chuckweb9aIn early summer 2012, Chuck Scalin, an artist living in Richmond, Virginia, asked me if I would contribute a story to a project he was working on. He had made, as well as exhibited in a local gallery, a series of very mysterious assemblages, each one fitted inside of its own small presentation case with a transparent window, and now he’d gotten the notion to ask a number of writers living in the Richmond area to compose brief noir fictions inspired by the assemblages. The result was a handsome limited-edition (of 100) black box containing exquisite photographs of 14 of Chuck’s assemblages and 15 stories. The fifteenth story (but the first in the box) was mine, “The Outlawman.” Chuck had asked me to write a story that would “explain” where all of these cryptic assemblages had come from, or been found, the idea being that they weren’t art objects by Chuck Scalin but rather were unearthed “clues” to different crimes that had been committed in the distant past. So I came up with the masked vigilante called the Outlawman (stress falling either on outlaw or lawman: your pick). Originally, it was a much, much longer story, but I had to trim 80% of what I’d written to fit the project’s strict parameters. One of these days, though, I’d like to go back and pick up my first version again and work it through. I like the conceit, I like the character, and I’ve always loved those masked vigilantes–the Green Hornet, the Masked Marvel, the Spider–from old-time pulp magazines and movie serials.

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