How it Happened by Holly West: The Killing Malmon Edition

Ed. Note: Let me say how disappointed I am in Holly West. She wanted to use this space to write about KILLING MALMON, a wonderful crime fiction anthology in which the proceeds directly benefit the MS Society. Which is fine, but How It Happened is one of our most popular features, and I urged Holly to discuss her own work as well; every writer needs promotion. As you’ll see, she declined, and kept the column focused on the anthology and its generous purpose. Well, that kind of selflessness has no place here at TTB, and the only solution is to have Holly BACK for a future How It Happened, all about her path to publication.

But for now, read the following essay, and check out for yourself what a terrific writer Holly is, and how KILLING MALMON came about.

Before I begin, there’s something you need to know about me: I suffer from an intense need to be included. A desperate desire to belong, if you will. If there’s a party going on, I want an invite. If there’s a project planned, I want to be involved. Most of all, if someone’s serving pie, I want a piece of it.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about why I’m here. On October 19, 2017, Down & Out Books will release Killing Malmon, a collection of thirty short stories written by a talented group of crime fiction writers who came together for one purpose. To kill Dan Malmon.

Don’t worry—it’s for a very worthy cause.

I know what you’re thinking: Tell that to the judge, baby. But let me explain. Dan and his wife, Kate, write reviews for Crimespree Magazine and appear regularly on the Writer Types podcast. As unabashed fans of comic books, crime fiction, and related entertainments, they elevate, encourage, and cheer on all us insecure writers  as we strive to hit our deadlines. Mostly though, they’re funny as hell and delightful to hang out with, both online and in person.

So why kill Malmon? A few years ago, Crimespree Magazine held an Internet-based flash fiction contest with only one guideline. Somewhere in the story, Dan Malmon had to die. Didn’t matter how, didn’t matter why. He just had to be dead by the end.

Of course, crime writers are an inventive bunch, and they put Dan to death in a myriad of creative ways. The contest was so successful that Down & Out Books agreed to publish the original stories, plus a few more, in a collection. Even better, all of the participants agreed to forgo royalties so that all net proceeds from the collection benefit the MS Society.

As it turns out, multiple sclerosis (MS) is a far greater villain than any of us crime writers could dream up. It’s an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the body. Its cause is still unknown, and its progression, severity, and specific symptoms vary with the individual. If you love someone with MS, then you already know the havoc it wreaks. Difficulty moving, chronic pain, cognitive changes, and depression are just a few of its symptoms, but the complete list (if one even exists) is frighteningly long.

But this post began by being all about me, and so it shall end that way. It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when I was only vaguely aware of Dan Malmon’s existence. We traveled in the same Facebook circles and I’d often see his comments on our mutual friends’ posts. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but that’s where my Malmon knowledge ended.

When Crimespree announced its “Killing Dan Malmon” contest, I didn’t know why everyone was so enthusiastic about killing Dan, but all the cool kids were doing it and I was mildly disappointed about not being invited to play (see above). Not to fear. It wasn’t long before I became Facebook friends with both Dan and Kate and a real-life friendship soon followed. As I got to know them better, I came to understand why they’re so popular in the crime fiction community and, more importantly, why everyone was so keen to kill Dan. When they asked me to contribute a story to the KILLING MALMON anthology, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

I’m finally one of the cool kids.

My story, “Money for Nothing,” features Kate as a femme fatale who seeks a loan from the small-town bank Malmon works for and lures him in with her sexy ways. No spoilers, except for the obvious one—Malmon doesn’t survive.

Holly West is the author of the Mistress of Fortune historical mystery series. Her short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and her story, “Queen of the Dogs,” is a 2017 Anthony Award finalist for Best Short Story. Find out more at

To learn more about KILLING MALMON, click on the cover below: