandering onto a movie set where Nicole Kidman was working and pulling a sword on the security guards. At the time, he had a stay away order from Nicole Kidman whom he had been stalking relentlessly and was continuing to harass. When he was eventually released from custody, this person assailed me with a constant stream of email threats for daring to arrest him. So based on my first-hand experience, it was very easy to write this story. On top of that, I now have only one degree of separation from Nicole Kidman.
Speaking of technology, is it more difficult to work up a good whodunit since there are now so many tools available to law enforcement?
It’s not a problem. If he is determined, a writer can bend anything, even technology, to his storytelling. Everything is exploitable to an author.

2 thoughts on “Literally Reruns – The Sicilian by James Hanna”

  1. Thank you Mr. Hanna. Incidentally, Ms. Kidman once pulled a sword on me for asking if Tom worked with or without a net whenever he tried to kiss her. (The second sentence had been much dirtier until i realized that it was Sunday and all.)


  2. Hi Leila,
    Excellent introduction as usual!
    The questions are perceptive and get the best out of the writer.

    And James, I thought your answer regarding technology is very thought provoking. I reckon that I will follow your advice and exploit. I’ll bomb out all technology as all my future characters will have a hatred of it. (Including the techies, scientists and any other boffin!)


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