Francis E Mazur (F. E. Mazur)
Francis E Mazur
(F. E. Mazur)
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Francis E Mazur F. E. Mazur

I first learned of the murders when Snollygoster ignored his own reproach on copyright infringement. Instead of providing us the link as often advised, he’d copied the Inquirer story, unabridged, onto the ugly green pages of the Pixel-to-Paper website. Dead were H. Garnet Underwood, Spectra Suter, and Wade “Double M” Smmith. Published novelists out of the Philadelphia region, this threesome wrote in lockstep on the message boards whenever an issue turned controversial.

Each of the men had been discovered by a neighbor inside the front door of his home in an Everyman’s rorschach of puddled blood. The cops found Suter sprawled outside her Lexus in a crumbling below-grade parking lot. Follow-up stories reported that their killer had shot each man dead-center in his forehead from mere inches away. For the woman he’d showed his gentlemanly side. He’d placed a bullet in her back.

On that mild mid-April morning in my quiet hometown of Valley Camp—population 27,000, give-or-take a few hundred Mexican immigrants who were laying foundations or ripping off wind-damaged roofs—the white blossoms of the serviceberry were emerging in the woodlot out behind the house, and the disturbing news put a damper on my yearly appreciation of their preamble to warmer weather. The news had also ripped a peristaltic shivering up and down my youthful bones, and many of the dedicated posters throughout the realm, I was sure, were experiencing the same. This was because the verbal war on book publisher Quotidian Release, undiminished in its third year and more vitriolic than ever, might finally have spun out of control. And only persons who turned their heads away from the wind would have argued that the whole nasty business couldn’t ever lead to murder.

Of the scores of attackers carving up the writer boards at the time, this trio of Underwood, Suter, and Smmith had ridden together as a literary Janjaweed in their ruthless condemnation of Quotidian, whose detractors were mocking as Daily Release (more on this risible nugget later). They'd rebranded the rapidly expanding POD house a “vanity” press and “author mill,” and shot holes in any uplifting view to the contrary, this despite the fact its authors were not charged a hefty fee—or any fee at all, for that matter—to have their books published, the most touted of the differences between it and familiar vanity houses such as Willamette Press. And repeatedly they'd pilloried Quotidian's owner and company president. They’d first dressed him out as primordial sleaze with whom you wouldn’t share even China’s dirty air, later as a con man who was destroying the dreams of thousands of authors by lying about what they could expect from his publishing house.