The Internet already contains innumerable sites where crime and mystery fiction is discussed. As the editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I should know. Our magazine hosts “Blog Bytes,” a column started by Ed Gorman and continued by Bill Crider in which, each month, more new sites that no mystery fan should miss are identified. Running for more than five years now, with (I’m estimating) over 100 sites reviewed, the column has proved one thing beyond a doubt: There’s a lot of light already shining on mysteries here in the blogosphere. So why are we trying to add EQMM’s star to this ever expanding universe?
Well, first of all, it isn’t exactly new territory for us. We’ve been blogging for a couple of years, but without an address of our own, which left us invisible to the search engines. To find our blog, readers had to go to our website and visit the readers’ forum, where I and my colleague Linda Landrigan at AHMM posted bi-weekly columns under the heading “From the Editors’ Desks.” Joining in the conversations was a loyal contingent of fans of the mystery short story, but it soon became apparent that the content of the posts reached beyond short mystery fiction.
Within the vast space the crime and mystery field occupies—through novels, plays, movies, television, and even games—our small outpost devoted exclusively to the short story may sound like a remote place to those who’ve never visited it. But I think there’s something universal at the heart of short fiction—something that connects to our need to be told stories we can take in and savor in one sitting on a front porch or around a campfire—and crime or mystery, of one sort or another, finds its way into most stories.
As pervasive as crime and mystery are in fiction, it’s only in the pages of the mystery magazines that the full range of what is generally classified as belonging to the mystery genre gets consistently represented. There are fashions in book publishing, times when it’s hard to sell a private eye novel, others in which the cozy is passé. Not so at the magazines: Our aim, stated in the early days of EQMM, is to include the best examples we can find of every type of crime and mystery story, and in this blog, you’ll find them all discussed. If your taste runs to the classical whodunit, you’ll find columns devoted to that once endangered species; if it’s noir that you’re after, we’ll be talking about your favorite authors and why that sub-genre is thriving. Even urban fantasy, involving the once forbidden importation of supernatural elements to the mystery, will have advocates to represent it here.
The field we serve has become broader over the past decade and it isn’t only because certain genre barriers, such as that between mystery and fantasy, have broken down. To say that the boundary between literary and genre fiction is disappearing is no longer very controversial. Many “literary” writers now produce stories and books that are marketed as crime fiction. There’s nothing new about that for EQMM: It’s well known that EQMM’s founding editor, Fred Dannay, hoped to prove, through the reprints he included in the early days of EQMM, that every great writer in history had produced at least one work that could be considered a crime story. And yet, if the field is really that broad, how are we to say what we’re all about? I’ve given that a lot of thought and it seems to me there is something one can expect from virtually any story or novel that gets marketed under the heading Mystery or Crime, and that is this: In it, something is going to happen. Usually that important “something” will occur within the pages of the story, though in some cases the story may build toward it and stop before the critical moment, leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination.
That simple statement—Something is going to happen—touches, for me, on the nature of suspense. We’ve all heard the complaint mystery readers sometimes level at certain literary magazines: that they’re comprised of stories in which nothing happens to characters we don’t care about. I don’t think the disparaging tone of the charge is fair; after all, different types of fiction aim for different effects. But it does seem to me that the overriding aim in suspense/mystery/crime fiction is to tell a story, and in a story, things happen. On this site, we’ll celebrate that aspect of fiction.
We’ve lined up some guest bloggers you won’t want to miss for the coming weeks. Please come back and join the discussion. Next week’s post is by award-winning mystery writer, critic, and reviewer Art Taylor.
P.S. Also not to be missed, on May 19th, is the debut of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s blog (more details to come).