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

eq-4 eq-6 eq-9 eq-11 eq-14 eq-18 eq-21 eq-24

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)

Posted in Conventions, Ellery Queen | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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)


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)


The EQMM anniversary-panel toast at Bouchercon 2016

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


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.


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


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


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


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)


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


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


Janet Hutchings offers some closing remarks.


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


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


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 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.

Posted in Conventions, Ellery Queen, Magazine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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


Posted in Memorial | 3 Comments


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.”

Posted in Ellery Queen, History, Magazine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Champagne Toasts Have Come and Gone!

And Now Here Is the Solution to Our 75th Anniversary Contest, Our List of Winners, and Josh Pachter’s Report on “Easter Eggs” in Arthur Vidro’s Contest Story

What a month September was for EQMM! We’ve been celebrating our 75th anniversary in print all year long, and we’ve still got two more special issues to go, but there’s nothing like the energy a devoted community of readers, writers, and fans can bestow in person, and we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of that community first at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans on Friday September 16, when EQMM and AHMM writer James Lincoln Warren put together and so brilliantly moderated a panel composed of EQMM book reviewer Steve Steinbock, The Mysterious Press’s Otto Penzler (who is also a former columnist for EQMM!), short-story writer and Ellery Queen expert Ted Hertel, Shelly Dickson Carr (granddaughter of John Dickson Carr, who was, of course, one of the genre’s most illustrious writers and also a former columnist for EQMM), and myself. The lively discussion was punctuated by glasses full of champagne (provided by our fabulous moderator!) being lifted to the magazine and its future.

Just two weeks later, on September 30, many of us met again at Columbia University for a half-day EQMM symposium sponsored by the university’s Butler Library. It was an afternoon of insightful discussion, poignant recollections, a colorful and thought-provoking art presentation, a gripping reading by author Joyce Carol Oates, and much more. Rather than trying to summarize the afternoon myself, I’d like to direct you to two posts I’ve seen by attendees (see “Reflections on the 75th Anniversary of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine” by V.S. Kemanis and “A Diamond for the Queen” by Les Blatt) and also to our podcast series, where later this week we will be posting the audio of the first panel, and our Web site, where in coming days you will find a link to the video of that portion of the program. Video and audio of subsequent portions of the program will be made available at the same locations on the Web as the editing of them is completed. And next week, we’ll be putting up a photo gallery of all of the events on this site, including the reception that followed the symposium, at which attendees were able to view the EQMM exhibition—which will continue to run through December 23.

Everyone involved in these events—from our panelists and moderators and speakers to the library’s director Sean Quimby and the exhibition curator Jennifer B. Lee—has proved an inspiration to me and to the rest of EQMM’s staff. As we go forward into our 76th year, it’s with a sense of being fortunate to belong to a truly extraordinary community.

Before we get to the 75th-anniversary contest solution and results, I want to insert a reminder to readers not to miss our two remaining anniversary issues: November, which has just gone on sale and highlights the magazine’s influence on crime fiction scholarship, reviewing, and criticism, and December, which includes some final thoughts about EQMM’s role in today’s publishing world.

And now, here is the solution to “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1” by Arthur Vidro. It is followed by “Easter in the Autumn” by Josh Pachter, in which he reveals the story’s many hidden “Easter Eggs.” I will forgo introductions to Arthur and Josh, since they both have earlier posts you can refer to on this site (see “The Return of Poggioli: T.S. Stribling’s Sleuth Given a New Home in EQMM by Arthur Vidro and “Partners in Crime” by Josh Pachter). —Janet Hutchings

by Arthur Vidro

Professor Tudorri greeted his class the following week. “Most of you failed to identify correctly the mistake on the cover of the first issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Though a few of you—Danny Nathan, Manford Lepofsky, and Eli Martin—did quite well.”

He started handing the students back their papers.

“Dolores Aikin thought the mistake was the newspaper headline in the eyeglasses on the illustrated face. She said the type was backward. But that was meant to be a reflected image, so that’s not a mistake. Amos Bluefield wondered if author Stribling’s first name had been erroneously omitted. However, Thomas Sigismund Stribling—who had already won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Store—always used the moniker T.S. Stribling for his writing.”

Tudorri returned to the head of the class.

“The misspelling was in the surname of Anthony Abbot, which was the pseudonym used by author Fulton Oursler when he wrote mysteries. The magazine mistakenly ended the Abbot surname with two t’s instead of one.”

“How embarrassing,” said Jezreel Wright, who usually was silent as a statue.

“Yes, especially since Ellery Queen, the magazine’s editor, corresponded with many of these authors and had read their novels and short stories. However, the mistake was quickly identified and corrected—perhaps even by Fred Dannay himself, who pre-Ellery Queen had been the art director at an ad agency. I can picture him—or someone else acting on his instructions—taking an artist’s knife and scratching out that second t. On many reproductions of the first issue’s cover—including a poster-size version the magazine offered for sale—the name Abbot is spelled correctly, but it doesn’t quite align with the names of the other authors. That is because the scratch-out mark, not the t in Abbot, is flushed to the right.”

“Who told you about this mistake?” asked Dolores.

“I caught this mistake myself,” said Professor Tudorri. “And thanks to this class, now the world can know.”

* * *

AND THE WINNERS ARE . . . Jim Noy, Twila Johnson, and Art Taylor, each of whom will receive a free one-year subscription to EQMM. Congratulations to them all!

* * *

by Josh Pachter

In 2011, to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Arthur Vidro wrote a delightful short story titled “The Ransom of EQMM #1.” Five years later, on 8/31/16, Something is Going to Happen featured Mr. Vidro’s equally delightful follow-up, “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1,” in celebration of the magazine’s 75th anniversary. This time around, the story wasn’t only a treat in its own right, but it also included an authentically Queenian “Challenge to the Reader,” which EQMM editor Janet Hutchings then turned into a contest.

The solution to Mr. Vidro’s challenge has now been announced, as have the three winners of the contest’s prizes: year-long subscriptions to the world’s leading mystery magazine. Congratulations to the three eagle-eyed readers who spotted the misspelling of Anthony Abbot’s last name the fastest!

What some readers of this blog may not have spotted, though, is that Vidro’s story also included more than a dozen cleverly planted Easter eggs, the little “in jokes” that software developers, filmmakers and authors sometimes hide in their programs, movies, and writings to reward those clever consumers who manage to spot them.

In case you missed the Easter eggs in “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1,” here are explanations of the ones I noted. (If there are others that I missed, I hope Mr. Vidro—or someone else—will let me know!)

Let’s start with the easy ones. Just before the cover reproduction that illustrates the story, we hear from Danny Nathan and Manford Lepofsky, two of Professor Harv Tudorri’s journalism students. And, when the professor offers extra credit to anyone who can name the two men who wrote together under the “Ellery Queen” pseudonym, Manford identifies “Manny Lee” and Danny interrupts him to name “his first cousin Fred Dannay.” Avid fans of the Ellery Queen series probably already know that “Manfred B. Lee” and “Frederic Dannay” were themselves assumed names: Manny Lee was originally Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, and Fred Dannay was originally Daniel Nathan.

But that’s just the beginning! Most of the other students in Professor Tudorri’s class are named after residents of the fictional Wrightsville, the setting for a baker’s dozen of Ellery Queen’s novels and short stories, beginning with Calamity Town (1942) and, with stops along the way for The Murderer is a Fox (1945), Ten Day’s Wonder (1948), Double, Double (1950), a single chapter of The King is Dead (1952), and seven short stories and novelettes published in the ’50s and ’60s, leading all the way up to The Last Woman in His Life (1970).

Emmeline Dupre, who we see chewing on a pencil in the second paragraph of Vidro’s story, is the namesake of Wrightsville’s dancing and dramatics instructor, often referred to as the “Town Crier.” The burly Jeep Jorking is a tip of the cap to a Wrightsville police officer. Al Brown, whose sleeve is stained with ice cream, shares his name with the owner of the town’s ice-cream parlor. Ed Hotchkiss, who waits to be called on, is a shout-out to Wrightsville’s cab driver, who often hung around the railroad station waiting for a fare. The original J.C. Pettigrew was the proprietor of Wrightsville’s real-estate agency. Grover Doodle, who refers to his father’s newsstand, has the same name as the son of Mark Doodle, Wrightsville’s newsstand owner. Tom Anderson, who we learn sometimes shows up half drunk for Prof. Tudorri’s class, is staggering in the footsteps of Wrightsville’s Tom Anderson, who was the town drunk—and who wound up a murder victim in Double, Double. Gabby Warum was the community’s one-toothed train-station agent. And Wrightsville’s Carter Bradford was the local prosecutor and the boyfriend of Patricia Wright.

Which brings us to Milo Wiloughby, “a serious sophomore who wrote a medical column for the school newspaper.” I don’t know if this is an Easter egg within an Easter egg or just a typo on someone’s part, but “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1” revolves around a spelling error—and Wrightsville’s town doctor was Milo Willoughby, with two L’s.

But there’s more!

Immediately before the illustration, the professor asks a gum-chewing girl in the front row to help him with an administrative task. Her name is Nikki Porter—and that was the name of the fictional Ellery Queen’s secretary (and sort of girlfriend).

When J.C. Pettigrew mentions his neighbor, who has every issue of EQMM ever published and “was written up in the Shinn Corners Courier,” he’s making a direct reference to Vidro’s previous story, “The Ransom of EQMM #1.” (And the reference to Shinn Corners in that story was itself an Easter egg, since EQ’s 1954 novel The Glass Village, which was originally intended to feature the Ellery Queen character and be set in Wrightsville, was ultimately converted into the only standalone book written by Dannay and Lee and set in the equally fictional New England hamlet of Shinn Corners.)

Last but not least, there’s the professor himself. Did you notice that “Harv Tudorri” is an anagram of “Arthur Vidro”?!

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Vidro face to face last month during the one day’s wonder that was the EQMM 75th Anniversary Symposium at Columbia University in New York City, that calamitous town. When the door between the corridor and the symposium room opened, there was an old woman there who introduced us, and Vidro warned me there’d be the devil to pay if I didn’t add to this blog post the several additional references included in the solution section of his story. I didn’t want to cop out on him, so to avoid that tragedy of eggs I asked Janet Hutchings to send me Part Two in advance of its official publication, and on the eighth day after I made that request, she did. Which means I can oblige Arthur Vidro and introduce you to the four players on the other side of his charming anniversary tale:

Professor Tudorri’s student Eli Martin is a reference to Wrightsville’s judge of the same name, and student Amos Bluefield is named after Wrightsville’s town clerk, who was first mentioned in Calamity Town (1942) and, as we learn in The King is Dead (1952), “died on Columbus Day eve in 1940.”

My favorite of all Vidro’s Easter eggs is the reference to Jezreel Wright, “who was usually as silent as a statue.” In Ellery Queen’s fictional Wrightsville, you see, Jezreel Wright is identified time and again as the man who founded the community in 1701, and whose statue stands in the center of the Town Square (which is round).

And that leaves Dolores Aikin, the first student mentioned in Vidro’s Part Two. Here I admit that I was stumped. It seemed unlikely that there’d be one solitary name in the story that wasn’t an Easter egg, but I couldn’t think of a Dolores Aikin anywhere in the Queen oeuvre, and even the usually helpful Google let me down. Perhaps, I pondered, this was an oblique reference to Joan Aiken, who contributed a number of short stories to EQMM in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, but that seemed like an awfully big stretch. After wrestling with the puzzle for more than a day, I finally tracked down an email address for Mr. Vidro and wrote to him, begging for help . . .

. . . and then, within a minute of my hitting “Send,” a light bulb clicked on above my head and I got it: “Dolores Aikin” would be abbreviated “D. Aikin,” and, until he retired and was replaced by Anselm Newby, Chief Dakin was the head of the Wrightsville police department! I was pretty darned proud of myself for figuring this one out at last . . . until Arthur Vidro graciously responded to my email and explained that, in fact, Dolores Aikin was the librarian at the Carnegie Library on State Street in Ellery Queen’s imaginary Wrightsville. Huh. An Aikin and a Dakin, both in the same town. Who’da thunk it?

If you missed any of these buried treasures in your first reading of “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1,” I hope you’ll go back and read it again with Vidro’s devilishly clever Easter eggs in mind. They make what would have been a thoroughly enjoyable short story without them even more special.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine was 75 years old when Arthur Vidro wrote “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1.” What will he write when it is 80? When it is 85? The mind boggles. . . .

Posted in Books, Conventions, Ellery Queen, Fiction, Guest, History, Magazine, Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with Rob Hart (by Scott Loring Sanders)

It had been my intention to blog about EQMMs recent 75th-anniversary events today, but since I was not able to gather all of the photos in time, we will postpone that until a bit later this month. In the meantime, this week we have a terrific start to what promises to be a series of interviews of interesting figures in the mystery world by Scott Loring Sanders. Scott is the author of two novels, and he has been contributing short stories to EQMM since 2006. His short fiction has also appeared in many other periodicals and has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories. In March, a new collection of his stories, Shooting Creek, is due from Down & Out Books. EQMM readers will find a new Sanders story in our November issue, on sale October 11.
Joining Scott in the discussion this week is Rob Hart, author of the novels New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony for best first novel, City of Rose, and South Village (which also comes out this coming Tuesday, October 11). Rob is also the publisher at His short fiction has appeared in many publications, including Thuglit and Helix Literary Magazine.—Janet Hutchings

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Rob Hart, the newly appointed publisher at Mysterious Press. In addition to his work on the publishing side of the business, he’s also a writer, so I thought it might be interesting to pick his brain, focusing on his firsthand knowledge from both ends of the spectrum. His answers were enlightening and didn’t disappoint.

You’ve been working for Mysterious Press for several years now, but you were recently given a new title. What is that title and what all does your job entail?

I’m the publisher and COO. I’m also the company’s only full-time employee. So my job description is: Pretty much everything. Mostly it’s making sure the trains run on time between and our publishing partner, Open Road. I’ve done everything from acquiring and editing, all the way down to filing contracts.

So clearly a jack of all trades. How did you stumble into the publishing world? I know you started off as a reporter and then worked in politics. How does one go from politics to the world of crime, murder, and mystery? Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not such a leap after all!

I had been working in politics for four years and was very much burnt out. I was on the clock 24/7, and dealing with a lot of high pressure and demanding personalities. About five years ago now, I saw a job posting for Otto Penzler’s—Otto was looking for someone to run the website. It was a bit of a step back for me, but I wanted something less intense that would let me focus on my own writing.

The advantage of working in politics for so long is I got used to adapting and handling a large workload. And Otto always has ten things going on at once. He found that he could hand a lot of tasks off to me. I was doing more and more until finally he named me associate publisher, and then publisher.

I miss politics and I miss journalism but I can say without question this is the happiest I’ve ever been. I love it here.

When I first contacted you about this interview, you briefly mentioned your unique perspective of the mystery genre from both the publisher’s side as well as the writer’s. One thing you said you’d learned was the value of patience. I think this is an interesting concept that might shed light for other writers out there. For example, why does it take so long to hear back from an editor/publisher after you submit a story or book? Sometimes this can be maddening, all the waiting. Could you speak to why patience is so important and/or how you manage the inevitable waiting we all must endure as writers?

This is a long, long process. There’s no way to make it fast. Just reading a book can take several days to a week. Maybe an editor reads a book and likes it but a second person needs to vouch for it. That’s more time. Then you have to take into account that no one’s sole job is to read your book—editors and agents are often doing a dozen other things at once.

Time isn’t that bad a thing. I know it can be frustrating—especially after you’ve spent so much time working on your book. But the wheels turn slow because this isn’t a simple process. You’re not just slapping a cover on a Word document and printing it out.

I once had an author who wanted his book to come out as soon as possible. He wanted us to push up every deadline and get the book out within a few months. This is a problem for several reasons: One, you have to rush through several rounds of copyediting and proofreading, so you’re going to miss stuff. Two, you’re going to lessen the chance of getting timely reviews. You might not get trade reviews at all. And three, you’re going to force us to rearrange other parts of our schedule, and possibly negatively impact other authors who were in line first.

You need time to solicit bookstores. And design a nice cover. And send out galleys. There are a lot of moving parts. Faster isn’t always better. It doesn’t always feel nice, but that’s the process. All that nervous energy and frustration an author feels while out on sub ought to be channeled into a new writing project.

Yep, that makes perfect sense. A lot more going on behind the scenes than most of us realize. On that note, is there any advice you can offer aspiring mystery writers when it comes to submitting their work? Either the process of submitting and/or about the work itself? Any common missteps you repeatedly see?

A common misstep is not following directions. isn’t open to unsolicited submissions. But we keep on getting them. Even after I added a note next to our e-mail address. Even after I bolded said note and increased the font size. The kind of person who figures they’ll take the chance and send it anyway is the kind of person who is going to find more doors closing than opening.

Oh, and, invest in Microsoft Word. It drives me crazy when I get a file in a strange format I then have to try and hack open. And I know programs like Pages and Scrivener will spit out a Word doc for you—it’s still good to have Word for stuff like track changes and whatnot. When you’re using other programs, something always gets gummed up. Word may be a little obnoxious but it’s the industry standard.

Finally, in a larger sense: This is art but it’s a business too, and you can’t take things so personally. I’ve seen authors burn down their reputations on social media—agents and editors read that stuff!

That’s excellent advice, and perhaps a nice transition into my next question. I’d like for you to talk about the differences you see between small, independent presses versus the major houses. Obviously publishing with one of the Big Five has certain advantages, but the reverse is also true. I’d like to hear your take on it. Maybe a pros and cons approach? Any insights you can offer?

Smaller presses are a great way for some authors to reach an audience. A lot of crime writers will tell you that when they went out on submission to the Big Five, what they hear is that their work is too niche, or too hard to market. That’s not a knock against the Big Five—they’re big companies with huge staffs and they have to take on what they think can sell.

But now, thanks to small presses, a lot of those “too niche” authors are finding homes. Stuff that’s a little riskier, or a little darker. And you’ve got some great small presses out there. My own publisher, Polis, is a small press, but it’s run by Jason Pinter, who’s done just about every job in publishing, so the books get some really nice distribution and coverage. Then there are the punk rock outfits, like Broken River, Down & Out, One Eye, and All Due Respect—small operations run by passionate folks, doing some really fun, exciting things.

There are pros and cons on both sides. At the Big Five, you might get a ton of support and make more money and sell more books. You might also get lost in the machinery, or fail to meet expectations, or find you’re compromising your vision.

At a smaller press you might get to experiment more, and get more individualized attention. You also might only sell a few copies of your book, because the press doesn’t have a marketing budget, or entrée with the trade publications, or the book is only available on Amazon.

I agree completely. My first two books were with a major publisher, while my new collection is forthcoming with aforementioned Down & Out. Eric Campbell has been a pleasure to work with. He’s so enthusiastic and passionate, and I’ve enjoyed the hands-on, one-on-one interaction. So I hear exactly what you’re saying. Of course, every publisher is different, just as every writer is. Which makes a nice transition to my next question about the “writing process.” We all approach it differently. Can you take us through a little of yours?

Right now it’s run and gun. I have a daughter who’s not yet two, so a lot of my writing is scheduled around her naps, or when my wife takes her to the park, or after she’s gone to bed for the night.

The time and place isn’t always consistent, but the nuts and bolts of the process are: I like to outline three times. The first two times I throw it away, and start from scratch a few days later. This is an idea I stole from a friend who uses this process for his short stories. He figures that he’ll remember the good stuff, forget the bad stuff, and have time to mull over how the pieces fit together.

Interesting. I’m the exact opposite. I don’t outline and I don’t throw anything away. But like I said, every writer is different. And obviously your method seems to be working because your first novel was nominated for an Anthony Award. Anything you’d like to say about that? Any sort of Bouchercon shout-out you’d like to offer?

I was really honored. It was an incredible crop of writers in the Best First category.

In terms of shout-outs, I’d like to say this: If you’re on the fence about going to Bouchercon, or any writing convention, you should just do it, if it’s within you means. You’ll find that everyone is really nice and it’s generally a very good time. Writing and reading are solitary acts, so it’s nice to go to these things and realize that you are not alone.

I saw something you recently posted on Facebook about being sick and tired of the new book you’re working on. As a fellow writer, I know exactly what you mean. But for those out there who aren’t writers, this might sound strange. Could you explain?

I was on the third copyedit of South Village at that point, and that’s after doing five or six drafts, so it’s a lot of times reading the same book. So it was me being a little cheeky—as much as I love writing, it’s still a job. And sometimes jobs are frustrating.

2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, an extraordinary accomplishment by any measure. There aren’t many publications, in any genre, that can make that claim. What’s your take on the current state of the mystery/crime genre?

I think it’s a great time and a scary time. Great because there are small presses that are doing well and giving more authors a shot. There are some incredible books coming out, all across the board. The genre wall is coming down, in that a lot of great crime-fiction writers seem to be getting more mainstream recognition. Plus, in a general sense, it’s a very kind, welcoming community.

Scary because the short-fiction market is getting tough. Thuglit just closed. The Big Click closed. All Due Respect used to put out short fiction but they don’t anymore. There aren’t a lot of options for authors, which increases competition. It’s especially hard for those doing darker stuff. I recently finished a story and I’ve got no idea where the hell to send it.

I don’t know what the solution to that is. I’m not sure there is one. Short stories are a tough sell, whether it’s in an anthology or a magazine. Which is a shame, because it’s a great form, and a good opportunity for a writer to stretch muscles and try new things.

Yeah, I agree, especially what you said about the shrinking short-story market. Seeing Thuglit close was a bummer as Todd (Robinson) was producing a magazine that seemed to get better and better with each issue. But I also understand his decision to do so. Regardless, speaking of scary, what is your biggest fear? I don’t mean with regards to writing or publishing. I mean in general. Have you ever considered writing about it, fictionally or otherwise? I find it can be an interesting place to start a story.

My biggest fear used to be bees. Now it’s something bad happening to my daughter. Which I already lived through: She was born with a heart defect that required two open-heart surgeries to repair. She’s all fixed up, so now I just have normal kid stuff to be terrified of, like uncovered electrical outlets, and strangers driving vans with tinted windows. I expect a lot of that fear is going to make its way into my writing pretty soon.

Well, glad to hear she’s okay, obviously. And we’ll all look forward to seeing that stuff (tinted windows, bees, etc.) in some of your new work. I can’t thank you enough for your time, and best of luck with the new book and all of your upcoming adventures at Mysterious Press.

Posted in Awards, Books, Digital, Guest, Interview, Publishing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How Characters I Know Affect What I Write” by (Terrie Farley Moran)

Terrie Farley Moran began her fiction-writing career with short stories, and her 2015 Agatha-nominated story for EQMM, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” is a prequel to her Read ’Em and Eat novels. The first book in that series, Well Read, Then Dead, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel in 2014, and it has been followed by two more books, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death. In this new post she talks about some of the differences between writing short stories and novels.—Janet Hutchings

I always brag that I received my first subscription to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from a generous aunt when I was fourteen years old. And so I have enjoyed every issue over the many (MANY!) years since.

It was the absolute perfect gift for a young girl who loved to read mysteries and eventually my love of reading mystery stories led to my desire to write them. So with many starts and stops I began writing. First, a novel that was never published and then a short story followed by another and another and eventually, the stories were published here and there. Finally I bit the bullet and submitted a story to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The story was “Fontaine House” and it was published in the August 2012 issue.

I love the variety of the stories I read in every issue of EQMM, so it is not surprising that the short stories I write wander all over the mystery genre: a paranormal mystery here, a noir tale there, a revenge tale or two.

Well I kept writing. More short stories, another novel, and one fine day my agent sold the cozy Read ’Em and Eat series to Berkley Prime Crime. When the first novel in the series, Well Read, Then Dead hit book shelves everywhere, I started to hear from readers. Variations of the same question came up more than a time or two. “What happened when Sassy and Bridgy moved from Brooklyn to Fort Myers Beach?” “How did their beach life begin before they opened the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore?”

And there were a number of folks who were insistent that the Read ’Em and Eat series deserved a prequel short story. Now on the face of it, that sounded like a genius idea. I love writing short stories. BUT, in all my short stories I have never used the same characters in more than one story. I have found characters I loved, gave them the best story I could think of and then I left them in that story forever.

With a prequel I was trying to write a short story with characters I actually knew; characters who were familiar. I am still fascinated that it was such a struggle for me to write the story that ultimately became “A Killing at the Beausoleil.” I do realize that in my short fiction I love discovering how a character is going to respond to a situation because I never met her before. But I had already written two novels with the same protagonist and sidekick; I knew their personalities and probable responses and that changed the dynamic of writing the story.

Still, I admit, I have always envied the short-story writers among us who can write a series of stories using the same main characters. Our beloved Ed Hoch charmed us with story after story about his series characters: Nick Velvet, Captain Leopold, Ben Snow, Michael Vlado and many others including my very favorite Dr. Sam Hawthorne. Perhaps now that I have used repeat characters in one short story, I can do it again. Hmm, I wonder who I’d like to revisit next.

Posted in Books, Characters, Fiction, Guest, Story, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

“The Magical Mystery Book Tour” (by Jenny Milchman)

Jenny Milchman’s first professional publication was in EQMMs Department of First Stories in November 2012, just months before her first novel, Cover of Snow, was released by Ballantine Books; the book received its year’s Mary Higgins Clark Award. Two more books, Ruin Falls and As Night Falls, soon followed, with As Night Falls winning Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award in 2016.  Jenny had been active in the literary community long before her own work saw print. She is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is now celebrated by more than 700 bookstores. As you’ll see from the following post, she has also made many personal connections with bookstores through the book tours that followed the publication of her novels.—Janet Hutchings

By now more than a few people know that I have a habit of going on very long book tours. But in case you do not, I’ll fill in a little background. It took me eleven years and seven unpublished novels to land my first publishing contract. After that amount of time (and rejection), you want to do everything you can to make your book a success once it does finally come out. In my case that meant renting out our house, trading in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, pulling the kids out of first and third grades, and hitting the road for seven months and 35,000 miles.

We car-schooled the kids.

My husband worked from the front seat.

He’s a surgeon.

No, I’m kidding, he’s actually in IT, but still—you can tell we were all in.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to readers that the publishing world is in something of a whirlwind these days, and that applies to mysteries as well. Old and lauded imprints dying dinosaur deaths, new presses cropping up like mushrooms, authors deciding to publish themselves. It’s hard for a writer to know what to do, what might help bring about a lasting career, if indeed anything will. Some say that luck and timing play more of a role than any marketing maneuver—and even, arguably, the quality of the book itself.

But I tend to be a take-the-reins kind of person, and anyway—I was certain I would enjoy the kind of work that goes into a tour, even though every person I spoke to swore I would be sick of the road after two weeks, walk into a lot of empty rooms, and suffer food poisoning from all the burgers-on-the-run we’d have to eat.

Even my publisher begged me to stay home. And I was paying for the trip!

Imagine my surprise when nearly 200 people filled the seats at one of my early events in Oxford, MS. My independent publicity firm set up this appearance at a combination live radio broadcast/book signing hosted by Square Books. A fair portion of the town waits avidly for this monthly night out—and I got to be the headliner.

And that wasn’t the only time I was made to feel like a star as a virtually unknown newbie author. I stood in front of the Atlantic Ocean for Litchfield Books’ Moveable Feast on Pawley’s Island in South Carolina and spoke to a roomful of 150 guests who munched a three course lunch as the sea swelled behind us. They weren’t even distracted from my talk by the magnificent view. Or the chocolate fudge pie!

It turns out that something in our increasingly virtual, always connected lives has made room for a tour of this kind. For a sense of true connectedness beneath the glossy Facebook likeness of it. Shaking the real life, flesh and blood hand of your reader, then hearing a story of theirs after they have listened to yours, is something a lot of people seem to hunger for. Sure, I walked into a sparsely attended event (or twenty), but when you do 150 such nights, you can afford a disappointing turnout now and again. I also found that what was disappointing numerically often translated into particularly memorable along other dimensions.

There was the time when the sole attendee shared with me that her son had killed himself—she said it just like that—the year before. My first suspense novel opens with a heroine’s jarring loss and the cloudy assumption of suicide, and at first I wondered why this person had chosen to venture out on such a forbidding, snowy night to come see me. But she told me that my novel had gotten her through the harrowing year she’d been forced to endure. That the grief in my book felt so real, it helped to ease her own, or at least let her share it.

Would this woman have opened up to me like that online? I don’t think so. Not in the same way anyway. Even if she had, the exchange that followed between us would never have happened, one so personal and intimate, I could never write about it.

There’s a robust in-person event and bookstore scene that the ubiquity of Amazon boxes with their smiley Prime logos doesn’t hint at, and which I never would’ve discovered if I hadn’t hit the road. Mystery bookstores as well as more general-focus ones attract crowds. The mystery/suspense/thriller community has always been a welcoming one—just go to ThrillerFest or Killer Nashville, Malice Domestic or Bouchercon—but what I didn’t realize is that this sense of camaraderie extends to every quiet corner of the country, everywhere you can find a reader or a book.

When I came back from the first Magical Mystery Book Tour, my debut had gone into six printings in hardcover. My publisher said that if I felt like going out again with my second release, they wouldn’t beg me to stay home this time. And when my third book came out last year, they helped set up a portion of the tour.

All told, my family and I spent fifteen months on the road, discovering the sites and sounds of this country, meeting readers one by one by one.

Why did we do it?

It’s not such a mystery, really.

Posted in Books, Bookshops, Business, Guest, Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Carve it in Jade: PWA Turns 35” (by Ted Fitzgerald)

EQMM is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016, and the year holds another important milestone for the mystery, the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Private Eye Writers of America.  In honor of that organization, which has contributed so much to our genre, we asked Ted Fitzgerald, who recently served a term as vice president of the organization, to do a post for this site about the PWA. For over thirty years, Ted has been a fan, a critic, and a writer of crime fiction. He’s reviewed crime fiction for the Drood Review of Mystery, Deadly Pleasures, Mystery Scene, and the Boston Phoenix, and his short stories have been selected for inclusion in anthologies edited by many well-known people in the field, including Ed Gorman, Max Allan Collins, Mickey Spillane, Bob Randisi, and Martin Greenberg. Ted is the recipient of the 2004 Don Sandstrom Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom, and for several years he served as chair for the PWA’s Shamus Awards.—Janet Hutchings

“A Private Eye is defined as a private citizen (not a member of the military, federal agency, or civic or state police force) who is paid to investigate crimes. A Private Investigator can be a traditional private eye, a TV or newspaper reporter, an insurance investigator, an employee of an investigative service or agency, or similar character.”
PWA’s definition of a private eye.

The Private Eye Writers of America started in 1981 because Bob Randisi was fed up.

He was fed up with New York publishers telling him that novels featuring private investigators as protagonists didn’t sell. It appeared a specious claim: The 1970s saw the debut of such popular and long-running private eyes as Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective, Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone, Stuart Kaminsky’s Toby Peters, Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter and, oh yeah, a Boston bruiser named Spenser from some guy named Parker.

So Bob bought a bunch of post cards and mailed them to numerous fellow writers with whom he corresponded. He asked them what they thought of an organization dedicated to recognizing, encouraging and rewarding private-eye fiction. About 40 of them thought it was a pretty good idea. The result was PWA.

In the first Reflections in a Private Eye newsletter, Bob said of the “P.I.s don’t sell” mindset: “A hell of a lot of us don’t believe that, and never have. That’s why we’re writing what we are writing. But how many of us really knew how many other writers thought the same way? . . . So, I’ve started PWA so that we can all keep in touch . . . I’ve also started PWA because I’ve long believed that the best P.I. novel of the year should be acknowledged . . .”

And, so it was. From it came the Shamus Awards which has grown to become, along with the Edgars, perhaps the best-known and respected peer-judged award in the crime-fiction field. In 1982, the first Best P.I. Novel award went to Bill Pronzini for Hoodwink; The Eye, an award for lifetime achievement in private-eye fiction was given to Ross MacDonald. In subsequent years, awards were added for Best Short Story, Best First P.I. Novel, and Best Paperback Original. And the Shamus Award banquet has become a Friday-night Bouchercon tradition.

Almost from PWA’s start, the P.I. field mushroomed and diversified by, among other things, gender, race, setting, sexuality, nationality, and subgenre. While the PWA logo is Terry Beatty’s “P.I. Guy,” a white male in a trench coat and fedora, holding a cigarette in one hand and a gat in the other, the constantly evolving field of fictional P.I.s and their creators and PWA’s membership reflect the people and situations of the multifaceted world in which we live and work.

One sign of the change is The Eye. In the early years, it recognized pioneers like Mickey Spillane, William Campbell Gault, Howard Browne and Maxine O’Callaghan. Now, it’s noteworthy how many honorees began publishing private-eye fiction on the cusp of or after PWA’s formation: Max Allan Collins, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Loren D. Estleman, and this year’s recipient, S.J. Rozan, among them.

PWA has always encouraged newcomers. The Best First P.I. Novel Competition was sponsored by PWA and St. Martin’s Press in 1986 to encourage new P.I. writers. Unpublished writers submitted manuscripts that were read by PWA members. The winner received editing and publication by St. Martins. Many of the 23 winners, including Les Roberts, Steve Hamilton, Karen Kijewski, Janet Dawson, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ken Kuhlken and Michael Koryta, have gone on to long and successful careers.

The organization has also provided publication opportunities for its members with about 11 short-story anthologies published since 1984. These included two joint anthologies with Sisters in Crime, Deadly Allies (1992) and Deadly Allies II (1994), which paired stories from members of each organization, a number of whom belonged to both groups.

PWA has always been a simple organization, admittedly low tech—the newsletter is still produced only on paper and the PWA website (courtesy of Kevin Burton Smith) is a relatively new endeavor—and a bit raffish (oh, those cutthroat midnight poker games). That’s because it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Its goals—camaraderie, encouragement, acknowledgement, and celebration of the fictional private eye and his and her creators—are simple and timeless, fueled by personal interaction which is something technology will never successfully replace. PWA’s open to anyone who writes, wants to write, and/or enjoys P.I. fiction (Remember, writers are fans, too).

As PWA celebrates its jade anniversary, I remember traveling to New York City in 1987 for my first Shamus luncheon. Even though I’d not yet published a word of fiction, I was warmly greeted by Bob, met an idol (Loren Estleman), and shared a table with a newcomer named Parnell Hall. I was welcomed without reservation and that has been my experience ever since. PWAers have provided advice, guidance and opportunity and several have become lifelong friends.

I’ve never regretted checking in on PWA and I’ll belong until I check out. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that. The private eye is alive and well and has plenty of friends.

Posted in Awards, Characters, Fiction, Genre, Guest, Private Eye, Publishing, Readers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Return of Poggioli: T.S. Stribling’s Sleuth Given a New Home in EQMM” (by Arthur Vidro)

Arthur Vidro is a freelance fiction editor who publishes a thrice-yearly print journal called (Give Me That) Old-Time Detection (please direct any inquiries to He is also the author of two stories for EQMM. The first of them, “The Ransom of EQMM #1,” was posted on our Web site in 2011 and can still be read there; his second fictional outing for EQMM, “The Mistake on the Cover of EQMM #1,” was posted on this site last week as the basis for our 75th-anniversary contest. That story’s solution, and its winners, will be posted here on October 11.
Arthur Vidro is a leading expert on all things related to EQMM, and in this post he expands on an article he wrote about Fred Dannay and EQMM for Old-Time Detection. He wanted it to be clarified that he “acknowledges that Manfred B. Lee was an equal half of the Ellery Queen authorial partnership; but it was Fred Dannay who focused on finding authors and material for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and who served as its main editor, so Manny is regrettably absent from the article below.”—Janet Hutchings

Other articles have been written about how EQMM gave soon-to-be-famous authors their first break. Authors Jack Finney, Harry Kemelman, James Yaffe, and others made their first fiction sales to EQMM. Perhaps the most stirring case is that of the great Stanley Ellin. Ellin had given himself a one-year sabbatical to devote to fiction writing, living off his wife’s small income and a small stipend of his own from Uncle Sam—Ellin had returned home in early 1946 after having served in World War II, and unemployed veterans were allotted $20 a week for up to a year. That year was nearly up, and Ellin had received nothing but rejection slips, when (on November 21, 1946) he sent to EQMM the story that would become known as “The Specialty of the House.” After Ellin reshaped the story to meet Fred Dannay’s requests, EQMM published it and a writer’s career was launched.

Lesser known, however, are those authors whose careers EQMM did not launch, but did reinvigorate. EQMM kept Cornell Woolrich’s name before the public during a time when his productivity had dropped, and the magazine’s existence may have been the reason that in his final decade of life Woolrich continued to write some short stories even though he had stopped producing novels.

Then there are writers who were already being forgotten, or in danger of same, when EQMM reprinted their works. Short story specialist Vincent Cornier was rescued from near-oblivion by Dannay and EQMM and went on to write new stories for the magazine. The Department of Dead End stories by Roy Vickers may have already been forgotten when Dannay and EQMM stepped forward again, reprinting some of the tales, which spurred the publication of a full book of the tales.

Then there is the case of T.S. Stribling (1881-1965). None of his novels were mysteries, but one of them (The Store) won the Pulitzer Prize for best work of fiction published in 1932.

The mystery world remembers Stribling for his short stories starring Henry Poggioli, a psychology professor. Five of the tales were collected in Clues of the Caribbees (Doubleday, 1929), and nine additional Poggioli tales appeared in magazines from 1929 through 1935. (Those nine tales were collected in 2004 by Crippen & Landru under the title Doctor Poggioli: Criminologist.)

Clues of the Caribbees today is on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list and the Queen’s Quorum list; both lists indicate its excellence. But despite the critical acclaim, there is nothing to indicate Stribling meant to write additional Poggioli stories after 1935.

By the time EQMM was launched (1941), Stribling was becoming forgotten in his own time. His final published novel came out in 1938, and though he continued to write fiction, his new fiction was no longer published. With one exception. Twenty-three additional Poggioli stories were published from 1945 through 1957 in various mystery magazines, fifteen of them in EQMM.

Without EQMM and Fred Dannay, those twenty-three additional stories almost certainly would not have been written.

The debut issue of EQMM comprised seven stories, all of them reprints. One of the seven (“The Cablegram”) was a Poggioli tale. Dannay would tell the EQMM readership, in the July 1945 issue, that their editor was “America’s Number One Poggioli fan.”

Dannay encouraged Stribling to write new stories featuring the quirky detective. Stribling obliged with a tale he called “The Sock.” But then Dannay found himself in the uncomfortable position of rejecting the very story for which he had lobbied.

Dannay’s rejection letter seems lost for the record, but apparently a contrite Dannay apologized in it for having failed Stribling in encouraging him so ardently for a story and then rejecting it. Soon after receiving the rejection, Stibling wrote the following, on April 24, 1944:

Dear Dannay,

The idea that you have “failed me” is perfectly absurd. Certainly you have not. If I didn’t write what you wanted, I don’t at all blame you for not taking it.

Also because you write me for the story I don’t feel you have to take it. You wanted a certain kind of story and thought I could do it. I wouldn’t consider it ethical to insist on your taking it when you found I could not do it.

My own opinion of the story is that it’s fair. I always found it personally amusing to let Poggioli get balled up on his solutions. . . .

Anyway, I assure you in a long life I have had so many stories returned that another one does not upset my equanimity in any degree.

However, I think it was very kindly of you to be so very courteous in your rejection. And assuring you of my appreciation of your rating of my former stories, I am,

With best wishes,
T.S. Stribling

What triggered the ongoing correspondence and the creation of the twenty-three Poggioli tales the world would eventually see was this postscript that Stribling added:

Dear Dannay,

I had sealed up my letter ready to send to you but I fooled around a bit before taking it to the post office to mail and I reflected on what you had written me and why you didn’t like my story.

Now your written objections seemed to hinge a good deal on a matter of form and technique . . . Poggioli didn’t come through.

All right, assuming that is correct which it certainly is. I am very dubious of judging stories on a matter of form. The only question it seems to me to be fairly asked of a story is, is it interesting and will it keep a reader reading from start to finish. An incidental question is, is it amusing, if it is, so much the better, but amusement is a by-product.

You see, after all, “form” is simply an arrangement which readers have found interesting, but one could hardly assume or believe that it was the only arrangement of interest. In fact too great a persistence of “form” in a magazine could easily have an iterant effect which would defeat its purpose.

I know I have had a long experience in off-form stories. Arthur Hoffman, you probably never heard of him, once editor of Adventure, never did publish a story of mine but what he labelled it an “Off-the-Trail” story just to give the conventional reader warning to by-pass it if he thought best.

My personal bent is so set against repetitiousness of anything that I would urge you to keep this idea in mind as you make up your magazine.

Now I am not particularly arguing that you take my story. I really don’t care whether you do or don’t. Moreover I don’t believe the story I sent you was particularly clever but it seemed interesting to me and I wondered if it did to you. If it really did, then for heaven’s sake (which means your own sake) don’t turn it down simply on a matter of form. There is only one criterion for a short story or long for that matter, is it interesting clear through. If so it’s a good story, if not, it’s a poor story, no matter how it’s arranged.

Now I hope you will pardon MY frankness and sermonizing.

More good wishes,

Rather than give up on the story, Fred Dannay chose to write back to Stribling. The following is excerpted from a Dannay letter dated April 29, 1944:

Dear Mr. Stribling,

One of the greatest compliments one man can give another is to say to him: “You’re a regular guy!” And this I say to you in all sincerity. I was enormously pleased to hear from you in the understanding way you wrote. I haven’t been an Editor for so long a time that I’ve become hardened to shock; by that I mean that as an Editor I’ve received some amazing letters from other writers, incredibly on the un-understanding side. But thank God you and I speak the same language.

I was also very glad that you decided in your postscript to discuss the story. That’s exactly what I wanted to do—but not knowing you as well as I feel I do now, I was hesitant to open up. I just threw in one general criticism in the hope that you would take up the cudgels on it. You see, I have some definite ideas to suggest, and it’s more than possible that you will like my suggestions.

Let’s dig into the story. . . . First, let me say that I have no objection per se to a detective failing. In fact, I like the idea: it’s refreshing, and the bigger the detective, the more refreshing his failure to solve a case. But I don’t think that mere failure for failure’s sake is enough. The failure should be an integral plot-idea of the story; there should be a reason for the failure, an interesting reason—more, a clever reason.

Next, I do not (and never have) put too much stock in form and technique. Yes, they are essential elements, as we both agree; but they should always remain flexible, susceptible to change, variation, and manipulation. . . .

Dannay continued with more than two additional pages of single-spaced typed comments and suggestions and idea explorations on “The Sock,” then wrapped up the letter with:

      Well, I’ve rattled off at a great pace—that’s the kind of editor I am. But I’ve tried to be creatively constructive—which is my job, as an editor.

Please let me know what you think. Write me, as before, directly to my home address (below). I do all my work at home—the New York magazine address is merely that of the business office.

One last point: Don’t ever again ask my pardon for YOUR frankness. When you want to throw brickbats at me or at my work or at my opinions (as in this letter), throw with all your might. I can take it.

My very best regards to you, and looking forward to hearing from you as soon as you can write.

On May 2, 1944, Stribling wrote back:

Dear Dannay,

You are an incorrigible editor and you probably will become a great one. I had laid aside that Poggioli story with great comfort and had returned to my unending reading of history, when here comes your letter and not only stops my reading but actually gives me a lift toward redoing the story, not for the sake of getting it published and paid for but just for the sake of the thing.

So I imagine I’ll take a shot at your idea. It’s “intriguing” to use a very damnable word indeed.

Stribling’s lengthy letter concluded with:

      As I say I’ll look at the Pog story again in the light of your comments and see what can be done.

Good luck,

Then on May 18th, Stribling sent the following letter:

My dear Dannay,

I must say your suggestions seemed to have worked like a charm. I hope you like the story as well as I do. I am delighted with it.

If anything in the body of the story seems to give the denoument away, please soften or eliminate same.

I have the glimmer of another tale in my head, this time about Miami. However I would like to tell you how I came to write “The Sock,” it might be of some possible service to you.

In Mexico I met an American woman whose home had been entered by SEVERAL BURGLARS OR ROBBERS OR SOMETHING. And one of the men caught this woman, held her in his arms a moment looking at her, while she pleaded in bad Spanish that he would not harm her. Then he turned her loose and the whole band went out and away without harming or taking anything at all.

I have wondered and wondered why this housebreaking by a whole gang, to no purpose except to look at a woman, briefly, and go away. It still has got me guessing. My story is an evasive simplification of the original.

Best Luck,

The “glimmer of another tale” would develop into “The Mystery of the Chief of Police.” The following excerpts from Dannay’s reply, dated May 24, 1944, show how much labor the editor put into the stories that appeared in the Queen magazine, from rewriting (and retyping) large sections of story to changing story titles.

Dear Mr. Stribling,

The new version of “The Sock” is very fine. Yes, the new approach seems to have, as you wrote, worked like a charm.

I made some corrections—punctuation, and so on, consistent with our own style, and some cuts here and there to shorten the story. All are minor matters that you can leave confidently in my hands—all but one, and that is why I am writing to you.

I think the story needs one important change—in the clock-and-time business. Rather than try to explain the change I suggest, I have retyped the last five or six pages of the story, incorporating the change. I am sure that after you’ve read the enclosed pages you’ll agree that the change both clarifies and strengthens the whole story.

If the last pages, as enclosed, are satisfactory, please let me know at your earliest convenience, and as soon as I hear from you, I’ll put through a purchase order so that you can receive your check without delay. Naturally, if you wish to correct any of my new phrasing, by all means do so; in this event, simply return the enclosed pages, with your corrections noted.

How do you like the title “The Sock and the Clock”? I’m attracted to it. The rhyme and swing, it seems to me, are both piquant and provocative. Besides, I find that for some strange reason longer titles are better for a magazine than very short ones. May I use “The Sock and the Clock”?

I almost forgot: I have also added a short paragraph at the very end of the story. You know, we can’t be too careful with a certain type of reader: you can’t be too subtle. This added paragraph points up the climactic idea for those magazine readers who need an explicit “tag.”

Of course, change or correct as you please, but I do think that this sort of “topper” is needed.

Stribling pretty much left Dannay’s rewrites alone. Much or possibly all of the final paragraph of “The Mystery of the Sock and the Clock” was written by Fred Dannay, not T.S. Stribling.

Stribling’s reply was dated “Saturday, end of May ‘44”:

Dear Dannay,

I thought you would like the story. Your corrections are O.K. with me. I have changed a word or two because I try never to say a character did a thing “shrewdly” or “cunningly” or any of those adverbs. If the reader doesn’t feel that much, he and I just let it go. I also changed “Perk up.” And I suggest another final sentence which you can use if you want to or use the end you now have. Either all right with me.

I am now at work on “The Case of the Chief of Police,” which is a whimsy generated by the present storm in Miami.

Your new title is better than “The Sock,” “The Sock and the Clock” makes a very catchy phrase.

Best luck,

Dannay not infrequently would jot on his incoming letters reminders or ideas. On the last-quoted letter from Stribling, Dannay scribbled the following six words: unusual, exceptional, singular, extraordinary, outre, unconventional. It is as if he were trying to come up with le mot juste to describe Stribling’s story to the EQMM readers.

The next tale Stribling submitted to EQMM was “The Mystery of the Chief of Police,” a top-rate Poggioli story far superior to “The Sock and the Clock.” Dannay liked it so much that he wanted to publish it ahead of “The Sock and the Clock.” Eventually he did so, while letting the readership mistakenly believe “Chief of Police” had arrived first and “Sock and Clock” had arrived second.

Some of the correspondence between Dannay and Stribling concerned the advantage of publishing either story before the other, and what to tell the readership.

At one point Stribling wrote:

Of course I don’t care which you say was written first. God will probably mark you down as a liar and send you to hell, but I will remain calm and indifferent about the matter.

Note: Frederic Dannay Letters Copyright (c) 2016 by the Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee Literary Property Trusts.
T.S. Stribling Letters Copyright (c) 2016 by the estate of T.S. Stribling

Posted in Characters, Editing, Ellery Queen, Fiction, Genre, Guest, History, Magazine, Story, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments