by Alison McMahan
Barb Goffman is the powerhouse editor behind Crime Travel (Wildside Press, December 2019), an anthology of fifteen mystery stories that all involve traveling back and forth through time. Goffman is a former newspaper reporter, a veteran editor of the Chesapeake Crime series, and a short story writer with over thirty published short stories to her credit.
She credits her newspaper experience for engendering a love for the short form. “I loved working on a daily,” she told me in a phone interview. “You get to work on something, finish it, and do something completely different the next day.”
When she switched to writing and editing fiction, she tried novel writing but eventually settled on fiction. A good choice, as all of her stories have sold. “Except for my time travel story, it’s very difficult to sell time travel stories,” said Goffman. “I originally wrote it in 2013. Of all of my stories, it’s taken the longest to publish.”
She shared some of her frustration with her co-editor on the Chesapeak Crime series, award-winning author Donna Andrews. Andrews (who wrote the introduction) suggested she put together an anthology herself. The result is Crime Travel, a marvelous collection of criminal minds and the people who want to stop them by traveling through time.
I’m a fan of time travel stories where the time traveler comes into contact with a younger or older version of themselves, as Frank does in “The Fourteenth Floor.” “O Crime in They Flight” by Eleanor Cawood Jones features a woman whose psychic ability morphs into a “second person” experience, in which she gets to relive the final moments of a murder victim, solving a cold case and liberating someone who was wrongly incarcerated for the murder in the process. “Hard Return,” by Art Taylor, features a similar “second person” experience, in which a young woman’s new lover wants to know how she got her scars, which triggers an event in which both of them get to re-live the horrible events.
In “Reyna,” by David Dean, a young girl travels back to inhabit her own body the day she was hit by a car and became paralyzed-but this time, she takes control of events. The opening story, “Living on Borrowed Time” by Melissa H. Blaine, features a young waitress coming across a future version of herself in the pages of a book about the murder victims of a serial killer. The heroine of “The Last Page” similarly encounters a time traveling version of herself in a painting, which leads her to solve a mystery, thwart the boss from hell, and find love, all at the same time.
The book is not short on the classic time travel story, people traveling back in time to change something that went horribly wrong. “The Dealey Paradox” by Brendan Dubois has a hero who wants to stop JFK’s assassination. What happens will surprise you.
In “On the Boardwalk” by Korina Moss, a woman tries to save her brother and ends up saving so much else along the way.
But nothing is as it seems in these classic stories, like “Ignition” by John M. Floyd, “No Honor among Thieves,” by Heidi Hunter, and one of my favorites, “Love or Something Like It,” by Michael Bracken.
You would think that the awesome possibilities of time travel would bring out the best in people, but in “The Case of the Missing Physicist” by James Blakey that doesn’t happen.
It does happen in Barb Goffman’s story, “Alex’s choice.” Goffman was inspired both by the loss of her own beloved dog, Scout, and by “a horrible newspaper article about a terrible accident a whole family had at a beach in California. Something about the cove affected the tides. The dog chased the frisbee into the water and didn’t come out. The father went in to get the dog, and he didn’t come out. The mother jumped into the surf to rescue the father, then the older kid went after his parents, then the younger kid, until the entire family was caught in the surf and drowned. And then the dog came out by itself!”
I will let you discover what happens in Goffman’s version yourself. But here’s a hint: the story is now nominated for an Agatha.