Long-time readers know that I’m working on a slight rewrite of FORCE OF HABIT, my scifi/cop/farce, to include an appearance by Holly Jahangiri. Holly began as a named character won by Holly Jahangiri (the real one) but quickly grew into the star of her own series of stories.
“By the Book” was the first of these stories. It was recently published in the Southern Indiana Writers Group’s 2017 anthology, HERDING CATS AND OTHER ALIEN CREATURES. In the case of “By the Book” Holly is Assistant Librarian of a Living LIbrary, where citizens of her planet, Llannonn, live, having each memorized a book. If you don’t think being a librarian in a living library is like herding cats, you haven’t read any of the Holly stories! In “By the Book,” living books have been disappearing, and Patrolman Pel Darzin is investigating. Private Investigator Kurt Maxxon is another named character, this one won by Karen Overturf, wife of Jim Overturf who writes the Kurt Maxxon mysteries. Head Librarian Devra Langsam is, of course, named after fan icon Devra Langsam, who started me in writing for publication in her wonderful Star Trek: TOS fanzine Masiform-D.
Oh — Genesis Selinsky is a character named for my friend and fellow writer Jen Selinsky, who is a major fan of the band Genesis.
Holly Gets Serious
excerpt from “By the Book”
by Marian Allen
A sound like a siren approached, and a little girl who seemed all pigtails and mouth pelted up to them.
“Pl’z, pl’ssm’n!” She clasped Darzin’s tunic with both grubby hands.
Darzin looked around wildly, hoping to find another tablecloth before the urchin decided to blow her nose on his hem.
“Child,” said Devra sternly, “this is a library. Modify your decibles.”
The girl snuffled and wiped her face, nose included, on her pink over-tunic with the alley jammers printed on it. Holly recognized her as young Genesis Selinsky, oldest child of poor but honest library patrons. Her little brothers, Exodus and Leviticus, took most of their mother’s attention, and little Genesis sometimes ran the streets unsupervised.
“Now, child,” said Devra. “What are you crying about?”
Having been chid, the girl switched directly from wail to mumble.
“…fr’en’ … o’n’t … Books … I … fah … buh–” Her voice rose, in spite of herself– “TOOK ’EM!”
Holly, who majored in Library Science but minored in Childspeak, translated:
“She says a friend had an overnight. We pay triple-time for those; the poor Books read themselves hoarse. At any rate, this child followed them, planning to check them out as soon as they returned themselves, but somebody took them.” She turned back to the child. “Can you describe the criminals?”
The little girl made more (to everyone but Holly) unintelligible sounds but, from her sketching a gesture that indicated a necklace and pointing to her teeth and gagging, they knew she was describing the men who had tried to abduct Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).
Holly said, “Thank you, little girl. Head Librarian Devra Langsam will see that you get some refreshment and a very large handkerchief.”
“Delighted,” said Devra, looking around for an underling to pass the child on to. Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia would be favorite.
“I’ll be on my way, then,” said Pel Darzin.
Kurt Maxxon put out a hand to restrain him. “I’ve got a stake in this. My friends disappeared into this man’s hands. I want a part in bringing him to justice.”
“I could deputize you….”
While they discussed this, Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri ducked into a nearby room and came out carrying three large guns. She tossed one to each of the men and checked to make sure her own was loaded with library-issue subcutaneous placator darts.
The constable shook his head. “Assis–”
“Don’t tell me I’m not going.” Holly’s eyes glinted with rage. “They’ve taken children’s Books! It’s time to collect some overdues.”
I’ll be issuing a collection of Holly stories Real Soon Now. Meanwhile, there are a whole herd of cracking good stories in HERDING CATS AND OTHER ALIEN CREATURES, available for Kindle and Kindle apps and in print. Go get ’em!
A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY POST: What would thoroughly enrage your main character?