The First Two Pages: “Love Happy” by Frankie Y. Bailey

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

The first time I met Frankie Y. Bailey in person was at Malice Domestic, likely around a decade ago, though I don’t remember the year. We were in the hallway, just outside a panel about the start, and I was both excited and in awe—trying to explain to Frankie how much I appreciated her work, how often I’d drawn on it for my teaching, how useful her insights and observations had been for my students, and… And a woman standing near us (I don’t remember who!) had overheard the conversation and seemed puzzled. Frankie caught the puzzlement before I did and turned to explain: “Art’s talking about my nonfiction writing” —which, I’ll admit now, was all I knew of Frankie’s work at that point: Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction and African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study. (And in later classes, I would also draw heavily in the classroom on a Sisters in Crime project which Frankie helped prepare: “Report for Change: The 2016 SinC Publishing Summit Report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Mystery Community.”)

Needless to say—and as that person who overheard our conversation knew too—in addition to Frankie’s research and scholarship and nonfiction writing, she’s a fiction writer too! She’s written novels in two series—one featuring amateur sleuth Lizzie Stuart, another with Albany police detective Hannah McCabe—and a number of short stories, including the one she’s discussing here today.

Frankie’s essay on her story “Love Happy” is the final in a series featuring contributors to the new anthology Monkey Business: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers, edited by Josh Pachter and published by Untreed Reads. Other contributors include Donna Andrews, Jeff Cohen, Lesley A. Diehl, Brendan DuBois, Terence Faherty, Barb Goffman, Joseph Goodrich, Robert Lopresti, Sandra Murphy, Robert J. Randisi, Marilyn Todd, Joseph S. Walker, and Pachter himself.

I hope you enjoy Frankie’s essay below, and do check back on the previous essays in this series from Monkey Business contributors Jeff Cohen on “Horse Feathers” and Robert J. Randisi on “Go West.”

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.