Making a long story short
My man Bill James (praise him to the skies) made a bad job of it when he took a chunk of his novel The Girl With the Long Back and had it published as a story in one of Maxim Jakubowski's Best British Mysteries collections. The "story" includes an action sequence in an unexpected setting, and it does a fair job of presenting the moral dilemmas and lurking doom that James often sets up in his novels. Its end includes one of the funniest bits of talk from one of the best-ever writers of darkly funny dialogue. But a fragment is not a story. This one ends simply because the scene ends, purporting to turn on a quirk of a main character's personality that is not strong enough to work as the denouement of a story.
The American writer Stuart M. Kaminsky, on the other hand, has a superb story in The Oxford Book of Detective Stories that I later found in one of his novels, where it works as an intriguing subplot. Even then, however, I spent a few odd pages trying to rid myself of a feeling that I was going crazy. Had I seen this before?
So, readers, is taking a piece of a novel and repackaging it as a short story ethical? How do you feel when you come across an instance of this?
© Peter Rozovsky 2006