“Terrible Tommy Terhune” came about because Otto Penzler wanted a tennis story for an anthology he was preparing. I thought about it, and found myself drawn to one of the sport’s brightest lights, blessed with talent and cursed with an ungovernable temper. I imagined what steps he might take to cope with it, and what might happen if one of them were actually to work.
Many years ago, a golfer famous for the number of clubs he’d broken over his knee bore the soubriquet of “Terrible Tommy Bolt.” With a little added alliteration, that gave me a name for my protagonist and a title for my story. Otto expressed his enthusiasm, and I slated the story for inclusion in my omnibus collection, Enough Rope, knowing Otto would have plenty of time to publish it first in his anthology.
But he had publisher problems, and Murder is My Racquet was considerably delayed. Enough Rope appeared, and Otto protested that he couldn’t use the story now, as his book was to contain only previously unpublished stories. So could I write another?
I did, and sent him “A Vision in White,” a very different story, but one that also centered on the game of tennis. And he said it was fine, and then he evidently forgot the whole exchange, because when Murder is My Racquet finally appeared, there was “Terrible Tommy Terhune” among its contents, with “A Vision in White” nowhere to be found. (So I sold it to Ellery Queen, and subsequently made it available online.) Some readers will recognize the African healer, Atuele; he appeared previously in “Hilliard’s Ceremony.”