Online Issue 16

Lots of crime fiction and horror goodness with Eryk Pruitt, Lucy A. Snyder, Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, plus a resurrected article on doing great bookstore events (with insights from someone who does this for a living!) and thoughts on authors and social media and toxic tropes.

 

First, an important public service announcement:

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Here on Toe Six:

Eryk Pruitt on truth and storytelling, reading bad books and the appeal of writing short stories

Eryk Pruitt talks about the appeal of writing short stories and how the process helps him focus on lean, mean writing, as well as the inspiration he took from a man with Parkinson’s and The Knockout Game.

The Journey to Publication, Axe Throwing and Tough Protagonists: Lucy A. Snyder talks, snakes, spiders and Garden of Eldritch Delights

Your female horror fix is in: Lucy A Snyder’s Garden of Eldritch Delights puts a lot of female protagonists into stories with titles like “The Yellow Death”, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” and “That Which Does Not Kill You” – just in time for Halloween.

Lucy A. Snyder’s Purrbuddy, Monte

Lucy shares about her author assistant, Monte.

Teeth of the Wolf authors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk spending eternity with Hermione Granger, Geysercon, fighting zombies with measuring tapes and hair clips and more

Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts talk about whether or not they relate to their characters and who’s tougher. Dan tells us, “Matiu would kick my butt with one hand in his back pocket, and still look chill while he does it.” Plus, Lee and Dan share their casting call for Teeth of the Wolf.

Reviews:

Review: Dead Man Running by Steve Hamilton  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger  Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Bonus:

Flashback Feature: Having a Successful Bookstore Event

Trying to figure out what will work and what won’t? Author Sarah L. Johnson speaks from experience – both as an author and as a bookstore events coordinator.

 

Over at The Big Thrill:

Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? How much value do authors place on social media? This week we’re joined by ITW Members Colin CampbellEllen ByronLee MurraySandra Ruttan and DiAnn Mills as they discuss authors and social media. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!

What did we all have to say? Check out our thoughts in the comments and chime in with questions or insights. Initially, I’d planned to post a short response about most authors overestimating the value of sites like Facebook for selling books; however, recent events prompted me to expand. The other authors have weighed in as well. If you’re considering how to use social media as an author there’s plenty of food for thought.

And On Twitter:

I don’t need to rehash what was covered in my thoughts at The Big Thrill, so if you want to see what I think about the Caffeine Nights debacle and the Chuck Wendig situation, head on over to the ITW post linked to above.

However, I did see this particular gem on Twitter and thought it was worth sharing:

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And what may be the best book dedication ever goes to Megan Spooner. From her book, Hunted:

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Online Issue 12: Zombie Cat

Lots of good stuff in this issue, as well as some news, so let’s get to it.

 

Willie Davis chats about his novel Nightwolf. Davis has some keen insights about the benefits of being an author, a razor sharp wit and some interesting anecdotes to share. Plus, there are links to where you can find him on podcasts. Check it out! And don’t miss my review of Nightwolf by Willie Davis.

Paul D. Brazill is back, sharing all the tunes referenced insharing all the tunes referenced in Small Time Crimes and the link to his playlist. In case you missed it, Paul dropped in a few issues back to talk about Last Year’s Man.
Gray Basnight is here to chat about alternate history thrillers, New York City, hurricanes and more.
Tom Leins is back to talk about Meat Bubbles and Other Stories. In case you missed it, he was here a few months ago, talking about the perfect cast for this collection.

dscf1052-0Who is this man that is not my husband? Who is Allan Guthrie, you say? Brian shares thoughts on the author he now considers to be a cult writer. The tragedy is that there are now a whole crop of hardboiled/noir writers coming up who don’t know who Al is and this needs to be remedied. The next time someone tells me that they are brave or redefining the genre because they killed the dog I have two words for them: Allan Guthrie. Oh, and did you do it to be shocking or did you earn it on the page? Being a shock jock doesn’t take talent. Anybody can say or write something inappropriate that will upset people. Earning every horrific moment of pain and violence you write? Making someone writhe in their chair as they read but having them so deeply hooked they have to keep turning the pages? That’s raising the bar in writing, and few will match Allan Guthrie’s talents at that. I sense a re-read of Savage Night in my near future.

 

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Since so many people have forgotten (or don’t know) who Allan Guthrie is, there are also a lot of people in the crime genre circles who may not even know about Thuglit, Demolition, Pulp Pusher, Spinetingler and the far too many other notable ezines that were prevalent a decade ago.

When the owner of Spinetingler shut the site down, I was keenly aware of how much stuff I had out there that was lost. I was also aware of how many short stories no longer had a home. As a writer myself, I’ve had a number of short stories that were published online that have disappeared when other sites shut down.

That’s why I’m announcing today the launch of a sub-site for Toe Six Press: Zombie Cat.

Zombie Cat will publish reprints of short stories… maybe more. For now, we start with short stories that have been previously published. As long as they don’t conflict with rights bought, if the story has previously appeared in print or online it can be considered for republication. However, I don’t want things that are presently posted on an author’s website. The priority is stories that do not currently have a home online.

We kick things off today with “Absolution” by Mindy Tarquini, a story originally published in Spinetingler’s 2006 Spring Issue.

Reviews
Thoughts on Reviewing

Reviewing is one of the toughest things for me to do sometimes. On the one hand, it’s easy to give an overview of a plot-driven story and be enthusiastic about how it got its hooks into you and kept you turning the pages. That’s a certain type of story in its own right.

There are other types of stories. Literature was the perfect marriage of thriller and commentary, for example.

I wouldn’t even hazard a guess about how many books I’ve reviewed in my life. I was taught to review back when I was 20, in college studying journalism. And I had to produce things back then. When I started Spinetingler I wanted to talk about books I liked, so I started reviewing again.

These days, I review for Toe Six and Underground Book Reviews. Reviewing for UBR has changed my reviewing system, because I also judge the Book of the Year award for them, and have for the past two years. I was thrilled to see novels like Brian Cohn’s The Last Detective win BOTY last year and The Last Great American Magic win the year before. Hell, I don’t even know what genre The Last Great American Magic is, but I don’t care. Fantastic read. Enjoyed every page of that.

The great thing is that this means I get to read a variety of works that don’t always fit into neat genre categories.

It’s also meant that over the past few months I’ve had to revise my ranking system. I used to say mentally every book starts out as a 4 out of 5, which is a great read to me. 5 stars was reserved for books that really blew me away or stood out as special for some reason. Books that had major developmental and technical issues would fall down the rankings.

However, since the BOTY system relies on reviewers giving books 5 star reviews, and since that’s subjective, I realized that any book that does it’s job should get top billing, or it won’t be considered for the annual awards.

The simple reality is that I hate ranking systems. They are wildly inconsistent. Ask 20 people how they decide what a 5-star read is and you’ll probably get 23 answers. Art, by its very nature, is subjective. So my objective with written reviews is to give people enough information to decide if the book is right for them.

We should all read more international and translated crime fiction

I’m just going to throw this out there into the world. Might be a good discussion starter, maybe the idea can take root.

Crime fiction, as most of us read it, is primarily considered through a North American/European lens. (Or, even more narrowly, a US/European lens).

Other countries have rich crime fiction traditions of their own that go back many decades. Some countries have a crime fiction tradition that is just as old as the one in the United States.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about today. A huge anthology of mystery/crime fiction, in the vein of the VanderMeer’s Big Book of Science Fiction (or any of their other big genre anthologies), that takes a more global approach to the genre.

This anthology could consider the history of each of the crime fiction traditions from around the world and illuminate them (without being beholden to them).

The mystery/crime genre has a pretty good history with translated fiction. The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges, which was translated by Anthony Boucher for Ellery Queen in 1948 (Borges’ first English translation). Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s Martin Beck are perennial favorites and one of the more popular books of the last few years was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

With this history in mind, the anthology should also actively seek out untranslated fiction. Again, I look to the VanderMeer’s for inspiration. A recent Facebook post shed some light on the numbers of their upcoming anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019):

“Final count, from Ann VanderMeer: 45 of the 90 stories in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, out from Vintage in 2019, are translations, from 26 countries. 7 from authors never in English before, one from an author with only a single story previously translated. 14 are stories never in English before. 6 additional stories are new translations of stories previously published in English before but really needed a new translation. Not including the material from First Nation and Native American sources that was originally published in English.”

That would be a cool anthology to own, and a potentially genre canon redefining one at that.

I decided to take a quick look at my shelves to see what my own tour of the world was like over the last few years. Looks like I’ve read crime fiction from the following countries (and there’s others that I’m likely forgetting): The United States, Australia, Ireland, Britain, Scotland, France, Japan, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, Nigeria, Russia, and Sweden.

If you imagine a list of the best mystery and crime fiction, a canon if you will (even if only a personal one), would it be filled with primarily American writers and writers from a small number of European countries?

Caveat: Is there enough short fiction from these countries to even tap in to? I don’t know. Do these international writers write short fiction? Again, I don’t know. But even if there isn’t enough short fiction to support such an anthology, I would still argue for a more global approach to viewing the genre.

My imagined anthology is exactly that, imagined. But it is important to point out the good work that is being done to bring greater attention to translated and international crime fiction.

Europa’s World Noir imprint, Bitter Lemon Press, Melville House’s International line, and, to a lesser extent, Akashic’s “Noir” series all bring us crime fiction from around the world. The site Crime Fiction Lover is becoming a valued resource for international crime fiction. Here is a recent piece that was published Nigerian Noir — Five Books to Try and a couple of others, New Zealand Crime Fiction: 12 Authors to Try, Five of the Best French Crime Writers. Hopefully they will continue to publish these types of pieces.

If you want to read some international or translated crime fiction, where to begin? I could say that if you like police procedurals, try a Japanese one like Six Four or the great Irish writer, Gene Kerrigan. Or, if you like noir, try Massimo Carlotto’s The Goodbye Kiss. However I don’t want to do a laundry list of sub-genres and risk missing something. Suffice to say that there is something out there regardless of what your crime fiction preferences are.

Here is a broad selection of international and translated crime fiction that I have read and enjoyed over the years. This is not an exhaustive list, there is obviously tons more out there. If you don’t see a favorite here, please don’t read into it. I did however, in some cases, choose lesser known authors over those who may be more well known.

What international crime fiction have you read? What translated crime fiction have you read? 

Should a more global approach be taken when considering the genre? 

Would you read that theoretical anthology that I talked about briefly above?