Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Inspiration Behind The Kaluki Kings of Queens

Cathi Stoler is joining us today to tell us about her Derringer award winning short-story, The Kaluki Kings of Queens - Isn't that a great title? The Derringer awards are handed out every year by the Short Mystery Fiction Society and hallmark the best stories of the year. Cathi will also help you find instructions to play the game of Kaluki. 

Sometime memories are just memories. Sometimes they become stories. 

It was just such a memory that inspired me to write my short story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens.”

I was playing cards with my husband and we were discussing how, when our daughter Lauren, was about nine years old, she used to watch her Grandmother Florence, and her two Great Aunts, Dorothy and Beadie, play Kaluki. She’d sit there for hours and beg them to teach her the game. Eventually, they gave it—it was inevitable—and she learned not just how to play, but to win. All that watching had paid off. 

But teaching Lauren came with memories of its own. My mother-in-law and her sisters often recalled how their father loved to play cards, especially if he was winning. He’d taunt his opponents with cries of “Yuld!” and “Behema!” (loosely translated as “Dummy” and “Ox”) as he slapped down his cards. 

Somehow, this all stuck in my mind and, when I decided to submit a story for the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s fourth anthology, “Family Matters,”  starting with this family memory seemed natural.

I did change things up a bit. I made the Kaluki players, Grandpas, and the young protagonist, a boy. Plus, I added a mystery.

Petey, is a young boy who's sure his card-playing grandfathers have a terrible secret they're hiding in the basement he's terrified to enter. He believes it’s something to do with Kaluki and a player the Grandpas thought was cheating. Something he never, ever wants to find out. Ultimately, Petey has no choice and has to take the plunge.

I'm honored to say the story won the 2015 Short Mystery Fiction Society Derringer for Best Short Story. Most recently, I’ve placed it as an Amazon Kindle stand-alone book.

If you'd like to learn Kaluki, you can find the rules at But be careful, it's a game that may stay with you for a long time.

Here’s the url for the book:

1 comment:

  1. "The Kaluki Kings of Queens" is a wonderful story with memorable characters. Thank you, Cathi, for the link to the game. I look forward to learning how to play.