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Scheme (2022)

A detective tracks a poetry-obsessed serial bomber—meter by deadly meter.

When an improvised explosive device is found outside a hospital, the understaffed Middleton PD knows it’s up against a pro. No one takes credit for the sophisticated device—all that Detective Jake Sloan has to go on is a poem. The cryptic rhyme surfaced shortly after the bomb scare. But ex-soldier and football player Sloan has never been much of a poetry buff. When a second verse turns up, containing a message in code, he solicits the help of English professor Ciara Hawkins. Together, they rush to read between the lines and stop the countdown to tragedy. But as the clock ticks, Sloan senses that beneath this complex case is a motive that is simpler and more disturbing than anyone could have anticipated.

This Amazon Original short story is available as an eBook on Kindle and an audiobook via Audible.


Poetry and Me by Jeffery Deaver

In writing my latest tale for Amazon Original Stories, titled “Scheme,” I create a villain who taunts the police by leaving poems as clues to where he’s planted bombs around a fictional city. It was quite enjoyable—as well as challenging–to write the four poems, each of them in a different poetic form.

My relationship with poetry goes back many years. The genre was, in fact, among my first literary endeavors. Yes, I can say that I am a published poet. And that I am a professional poet—since I’ve been paid for some of my works. But I am not, sadly, a profitable poet (if you want copies of the journals in which your poems appear you often have to buy them, and they invariably cost more than you make. Not a bad scam…)

What about poetry do I love? For one thing, the economy: a poet must create an emotionally engaging experience with as few words as possible. Then there’s the combination of form and substance; poems are as much about how you say something as what you say.

Of course, achieving that economy and creating the perfect balance of content and form can be daunting. I spend far more time, per word, on a poem than I do on a short story or a novel. The poems I wrote for “Scheme” took me two weeks to finish; the story itself about three days.

Though I grew up in the era of the Beat and Confessional poets, most never really appealed to me, as their poems tend to be an outpouring of content that’s really just prose broken into uneven lines. The subjects they write about can be important but I am moved more by formal and quasi-formal poems, which incorporate meter and rhyme.

Some of the poets I admire include, in no particular order, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Richard Wilbur, Maya Angelou, Jim Tilley, Elizabeth Acevedo, Tracy K. Smith, Adrienne Rich, Philip Larkin and Robert Pinsky (whose “An Explanation of America” is a must-read). And then there’s that William Shakespeare fellow.

I’ll conclude with a poem of mine about my days as a high school nerd.

                                Right Field

        The score is tied; three boys on base. 
        I see the batter’s happy face
        As he scans the field and looks my way.
        All I can do is hope and pray 
        That he’ll show an ounce of pity 
        And won’t aim his swing at me.
        But we all know how it goes:
        He whacks the ball and it breaks my nose. 

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