She Read Her Magazine*
When many people think of reading crime fiction, they think of books, either paper or electronic. But there are many other places to find well-written crime fiction. One of them is the crime fiction magazine. Crime fiction magazines have traditionally been low-priced and easy to find, so readers can access crime stories without overspending. And, in the days before television and now social media came into their own, crime magazines where extremely popular with many thousands of subscribers. Sometimes, being published in a magazine was a real opportunity for an author to become well known. It still can be.
One of the most famous magazines to publish crime stories was The Strand, which was published from 1891 through 1950. Arthur Conan Doyle fans will know that his Sherlock Holmes stories were published in The Strand, and readers eagerly awaited any new Holmes adventure. It was really only later that the Holmes stories were collected into anthology form. Of course, Conan Doyle was by no means the only famous author to be published by The Strand. Many of Agatha Christie’s stories appeared there, too. For instance, all of the stories in the collection now often called The Labours of Hercules were originally published in The Strand. And some of them, such as Yellow Iris and The Second Gong were later revised and expanded into longer stories. Other well-known authors were published in The Strand, too (e.g., G.K. Chesterton and Georges Simenon).
From 1920 to 1951, Black Mask published all sorts of hardboiled detective stories from authors such as Norbert Davis, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler. Many authors of hardboiled crime fiction got their start with a publication in Black Mask, and back issues are still sought-after by fans of this sub-genre. Bill Pronzini pays tribute to Black Mask in his Nameless series. The protagonist, who’s a San Francisco-based private detective, is also an avid fan and collector of whatever issues of Black Mask he can find. Nameless collects other magazines, too, that feature hardboiled detective stories.
Another very popular magazine, True Detective (first called True Detective Mysteries), was published from 1924 to 1995. This magazine featured true crime stories and was the first of that sub-genre of magazine. Some authors of crime fiction, such as Jim Thompson and Ann Rule, also wrote non-fiction, and their true crime stories were published here as well. True crime stories are still very popular, and there are plenty of websites and discussion groups that focus on these stories.
Crime fiction magazines have not gone away – not by any means. One of the best known is Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which has been in publication since 1956. It’s published bi-monthly, both digitally and in paper form, and if you’ve read the magazine, you know that it features a wide variety of authors. Some are bestselling, highly respected crime writers. Others are debut authors and authors who aren’t famous at all. There are also several collections of the stories featured in the magazine; those collections are published as anthologies.
Another popular crime fiction magazine is Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in publication since 1941. Like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, it features a wide variety of authors. There’s also quite a variety of sub-genres, too. So, readers new to crime fiction have the opportunity to really sample the genre.
More recently Shotgun Honey has established itself as a publisher of harder-hitting crime fiction. Shotgun Honey publishes flash fiction, shorter fiction, and books as well. And many of the authors whose work appears there are not ‘household names.’ They are sometimes debut authors, and sometimes authors who’ve been writing for a time, but haven’t gotten noticed. For readers who like a ‘kick’ with their crime fiction, this is a solid place to go.
Punk Noir is an online magazine that features short fiction, microfiction, poetry, reviews, and more. Not all of its stories are noir, but many are. There are ‘regulars’ whose work is published frequently in Punk Noir. The magazine also features more occasional contributors and debut authors. It’s eclectic in several ways, but the emphasis is on looking at life from a darker perspective.
And then there’s Shots, an online crime fiction magazine that features a broad look at the genre. Shots features interviews, non-fiction articles about crime fiction, film and book reviews, and updates on conferences and other events.
Mystery Readers Journal is a quarterly thematic journal. Included are essays, articles, reviews, and features that are all related to a single theme (e.g., Legal Mysteries, Southern Crime Fiction, Police Procedurals). It offers a wide coverage of the work of many different authors and types of crime fiction, and a comprehensive overview of the themes that appear in the genre.
See what I mean? Even with the changes in reading patterns, there are still plenty of excellent sources for crime fiction stories, essays, interviews, and more. Do you read crime fiction magazines? Which ones? If you’re a writer, do you write for crime fiction magazines?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Simon and Garfunkel’s America.