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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: William Burton McCormick

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

William Burton McCormick is a Shamus, Thriller, Derringer, Silver Falchion and Claymore awards finalist and his Santa Ezeriņa novella “House of Tigers” was an Honorable Mention for the Black Orchid Novella Award. He is the author of the thrillers a STRANGER FROM THE STORM and KGB BANKER and the historical novel of the Baltic Republics LENIN’S HAREM. William has lived in seven countries including Latvia and Ukraine, the settings of “The Crimson Vial.” Learn more at


Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

The Crimson Vial is set in the real world, maybe two or three years ago. It’s the story of a Latvian investigative journalist, Santa Ezeriņa, looking for a stolen bioweapon in Eastern Europe. It’s science fiction that reflects the tensions in that part of the world, buffed up with a noir sheen.

Here’s a sneak peak:

Down-on-her-luck Latvian journalist Santa Ezeriņais hired by a mysterious American pharmaceutical company to find a case of stolen bioweapons somewhere in Eastern Europe. Pervious investigators on the case simply disappeared without a trace. Will Santa find the thief before the case is opened and the weapon unleashed on the world? Will she be the next casualty in a coming bio war? And what slithering substance is contained in that last crimson vial? A sci-fi noir tale of espionage, horror and adventure.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I lived in Eastern Europe, and spent years in Ukraine and Latvia, the two key settings. Santa Ezeriņa is a series character, and I’d already done adventure, mystery and thrillers with her, so I wanted to use the character in a sci-fi noir (with hints of body horror).  The politics and geography of the regions were one type of inspiration that got me going, the strange goop in my Kharkiv basement another kind. There is also a good dose of Lovecraft and even 1960s Stan Lee. And, of course, there are the noir tropes out of Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy. And, the Santa character, if I am honest, is my own modern, female, European version of Carl Kolchak (with a little Æon Flux). All those elements mixed into the soup or borsch.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

That galaxy far, far away that was the Star Wars universe would be my first choice. I say “was” because I hate what Disney has done since acquiring the property both with the films and throwing out all the wonderful novels in the Star Wars Extended Universe as noncanonical. Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Ann C. Crispin, and many others did so much to enrich that story. So, I’d re-canonize the Extended Universe, then I’d go live in it. I always wanted to be a space smuggler.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I guess I should say something sophisticated like Philip K. Dick, but continuing with my Star Wars obsession, those old Brian Daley Han Solo novels were the perfect fusion of crime (smugglers, gangsters, conmen, bounty hunters) and science fiction for me. Who needed the Empire when you could battle the Corporate Sector Authority?

Beyond that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker television series, the original Æon Flux shorts (the dialog-less ones) and of course Blade Runner (see, I did get Philip K. Dick in there eventually. Sort of.)  And I’d recommend the Occult Detective Magazine Gray Dog Tales / Cathaven Press is publishing these days. Great stuff.

And, as an avid comic collector, I must ask what are all those 1960s Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/John Romita, Sr., comics but sci-fi meets crime tales with great cliffhangers? I learned a lot from those.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Lovecraft is a major influence. (Astute readers will note a tip of the hat to “The Thing on the Doorstep” in “The Crimson Vial”). Other Weird/horror influencers include M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood and, of course, Poe. I also have an Ancient Studies degree and have read a lot of Greek tragedy. My love of Sophocles and Euripides, coupled with the Poe, Lovecraft and Peter Chung (of Æon Flux) influences, means things sometimes end very bad for our heroes. Hey, who wants to watch The Empire Strikes Back with me for the hundredth time?

What are you working on next?

I am rotating writing three mystery/horror short stories set in Europe with editing two historical thriller novels I drafted some time ago, drafting an Alt-History novella set in 1940s Hollywood where a murderer steals the career of Humphrey Bogart.



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