Monday, December 6, 2010


Steve Hockensmith's e-book collection of his short stories is called NAUGHTY: NINE TALES OF CHRISTMAS CRIME. I couldn't help but think, these should all be holiday cartoons for adults. You know, our kids have Frosty and Rudolph and whatnot. Hockensmith's stories would be great premises for adult versions. Reading these stories was as enjoyable to me this holiday season as those cartoons were to me years ago as a child.

About these "nine tales." The first of the collection is called "Fruitcake." In several of the stories, Hockensmith makes use of the age old fruitcake, but in this tale the fruitcake is a major player in a retirement community. The ladies out number the men and Ethel Queenan is determined to snatch herself a husband, armed with...yep, a fruitcake. Before anyone goes all huffy, this is NOT a romance story. It's filled with murder and mayhem and laughs. Lots of them.

Next up is "I Killed Santa Claus." That title right there tells you why these couldn't be cartoons for kids. When Hannah's mother lines up a job for her as Santa's elf at the local mall, she has no idea she's sending her daughter into the jaws of "Big Buck." Hannah quickly tires of the sexual harassment she has to endure from "Santa" and rigs up his chair to catch him in the act. Only she ends up with more than she bargained for.

"Secret Santa" takes one of the holiday's work place traditions and turns it into a hilarious caper. Erik Bigelow is a lazy, thieving director at Now! publications. He expects a lot from those who work under him but he takes advantage of his position every opportunity he gets. When his secret santa starts calling him out on his atrocious behavior through the secret gifts he bestows on Erik, Erik decides he's going to figure out his secret santa's identity and pay him back in spades.

"Humbug" may have been my favorite story in the collection, which really says a lot because I loved the whole collection. I just found this particular take on Ebenezer Scrooge's story to be quite brilliant and fun. When Scrooge is run over by a wagon carrying Christmas trees, Inspector Bucket has to determine if it was an accident or murder.

The title of the collection comes from the next story, "Naughty," where Hockensmith brings back Hannah from "I Killed Santa Claus." Hannah seems to be a magnet for the male perverts, but in "Naughty" she decides to pull a "Grinch" on this one and steal his Christmas so he doesn't get away with cheating on his wife and buying back her good graces with pretty gifts. Only the caper doesn't go quite as planned.

"Hidden Gifts" is the most emotionally powerful of the stories. It still has funny elements, but the main idea of the story is a bit of a heart-wrencher. Karen and Ronnie live with their mother and her boyfriend who seems to have no need for the kids. Karen informs Ronnie that there really is no Santa Claus, but she may just discover she's wrong.

Hockensmith tries his hand at a bit of a Christmas spy thriller in "Red Christmas" and it's second only to "Humbug" as my favorite in the collection. This story was so vivid in my mind as I read - and laughed. The KGB is out to kidnap Santa on Christmas Eve. I'll never see my hot cider in the same light after this story. I love Hockensmith's description of Elf blood. And Hockensmith once again makes great use of the fruitcake!

"Naivete" brings back The Reptile and Diesel from "Naughty." This Christmas they don't have enough to keep them busy, and The Reptile decides the best place to make a lot of money fast is at Church. They'll steal the collection plate. Right away you know the good karma is not going to be with these two, but their caper is filled with slapstick humor and a bit of irony.

The collection ends with "Special Delivery" which will tickle the fancy of any person who lived through the Cabbage Patch Doll phenomena. Whether you were a child with a doll or a parent trying to get a doll, you'll appreciate the humor of this one. Bass is truck driver who is hired to run an overnight trip on Christmas Eve to pick up a shipment of Cabbage Patch Dolls for the local toy store. He has to drive from Indiana to Pennsylvania and back with his precious cargo and everyone wants to get their hands on these dolls.

I read about a story a night and it was something I looked forward to each day. They are fun stories and perfect to remind ourselves not to sweat the small stuff in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Hockensmith's signature humor and his wonderfully brilliant approaches to the holiday season make this collection a present in itself. And you should even read the stuff the you usually skip over, like the copyright info and such. There's some hidden gems tucked in there as well. So treat yourself! You can get this ebook in every format you could want here. And it's only $2.99. I promise, you're getting a steal! So leave the collection plate to the Church and snag your copy of NAUGHTY.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


Steve Hockensmith December 6, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

First, the nice bit: Thank you, Jen. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book...and so so SO glad you blogged about it!

Now, the not-so-nice bit: I feel compelled to add that Naughty is also available on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Shiver. Suddenly, I feel so unclean.

Back to nice: You rock, Jen!

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