HARRY KEMELMAN—EQMM PODCAST AND OPEN ROAD E-BOOK SALE

In EQMM’s April 1947 issue, Harry Kemelman, creator of the best-selling Rabbi David Small series, saw print for the first time as the winner of a special prize for best first story in EQMM’s second annual worldwide short-story contest. That first tale of his, “The Nine Mile Walk,” is featured in our podcast series this month, read by another author whose first story appeared in EQMM . . . our book reviewer Steve Steinbock.

If you can’t get enough Kemelman, you’re in luck: Open Road is featuring three of his works as e-books (The Nine Mile Walk: Eight Nicky Welt Stories; Friday the Rabbi Slept Late; Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry) on sale for $1.99 each in the United States from December 1 to December 6. Visit Open Road, Amazon, BN.com, Kobo, Google Play, or Apple’s iBooks to take advantage of this deal and get started, if you haven’t already, with books one and two in the Rabbi Small series.

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“Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction” (by Dale C. Andrews and Kurt Sercu)

Since readers will learn about the careers and literary work of Dale Andrews and Kurt Sercu in their own words in the following post, I will simply note that they are among the most dedicated and knowledgeable fans of Ellery Queen, and of EQMM, to be found anywhere in the world. All of us at EQMM salute them, for without such fans it is unimaginable that EQMM would be celebrating a 75th anniversary and looking to the future.—Janet Hutchings

The presidential election has been in the forefront of public discussions this month and it therefore seems apropos that this little article should begin with a political reference, in this case a paraphrase from an unsuccessful vice presidential candidate some years back: Who are we and why are we here?

The “who” part of the question can be answered pretty simply: We are Kurt Sercu, a resident of Sijsele, Belgium, which is near the picturesque city of Brugge, who is the head nurse at AZ Alma hospital in Sijsele, and Dale Andrews, a resident of Washington, D.C., a retired lawyer who was formerly a Deputy General Counsel at the United States Department of Transportation.

Why we are here is a bit more complicated.

It is tempting to answer that question in two words: “Ellery Queen.” It is an interest in the works of Queen that we share, and it is those works that formed the basis of our friendship, and occasional collaboration. Kurt is the proprietor and founder of the website Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction, and Dale, a lifelong fan of Ellery, is the author of three Ellery Queen pastiches, one of which, “The Book Case,” (EQMM May, 2007) was written in collaboration with Kurt, and each of which has been published in the pages of EQMM. But as the reader may suspect, that simple answer is just shorthand for a story that is a bit more complex.

This story is largely Kurt’s, and so it is with him that we begin. Kurt is a self-styled computer nerd. He bought his first computer back in the 1990s and immersed himself in the then-burgeoning library of shareware programs freely available to those willing to try them. By the late 1990s, armed with what he had learned, Kurt began to think about designing his own website.

It would be tempting, and (again) a simpler story, if Kurt’s intention had always been that his website would be dedicated to the works of Ellery Queen. But such was not the case. In fact, Kurt’s first idea was to design a site focusing on the works of Tolkien. A search of the internet, however, led him to conclude that this subject was already well covered.

So—where else to look? Kurt has always loved mysteries and one might expect that, given his nationality, he might have next explored the possibility of a site dedicated to Agatha Christie’s Belgian hero Hercule Poirot, or perhaps a site exploring the works of Belgian mystery author Simenon. But those of us who frequent this blog can breathe a collective sigh of relief since Kurt, at an early age, discovered, and was entranced by, the mysteries of Ellery Queen.

The Queen mysteries spoke to him. They were structured around puzzles, and these puzzles often revolved around underlying themes—the Bible, Darwinian evolution, McCarthyism. And the books were themselves a puzzle: an author who was also the detective, and who therefore both wrote and confronted all of those baffling situations that were always, in the end, solvable through the application of rigorous logic; where all of the clues were known but where it took Ellery to see where, together, they pointed. Why not build a website dedicated to the works of Ellery Queen?

There were already Ellery Queen websites, but unlike Tolkien, there were few such sites. Also, the sites that already existed were in many cases no more than listings and brief discussions of the Ellery Queen novels. Kurt envisioned much more—an in-depth site that would explore all aspects of the Queen canon. The Queen library, together with various articles Kurt had collected concerning Ellery Queen, formed the early foundation for Ellery Queen—A Website on Deduction. What followed was research and the gathering of information, both pictorial and narrative, from which Kurt could begin to build the type of website he envisioned. This process, and its vision, is explained by Kurt on the website:

[At first I] tried to “cut and paste” my way through what grew into a large volume of information. Too few sites, in my opinion, do justice to [Queen], who started off in the late twenties and [continued to write] into the seventies. He made maximum use of the media at that time and is now, I feel, grossly neglected. I hoped the site [would] fire up more interest in the Ellery Queen stories.

Building the website was no easy task. What Kurt envisioned was a site that would immerse the reader in details and pictures. And like the Queen books themselves, there should be mysteries woven into the fabric of the website—clickable words and icons that whisk the reader to completely different sections of the site.

So the goal from the outset was that the website should be as intricate, as Byzantine, as the Ellery Queen mysteries which it honored. There the reader should find information concerning Ellery Queen—the lives of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who were Ellery Queen, the recurring characters, the novels themselves, the Ellery Queen movies and television shows, the comic books, even the board games. If it had to do with Ellery, well, it needed to be covered in depth by the website.

Early on Kurt decided to name the site Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction as a tribute to the early Queen mysteries, which each contained the phrase “a problem in deduction” under the respective titles. Another early decision was that there would be two identical platforms for the site—one in Dutch and one in English. The Queen mysteries were, of course, written in English, so having an English-language site made a lot of sense. But building the English language site presented a challenge—Kurt’s native language is Dutch. Luckily, however, he is fluent in English, but still—writing extensively in one’s second language is a huge challenge.

And “extensive” is in all respects the proper word. Since its debut, on April 18, 1999, Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction has grown to include approximately 237 pages of Queen-related information, or (collectively) 474 total pages when one includes both the English and Dutch language sites.

When the reader first enters the website it is obvious that it is in all respects an homage to Ellery Queen. And as such, it contains much information but also many surprises—lots of hidden clues that will propel the reader into different (and at times unsuspected) topics. Since our subject here is premised on the mysteries of Ellery Queen the last thing we want to do is offer up “spoilers.” That said, a “user’s guide” to the various sections contained in the site would look something like this:

List of Suspects” takes you to detailed essays on recurring characters in the Queen library—Ellery, the Inspector, Sergeant Velie and, among others, Ellery’s infrequent secretary and near, but not quite, love interest, Nikki Porter. The reader will also find essays on Djuna, a character in early Queen mysteries, and lesser luminaries—such as coroner Dr. Samuel Prouty.

QBI” unlocks sixteen pages in which every Ellery Queen novel and short story is discussed in detail. Kurt even provides the history of those infamous works that Dannay and Lee “farmed out” to other writers in a perhaps ill conceived attempt to keep the Queen name before the reading public. While perusing these essays be sure to click on the covers of the various volumes—this will take you to even more in-depth discussions of each work, and to the website’s ever-growing collection of international book covers.

Kill as Directed” contains essays on every Ellery Queen movie, comic book, board game and television series. Clicking through the list of episodes of the first EQ television series, which aired on the ancient and largely forgotten Dumont television network, will lead the reader to a select few episodes that Kurt has uncovered that are available online and that can be watched, in their entirety, through the website. The section also contains a detailed and affectionate guide to the 1975 NBC Ellery Queen series, the quintessential Ellery Queen series, which (thankfully!) is now available in a re-mastered DVD collection.

Whodunit” chronicles the lives of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. There the reader will also find shorter biographies of every other writer who ever authored a Queen work as a ghost writer. These comprise those farmed-out volumes, the Ellery Queen, Jr. juvenile mystery series, and some later Ellery works that, while outlined by Dannay, were written by others during the period in which Manfred B. Lee famously suffered from writer’s block. This section also contains information on authors who have written Ellery Queen pastiches.

The website has grown over the years, first with a section devoted to “J.J. McC,” the mysterious figure who provided the introductions to the early Queen mysteries, and more recently with the addition of the “West Eighty Seventh Street Irregulars” section, which contains essays by individuals who have been active in keeping alive the Queen name. There you will find Queen related musings by the likes of Arthur Vidro, author and publisher of the newsletter (Give me That) Old Time Detection, preeminent Queen scholar and author Professor Francis M. Nevins, Edgar-winning playwright Joseph Goodrich (author of the recent and award-winning theatrical production of Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town), critic and author Jon L. Breen, Editor Janet Hutchings (who needs no introduction), Professor Joe Christopher, and Dale Andrews.

Oh. That’s right. We should mention Dale at this stage.

Kurt and Dale met online in 2002 when Dale stumbled onto Kurt’s website. After three years of Queen-related emails between the two, Kurt and Dale finally met in 2005, when Kurt flew across the Atlantic for the first time to attend EQMM’s symposium saluting the centenary of the births of Dannay, Lee, and (consistent with the chronology set forth in Ellery’s The Finishing Stroke) Ellery himself.

And this leads us to one of the paradoxes of the internet and, by extension, Kurt’s website. Fans of Ellery Queen may be a narrow subset but they are also a deep one. They are everywhere, all over the world. But until there was a global way to reach out to each other, there was no way for any of those fans readily to connect. The virtual world Kurt has created in his website shatters that barrier. It allows Ellery Queen fans to find each other and to share their knowledge. Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction, reflecting this, has grown, over the years, with input from interested readers all over the world.

But the internet does more than provide a basis for virtual friendships. It also sometimes provides the first stepping stone to move from the virtual to the real world. And this, in turn, can provide a catalyst for literary rebirth. The ability to download books has provided the onus for the reissuance of the Queen library by Otto Penzler. And, Kurt and Dale’s friendship, first virtual, then in the real world following the 2005 Ellery Queen Symposium, resulted in their collaboration in “The Book Case” (EQMM 2007), a pastiche that brings Ellery back, at the ripe old age of 102, for one more adventure. Kurt and Dale (we!) have also collaborated on analytic pieces available on Kurt’s website, and with this little article they (we, again!) are doing so once more.

Kurt’s website has also facilitated friendships among other fans of Ellery. Just this past September Kurt flew across the Atlantic and he and Dale attended the EQMM 75th Anniversary Symposium at Columbia University. Also attending were when four of those “West Eighty Seventh Street Irregulars,” as well as Jeffrey Marks, another virtual, and now real-world friend, who led a panel, and is the author of the upcoming biography of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. And Kurt finally had the opportunity to converse in Flemish with EQMM author and Queen fan Josh Pachter. So, in many respects, the fire is being rekindled, thanks to a virtual world that encourages those of similar interests in Ellery Queen to reach out and find each other.

At the close of that symposium, not ready, yet, to move on, Kurt, Dale and Joe Goodrich lit out together for dinner. What ensued was an evening of drinks, food, Queen-related trivia and merriment, including the travails involved when those three fans of Ellery’s adventures attempted, from memory, to list in chronological order all of the Ellery Queen books on the back of a napkin. (All of this after several Cosmopolitans had been imbibed!) We may not each remember all of the details of that evening, but we do remember enough to solemnly attest that, the value of the internet aside, that time our final list was created without resort to Google!

At the close of that wonderful evening Joe posed a question. If there were one thing out there, just one, involving Ellery that Kurt would like to have or see transpire, what would it be? Kurt had to think long and hard on this. But ultimately his answer was a pretty grand one—he wished there could be a museum, or at the least an extensive exhibition dedicated to the works of Dannay and Lee, a place where visitors could experience first hand all there is to know about the mysteries of Ellery Queen.

Dale’s response? In the real world that is simply too much to wish for. But not so in the virtual world. It’s already there. Just visit Ellery Queen—a Website on Deduction. And in the real world? Well, the closest thing you will find right now is the excellent Ellery Queen exhibit assembled in honor of the 75th Anniversary of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It is open to the public at Columbia University’s Butler Library through December 23. Given that we are focused here on mysteries it only makes sense that it was the “Butler” that did it, right?

Posted in Characters, Conventions, Ellery Queen, Guest | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

HOLIDAY WISHES FROM EQMM

Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours.

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REFLECTIONS FROM A READING WEEK

I’ve been immersed in submissions over the past week and it’s revived an old line of thought. . . .

Every editor receives a share of manuscripts from writers who’ve never had a word in print on which a copyright notice looms boldly at the top. This is almost always a bad sign: Most such manuscripts turn out not to be publishable. I’ve come to think that extreme authorial anxiety over the protection of content arises from a failure to notice that creativity mostly takes wing from a relatively small cluster of basic, and shared, ideas.

A decade ago, mystery writers Peter Lovesey, Liza Cody, and Michael Z. Lewin decided to test what would happen if they each wrote a story taking as a common point of departure the same newspaper account of a crime. There’s more than a thematic convergence to the tales they came up with, which were published in EQMM March/April 2007 and later became part of our podcast series, but you can read or listen to all three in the same afternoon and not get a sense of repetitiveness. The creativity there is all in the details: The characters and their social milieus, the different narrative voices, the insights and observations that come from each author, and the subtly different mood of each tale would each suffice alone to give the reader a sense of entering a different fictional world. Even the plots, in their concrete working out, turned out to diverge enough to keep the reader wondering.

Those three authors (all friends, incidentally) were inspired to perform this experiment by the question authors so often get asked: Where do you get your ideas? Most authors find that a hard question to answer: Many will tell you they don’t know, the ideas just come. I once heard a writer say, “Where do I get my ideas? They’re floating in the air.” From my perspective at EQMM that seems, metaphorically at least, a pretty good answer—because authors so frequently catch the same idea at the same time, almost as if an idea were an airborne virus. Stories with amazingly similar themes, plot lines, even character types appear on our desks all at once, then die out as mysteriously as they briefly proliferated. A couple of years ago I was so struck by the similarity of the plots and storylines of two first stories that came to us within a month (both publishable) that I wrote to the authors to ask if they could have shared a writing course; but there was no connection between them at all. Although we’ll sometimes have to choose, in such instances, which story we’ll buy and which we’ll have to send back, authors need not worry, when that happens, that they’ve been suspected of plagiarism. Ideas can’t be copyrighted for the very good reason that they’re so often picked up from no one knows quite where.

That’s not to say there are not cases of deliberate borrowing of ideas, and some such borrowings may be concerning. Writers of classical puzzle mysteries, especially those whose plots hinge on an unusual weapon, a clever contrivance, or an especially complex and clever plot, may have more legitimate proprietary concerns regarding their ideas (including their plots) than most other writers.

But most often, even when a writer consciously borrows an idea from another writer, it’s not a case of stealing. More often it would be better considered a sort of homage. Years ago, I received a wonderfully atmospheric story by a writer who’d never published in our genre before, which we proceeded to buy and publish. No sooner had the issue hit the newsstands, however, than we received an anxious and contrite letter from the author in which she revealed that she’d copied the structure of a story by one of our genre’s grand masters to help shape her own piece. My first thought was that it was a fine time to tell us. But I realized immediately that the story had been so thoroughly filtered through the author’s own viewpoint, characters, setting, and voice that, whatever its structural borrowings, it had become unique. (Besides, structure is a part of craft that nearly every writer learns from those who’ve gone before.)

Don’t get me wrong, we have no tolerance at all for plagiarism. But there’s a big difference between imitation and plagiary, and the things that can be easily imitated or borrowed are often not the things that are key to a story’s originality.

An awful lot has been written about what it is that makes a story original. The source I find most useful on this subject is Edgar Allan Poe. Here are a few lines from his essay “On the Aim and Technique of the Short Story.” He’s speaking of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work. “Mr. Hawthorne’s distinctive trait is invention, creation, imagination, originality—a trait which, in the literature of fiction, is positively worth all the rest. But the nature of originality, so far as regards its manifestation in letters, is but imperfectly understood. The inventive or original mind as frequently displays itself in novelty of tone as in novelty of matter.”

For “matter” in that last line, let’s substitute “ideas” and then we can see that for Poe, novelty of tone—the voice each author brings uniquely to the work, the distinctive atmosphere he or she creates—is as important as original ideas. And it is a quality it would be very much harder for anyone to borrow or steal.   —Janet Hutchings

Posted in Characters, Editing, Fiction, Genre, Publishing, Story, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

EQMM to Be Special Guest at Passport to Murder, the 2017 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Toronto, from October 12-15!

A couple of months ago, in the midst of our celebration of EQMM’s 75th anniversary year, our staff received the delightful news that the magazine will be honored for “Distinguished Contribution to the Genre” at the next Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, in Toronto, Canada.

Chairs for the event, editor and anthologist Janet Costello and short-story writer Helen Nelson (both active in Sisters in Crime Canada), have given the upcoming convention an international theme, which is, of course, right up EQMM’s street. The convention’s title is Passport to Murder, an echo of the title of the department that has run in EQMM since 2003, Passport to Crime.

The Bouchercon organization itself has a tie to EQMM by virtue of our common reverence for its namesake, Anthony Boucher. EQMM’s current issue, November 2016, tips its hat to Anthony Boucher with a reprint of one of his stories, “A Kind of Madness.” But Boucher was much more than a writer for EQMM. He was the magazine’s second book reviewer, a longtime friend of Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay (a.k.a. Ellery Queen), and a translator of crime fiction from several languages, some for EQMM. Frederic Dannay is said to have told one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges, “You are the man who made me famous.” The story may be apocryphal, but it refers, nevertheless, to an important moment in EQMM’s history, the magazine’s publication of Anthony Boucher’s translation of Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” the first work of Borges’s ever to appear in English.

The fact that EQMM is to be honored not only at a convention named for Boucher but one whose theme is international is truly gratifying, and it shows how much the world of crime fiction has changed over the past couple of decades.

In 2003, when EQMM launched Passport to Crime, our monthly translation series, there was far too little crime fiction from other countries seeing print in English.

Getting up and running with the series was a challenge. Fortunately, we had the assistance of the International Association of Crime Writers, which was founded in 1986 and had, by then, established branches worldwide that could help us to identify authors, readers, translators, and literary agents in the countries they served. As in most business ventures, one connection led to another, and pretty soon we knew of translators’ organizations, yearly mystery awards similar to the American Edgars in several other countries, and Web sites that our translators could use to scout for new authors. The series remains a challenge, since we want to try to keep adding new countries and authors to the list, rather than repeating our earlier finds, and unfortunately, there are many countries that have no writers’ organizations we can tap into, though we suspect they may have a thriving literature of crime fiction. We hope the 2017 Bouchercon will afford opportunities for us to connect with writers from those less familiar crime-fiction communities.

A lot has changed on the wider crime-fiction scene since EQMM began actively seeking stories to translate. There’s been a virtual explosion of interest by English-language book publishers (especially in the U.K and the U.S.) in bringing out translations, and crime and mystery fiction seems to be a significant category. It’s easy to see why, for however introspective or character-driven a mystery may be, a strong plot is almost always present too, and such plots can provide strong hooks for marketing to a new audience. Besides, mystery fiction, with its procedural aspects (involving police and other organizations) seems uniquely positioned to give readers a sense of how other societies function.

Still, why has interest increased only now? Many non-English-speaking countries have crime or mystery writing traditions that go back at least a hundred years, and the percentage of books making it into translation for the U.S. market was, until a decade ago, negligible.

Several years ago, I posted on our Web site forum some information I’d discovered about the increase in the number of English translations being done of foreign crime fiction. A July 2, 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Fiction’s Global Crime Wave” cited the share of translated books coming out in the U.S. as 3%, which was, of course, small, but it was (according to other sources) threefold what it had been only a few years earlier.

What was perhaps even more telling was the Journal article’s reference to a fall in sales of U.S. crime novels in overseas markets: down 25% in Germany, 15% in France, and 90% in Scandinavia. The reason for this was speculated to be that publishers in those countries had come to have so many good home-grown mysteries to draw from that they didn’t need as many U.S. imports. Other countries, in other words, especially in Europe, seemed to be experiencing a great upsurge in creativity in our field. And perhaps it’s the availability of so many outstanding new foreign titles that is fueling the interest of American, Canadian, and U.K. publishers in translations.

I could not find any data more recent than that for English-language crime-fiction translation. But I did chance upon a 2016 article in Publishing Perspectives, by Dennis Abrams, entitled “Translated Fiction Outsells English Fiction in the U.K.,” in which Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, was quoted giving figures that show the average number of copies sold of translated literary-fiction titles as more than twice that of literary novels written in English. Since translated titles amount to only 1.5 percent of all books published in the U.K., the total number of translated books sold is, of course, much smaller than the total number of English-language original books sold, but when comparing the average sales of individual titles in each of the two categories, the translations won.

It would be interesting to know whether this remarkable development in the field of literary fiction is mirrored in crime fiction. I suspect that it is, and I hope to learn more about that and related topics at the Toronto convention, where I’m sure Janet and Helen have a revealing lineup of panels and events planned.

EQMM is being gifted with a table at this convention—a place where our authors and readers can gather and find us. We hope to see you there!

Thank you, Bouchercon, for this special opportunity!—Janet Hutchings

Posted in Conventions, Magazine, Passport, Publishing, Readers, Writers, Writing | 3 Comments

“What I Learned in Prison” (by T.J. MacGregor)

Trish MacGregor is the author of forty novels and the winner of an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original novel. In June 2016, she appeared in EQMM for the first time, with the story “The Unit.” We have another of her riveting stories of suspense coming up in 2017.  The experiences she describes in this post are both inspiring and thought-provoking.—Janet Hutchings

For three years in the late 1970s, I was in prison. Well, actually I was a prison librarian, not an inmate. Thankfully. That probably sounds like something from that old TV show, What’s My Line?

This prison was for male youthful offenders, in South Florida. It was new, run by the state, and I think I got hired because I spoke Spanish, had taught English to students from kindergarten through college, and had a master’s degree in Library Science. And they were looking for a Spanish teacher and a librarian. Plus, I was motivated. I had just finished a couple of years of teaching Spanish to hormonal eighth graders at a private school and knew that if I did it for another year, I probably would lose my mind!

Because the Indian County Correctional Institution was new, the library hadn’t been built yet and they brought in a double-wide trailer that was placed across the sidewalk from the education building, smack in the middle of the compound. I was provided with a generous budget to stock this library with books, music, magazines, and anything that wasn’t “obviously pornographic,” like Playboy, they said, or Penthouse. I remember standing in the middle of this huge, empty double-wide and thinking, Wow, I get to build my dream library.

So one day I drove over to the local independent bookstore in Vero Beach, Florida and started ordering books. Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy L. Sayers. You know the list. I also got Fitzgerald, Hemingway, du Maurier, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz. I included some of my favorites—Time and Again, by Jack Finney, and several from by Richard Matheson—The Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Nonfiction ran the gamut from memoirs to self-help to New Age titles. Instead of Playboy and Penthouse, I stocked Ellery Queen, Fate, Scientific American, and in 1978 added OMNI Magazine. I’m sure the inmate population wasn’t happy about the absence of porn, but they consumed everything else. And Tom, the bookstore owner, loved seeing me when I came shopping.

Years later, after I’d sold several novels, he hosted a signing for a group of mystery writers and invited me. It was fun and particularly gratifying because I’d made the leap from prison librarian and Spanish teacher to full-time writer.

In terms of daily life on that prison compound, I was one of fifteen women. This was a minimum-security prison, far more relaxed than maximum-security prisons, like the Florida state prison at Raiford, where the electric chair—Old Sparky—was alive and well. As a youthful offender facility, it was meant for kids as young as 15 and young adults up to 21. Never mind that there were inmates much older than that. Most of the crimes were drug-related—pot and cocaine.

Some young men were doing time for serious crimes. One inmate who eventually became an assistant in the library had robbed a convenience store so he could buy drugs. Another of my assistants, whose parents both had doctorates, had gotten high on something and raped a young girl. A man in his late twenties had killed the grandson of the Chicago mayor over a drug deal. His fiancée and I eventually became running partners and I learned a lot about what’s it’s like to live as a professional drug dealer. That inside dope helped me write my first published novel.

I remember one African-American, Ake, an older man in his thirties, who was doing ninety-nine years for murder. He’d been placed in our facility because he never caused trouble. Ake was a voracious reader, one of my most loyal customers.

Several years after I left that job, I was in a grocery store in Fort Lauderdale and heard someone bellowing, “Ms. Trish!” I turned and there was Ake, a giant of a man, rushing toward me with his arms wide open. We hugged in the middle of that grocery store and he told me he’d gotten early release for good behavior. And then he thanked me for all the wonderful books my library had provided, books that had changed his life from the inside out.

The other thing I learned as an employee in this prison is that when you have power over other people, it’s easy to abuse that power. Prison employees sold dope to inmates, no surprise there. Orange Is the New Black has that pegged. Female employees had affairs with inmates. Orange addresses that, too, but not quite in the same way since the prison in Orange is a female federal prison. In the prison where I worked, several female employees seduced the male inmates. At least one of them ended up marrying the inmate when he was released. The difference from Orange, besides the gender of the inmates, was that they didn’t interact with such snappy dialogue. No scriptwriters for those guys.

Then there were other types of abuses. Guards who patted your butt. Way to go, honey. I reported that guy to the superintendent of the prison. Nothing happened to him. After an inmate hung himself in solitary, it was discovered that he’d been on an outside work crew and had been taken to the assistant superintendent’s trailer on the prison grounds. Maybe he’d been expecting a cold glass of iced tea and lunch. Instead, he was raped.

When he reported it, he was tossed into solitary confinement and that was where he’d hung himself. When it was discovered that the assistant superintendent had been raping inmates for some time, he was forced to retire. No charges were ever brought against him.

I left this job in 1979, when the rapist-in-chief himself accused me of making personal copies of my resume in the classification department, the only place at that time that had a copier. Guilty. I did it. He threatened to place me on probation. The resumes were sent to the FBI, where I applied for a job because I couldn’t stand working in the state prison system anymore.

I went through two interviews with the FBI, who had started hiring women as agents, not just secretaries, in 1975. I was offered a job, pending my medical tests. Then I failed the hearing test because I’m ninety-percent deaf in my left ear, the result of a fractured skull when I was five. I quit my job, sold my condo, and moved. Eventually, I was hired by Florida International University to teach English to Cuban refugees.

I look back on those years in prison, though, and understand how much I gained. I used to go into the classification department on my lunch hour and read inmate files. I was curious about who they were, their backgrounds, families, their psyches. They provided plenty of fodder for future novels. The guy who headed that department was a Mormon with seven children. He was just there, filling time, waiting for retirement. The man in charge of the education department was a big teddy bear of a guy who made a difference in that he set up a GED program and then a college-level program where inmates could earn actual college credits for courses they took.

In the late 1990s, Florida’s state prisons were privatized. It meant that the more inmates they have, the more money they received from the state and the federal government. It’s probably why so many minorities are in prison for petty drug crimes, such as using or selling pot.

My three years behind bars—eight hours a day—taught me several indispensable lessons:

  • Nothing is ever what it appears to be, in either life or fiction.
  • That in a prison, the lines between good guys and bad guys are often blurred.
  • Sometimes, crime does pay.
  • There are usually two sides to a story—the wrong side and the right side—and those sides are usually open to interpretation.
  • Books change lives.
Posted in Books, Guest, Readers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

BOUCHERCON/EQMM 75TH ANNIVERSARY SYMPOSIUM PHOTO GALLERY PART 2

This week we want to share some photos that were not available to us when we posted about our 75th anniversary symposium last week. Following the symposium, Columbia University hosted a reception in the space that contains the EQMM 75th Anniversary Exhibition (Butler Library, 6th Floor East).  Our videographer, Ché Ryback, took some still photos of that event. A selection of them can be found below, along with three additional photos from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans.

Parts 1 and 2 of the symposium video are now up on YouTube and the audio recordings for those segments are or will be available in our podcast series. We expect to have Part 3 ready by next week. We hope you’ll have a look, or a listen. And don’t forget that the 75th anniversary exhibition at Columbia is on view and open to the public until December 23!—Janet Hutchings

From the EQMM 75th Anniversary Exhibition Reception
Butler Library at Columbia University
535 W 114th Street, New York, NY, 6th Floor East
Exhibition on view until December 23

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Linda Landrigan, Editor, AHMM

Linda Landrigan, Editor, AHMM

Peter Kanter, Publisher, Dell Magazines

Peter Kanter, Publisher, Dell Magazines

EQMM at Bouchercon World Mystery Convention
New Orleans, LA
September 15-18, 2016

From L to R: Charlaine Harris, Paula Wolden, Daniel Distler, Martin Edwards, Hilary Davidson, Janet Hutchings, Laura Benedict

From L to R: Dana Cameron, Janet Hutchings, Jack Chapple, Art Taylor, Dave Zeltserman, Judy Zeltserman, Twist Phelan

The Anniversary Panel, from L to R: Steve Steinbock, Otto Penzler, Janet Hutchings, Ted Hertel, Brendan DuBois, Shelly Dickson Carr, and James Lincoln Warren (moderator)

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EQMM 75th-ANNIVERSARY PHOTO GALLERY

Last week, in my October 12 post, I promised some photos of the celebratory events surrounding EQMM’s 75th anniversary, beginning with the Ellery Queen panel at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans and concluding with the reception following the EQMM 75th-Anniversary Symposium at Columbia University. EQMM’s senior assistant editor Jackie Sherbow has collected some of the best of the photos and arranged them here. Many of you will already know who the symposium participants are, but some information about each follows the photos.

Please don’t forget that the entire symposium is being made available through both audio podcast and YouTube video. Part 1 of four segments is already up, and Part 2 is expected to follow next week. Don’t miss it!—Janet Hutchings

The Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, New Orleans, LA (September 15-18, 2016)

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The EQMM anniversary panel at Bouchercon 2016. From L to R: Steve Steinbock, Otto Penzler, Janet Hutchings, Ted Hertel, Brendan DuBois, Shelly Dickson Carr, and James Lincoln Warren (moderator)

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The EQMM anniversary-panel toast at Bouchercon 2016

September 30, 2016: EQMM 75th Anniversary Symposium, Exhibition, and Reception

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Breakfast at the Dell Magazines office the morning of the symposium. L to R: Jackie Sherbow, Linda Landrigan, Laurie Harden, Peter Andruskiewicz, Joseph Goodrich, Laurie Pachter, Josh Pachter, Janet Hutchings.

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Butler Library, Columbia University, site of the EQMM 75th-anniversary symposium

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Sean Quimby of Columbia University’s Butler Library opens the event.

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Panel 1: Making Mystery Matter: EQMM and the Shaping of American Crime and Detective Fiction. From L to R: Sarah Weinman, Leah Pennywark, Jeffrey Marks, Charles Ardai

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Panel 2: A Brush With Death: Crime Fiction Cover Art and Illustration from the Pulps to the Present. From L to R: Janet Salter Rosenberg, Laurie Harden, Tom Roberts, and Jonathan Santlofer (moderator)

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Panel 3: EQMM’s Editor’s at Work. From L to R: Russell Atwood, Otto Penzler, Josh Pachter, Joseph Goodrich

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Joyce Carol Oates reads from her story “Big Momma” (EQMM 3-4/16)

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Janet Hutchings offers some closing remarks.

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The EQMM 75th Anniversary Exhibition at Columbia University’s Butler Library, 6th Floor East

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Some manuscripts within the exhibition: Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Boucher, Frederic Dannay

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Peter Kanter and Josh Pachter offer a bilingual toast at the reception.

SEAN QUIMBY is Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Columbia University Libraries. Previously he served as Senior Director of Special Collections at the Syracuse University Library, where he was responsible for the records of pulp magazine publishers Street & Smith, Ace Books, and Hugo Gernsback, as well as the archives of writers like Joyce Carol Oates. Trained as a historian of technology, he began his career in libraries at Stanford University.

SARAH WEINMAN is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). Her short stories have appeared in both EQMM and AHMM, and she has written about crime fiction for the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She is also News Editor at Publishers Marketplace.

LEAH PENNYWARK is a doctoral candidate at Purdue University. She specializes in twentieth-century American literature with a focus on detective and postmodern fiction. She has published in LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory and is finishing an article on EQMM’s impact on literary fiction in the mid-twentieth century.

JEFFREY MARKS is an award-winning crime-fiction biographer. His first book-length work, Who Was That Lady?, appeared in 2001, chronicling the life of mystery writer Craig Rice. It was followed by Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s and 1950s. More recent works include the Anthony Award winning Anthony Boucher; his 2013 biography of Erle Stanley Gardner; and his work-in-progress, a biography of Ellery Queen.

CHARLES ARDAI is a winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Ellery Queen Awards, the author of novels such as Little Girl Lost, one of the writers and producers of the TV series Haven, and the founding editor of Hard Case Crime, the acclaimed pulp-fiction imprint which has published authors ranging from Stephen King and Michael Crichton to Mickey Spillane and Gore Vidal. His first professional fiction publication was in EQMM.

JANET SALTER ROSENBERG is the adopted daughter of Agnes and George Salter (EQMM’s first art director).  She was a book editor for ten years, working at Random House, Berkley Books, and Columbia University Press.  While at Random House, she collaborated with her father on Italo Calvino’s first novel published in the U.S. It was the first of several designer/editor, father/daughter collaborations. She is currently writing a memoir.

LAURIE HARDEN attended the Kansas City Art Institute and the Rhode Island School of Design, studying painting, illustration and print-making. She works as an art instructor and freelance illustrator, with clients ranging from Ladies’ Home Journal to the New York Times to Simon & Schuster. Her paintings are in many collections, internationally, including those of the National Cancer Institute and the late Japanese prime minister Keizo Obuchi.

TOM ROBERTS is an illustrator and designer who has designed more than 120 hardcover and paperback books, as well as comic books and TV storyboards. He has appeared on A&E’s Biography and his art has been shown in exhibits across the country.  He also writes articles and books on illustrators of the past, including the award-winning Alex Raymond: His Life and Art. In 1997, he founded Black Dog Books, to bring awareness to the impact pulp magazines have had on popular culture.

JONATHAN SANTLOFER is the author of a half-dozen critically acclaimed novels, including the Nero Award-winning Anatomy of Fear. He is the editor of several anthologies, and his short stories have appeared in EQMM and other magazines. A well-known artist as well as a writer, he’s on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. His artwork is in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Tokyo’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

RUSSELL ATWOOD is a former managing editor of EQMM and the author of short stories and two well-received novels. His interviews with mystery writers such as Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter have appeared in Biography magazine. He has also written live shows, including the adult puppet comedy “The Nickie, Jameson, and Fred Show.” His most recent venture is the opening of a combination rare bookstore/performance art space called Mostly Mystery in Westfield, MA.

OTTO PENZLER is the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop (in NYC) and the founder, in 1975, of The Mysterious Press, now an imprint at Grove/Atlantic. He also publishes original works and classic crime fiction through MysteriousPress.com. The editor of more than 60 anthologies, including 20 volumes of The Best American Mystery Stories of the Year, he has won two Edgars for best critical work and is a recipient of both the Ellery Queen and Raven awards.

JOSH PACHTER debuted in EQMM in 1968 at the age of 16 (the second-youngest fiction contributor ever). Over the almost half-century since, he has contributed to EQMM another four dozen solo stories, collaborations, and translations of fiction by Dutch and Belgian writers. The Tree of Life, a collection of his Mahboob Chaudri stories, was published in 2015, as was Styx, a novel he wrote in collaboration with Belgium’s Bavo Dhooge.

JOSEPH GOODRICH is an Edgar Award-winning playwright whose work has been produced across the U.S. and Canada. He is also the author of short stories and critical/biographical works in the mystery field (including 2012’s Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen). His current play, Calamity Town, based on the Ellery Queen novel of the same title, recently ran to critical acclaim in Calgary, Canada.

JOYCE CAROL OATES is a winner of the National Book Award, two O. Henry Awards, and a National Medal for the Humanities (among many other honors). One of America’s most celebrated writers, she is the author of more than 50 novels and dozens of short stories, most under her own name, but a number employing her crime-writing pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly. Since 1992 she has contributed more than two dozen stories to EQMM.

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How We Will Miss Them Both!

This month two of EQMM’s most influential and valued contributors passed away. On October 1, the mystery world lost Clark Howard, a five-time winner of EQMM’s Readers Award, an Edgar winner for best short story with five additional Edgar nominations in that category, and a recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Clark was also a noted writer of true or “fact” crime, and was twice nominated for the best-fact-crime Edgar. He had a larger-than-life personality, and he was generous to a fault—treating his editors and friends to elaborate dinners at five-star restaurants on the few occasions when he traveled to mystery events. Clark’s life is chronicled in his autobiography Hard City, published by Dutton in 1990. It’s painful reading: As a boy he was parentless and homeless for a time, concealing himself in a bowling alley before closing each night so he’d have somewhere to sleep. While still a teenager, he served in the Korean War. Out of those tough beginnings he rose to become one of the best short story writers of his generation. He was one of a kind, and a friend to me and everyone else he knew at Dell Magazines.

This morning I signed on to my computer to the news that Ed Gorman, co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine and one of our field’s most haunting and original writers, had succumbed to a long illness on October 15. Like many in the mystery community, I’ve known Ed for decades and counted him a friend—though I never met him face to face. Ed was shy of large gatherings. It was primarily through phone calls, paper mail, and e-mail that he managed to meet—and help—more writers and editors than we could begin to count. A nominee for the Edgar in both the best-critical and best-short-story categories, he was also 2003’s recipient of the Ellery Queen Award, which is given to editors or publishers for their wide-ranging contributions to the mystery field. Ed’s contributions to EQMM were especially significant: He contributed nearly two-dozen searing stories of dark suspense to our pages; he suggested, and developed, our first Web site; he conceived and was the first author of our Blog Bytes column; and he was an inveterate reader of EQMM who often took the time to write a complimentary letter to us about what he’d enjoyed in an issue. Those letters were such a boost; I will always be grateful that Ed took the time to write them.

This month our field lost two of the greats. May they rest in peace.—Janet Hutchings

 

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75th ANNIVERSARY: SYMPOSIUM MEDIA AND MORE

The video and audio from the first panel of our anniversary symposium are now available!

For more anniversary coverage, stay tuned here, see our previous posts, and visit Vicki Weisfeld’s piece for Crime Fiction Lover: “75 Years of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.”

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