Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ten Years Burnin' Down the Road...

Happy Birtyday to us,
Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday, Dear Thrilling Detective Web Site,
Happy Birthday to us.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Thrilling Detective Web Site. Or at least the "official" anniversary. The site existed unofficially for a few months prior to April 1, 1998 as a sort of rudimentary private resource for a selected die hard P.I. fans and Rara-Avians who kept urging me to go public. I wasn't convinced there'd be much interest, but I gave in, and on so on April 1 I unleashed the beast. It was April Fools' Day, of course, but that seemed appropriate, since the site had started as a joke, more or less, a harmless way to practice html with something that wouldn't bore me to tears. But I figured it would sure bore the hell out of everyone else. I was wrong.

Suffice it to say that the last ten years have been a lot of things, but they've rarely been boring. But ten years, man. That's gotta be worth something, right?

So please forgive the horn-tooting. Ten years on the "information superhighway." That's what? Thirty or forty years in human years? Long enough, anyway, to have outlasted (or out-updated) almost almost every other crime fiction-related site and newsgroup on the internet. I've outlasted Blue Murder, Judas, 3rd Degree, White Fedora, Shred of Evidence, HandHeldCrime, Futures, Hardluck Stories and Plots with Guns (well, version 1.0). As far as I can tell, only DorothyL and Rara-Avis have been arond longer, and they're discussion groups.

(And certainly long enough to say "HAH!" to a few of the naysayers who have gone ballistic every time I opened my mouth anywhere anytime. I'm pleased to say that more people will probably visit my web site in one day than will ever read their sorry ass "reviews" and self-published crapfests.)

The site has been a labour of love, mostly, and occasionally a thorn in my side. Because of the site, I've appeared on radio and televsion (and DVD, of all things), and been cited as a source in newspaper articles on crime fiction. I've met plenty of authors, some of whom I'm honoured to now call friends. It's led to a writing career of sorts, speaking engagements and even a certain minor league celebrity. But just as the site giveth, it also taketh away. I haven't actually had a real vacation -- or even much free time -- in close to ten years.

Hey, it's not like anyone's pointing a gun at my head, right?

But if you feel inclined -- if the spirit moves you -- please sign our "Birthday Card." If you want to slip a little something into the card, well, that's okay too.

But mostly it would just be nice if you just gave us a little word of encouragement or something. Lord knows none of us are going to get rich doing this so feedback is always good. We'll even post a page soon that will let you know what everyone else has said.

Okay, end of the midnight ramble... let's get on with the goodies in this issue...

As usual, fiction editor and the Handsomest Man in CrimeFic Gerald So has come through with a fistful of hard-boiled treats, for all you good little boys and girls. Spring is in the air, and we've got everything you need to enjoy this season of rebirth: stories about hotdogs, baseball, porn and Russian gangsters.

Robert Petyo's "The Truth About Lang Tri" is as timely a story and look into the elusive nature of "truth" as we've ever run, as the U.S. comes into the home stretch of a particulalry divisive election, with the shadow of yet another unpopular war looming large.

From TV writer Paul Guyot comes "Ace in the Hole," as unapologetic and mean-spirited a story as we've seen, a fierce ride you won't soon forget. Logan used to be a private dick. Now he's just a dick. But justice of a sort gets him in the end.

And speaking of justice, it's only fitting that this issue also feature a few old friends. J. Winter returns after far too long an absence from these pages with "Lady Luck," a new story featuring his blue collar gumshoe Nick Kepler on an all-night prowl.

Meanwhile, site favourite Stephen D. Rogers returns with another slice-of-life tale, a low key charmer called "A Friendly Game" that'll have you root-root-rooting for the home team.

We've also got a couple of very special excerpts for long-time fans of the genre.

First up is a short vignette that perfectly captures the essense of Eric Lerner's Pinkerton's Secret, a rollicking historical drama that re-imagines the story of Allen J. Pinkerton, the infamous founder of the world famous detective agency that bears his name (and whose corporate logo inspired the term "private eye.") There's plenty to love in this rousing adventure yarn, including possibly America's first female private eye and plenty of Civil War-era shenanigans. I can't think of a better excerpt to mark our 10th, than this look back at the start of the whole she-bang.

Not that we're in full retro mode. Any genre not being born is busy dying, as Mr. Zimmerman would say, and our second exceprt proves there's plenty of stories yet to be told. John Shannon is a true original; and his sad sack private detective Jack Liffey is a blast of fresh air that blows away most of the competition. The Devils of Bakersfield is yet another excellent novel, the tenth book in the long-running series, and as good an introduction to the series as you can get. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nobody "gets" L.A. -- or the black holes of our society --like John does.

There's another group of people who have regularly contributed to this site and it's a shame so many of you don't even know they exist. I'm talking about the hard-working, ink-stained wretches who contribute the web comics we've been running on this site for years. If you've never checked out our web comics section, do yourself a favour and head over there. NOW!

In fact, we've even got a new addition to our roster, starting with this issue. Chris Wisnia's Dick Hammer may seem like yet another P.I. parody, but it's not -- it's a gritty, two-fisted slab of hard-boiled storytelling that makes a fine complement to our other two currently active strips, Odd Jobs, Tim Broderick's acclaimed bittersweet noir saga and the unapologetically goofy Detective Fork featuring Kevin J. Guhl's silverware sleuth who is, alas, frequently both tarnished AND afraid.

But wait! there's more... Time being a mother and all that, I didn't quite make my self imposed deadline (so what's new, eh?). There are still plenty of stories and artilces to come, as well as several long-overdue updates to key entries, making this anniversary issue truly an on-going celebration. In the days and weeks ahead, keep your eyes peeled for more new fiction from Sandra Seamen and Tapani Bagge, and new non-fiction pieces from J. Kingston Pierce, Mark Coggins and Duffy Schoenfeld.

And then, I gotta get out of this place, at least for awhile. This will be our last issue before I take a little hiatius. I'd be lying, of course, if I said I won't be updating the site on a semi-regular basis (Like, what? I'm gonna stop now?), but I'm not going to knock myself out about it. I have a book about hard-boiled women writers of the pulp era (tentative title: Stand-Up Dames) that I'm working on with a deadline to meet, I'm planning a trip home in June to attend my daughter's grad and there are a ton of other projects I'm working on. There will be another issue, but don't even look for it until late summer at the very earliest. We will, however, be open (very open) to submissions...


The Antelope Valley NewPress, a sort of cyber-alternative newspaper here in the Antelope Valley, has just unleashed a podcast I did for them a little while back. Honest, I'm not as dopey in real life as I sound here!

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Torture Hits Home

Wow. I've been a fan of Owen Smith and his pulpy cover illustrations for a long time, ever since I first noticed his work on the cover of The Low End of Nowhere, a novel by Michael Stone featuring his hard-ass Denver bounty hunter and sometime private eye Streeter.

Smith's work subsequently appeared on a few other Streeter novels, but then I began to notice his work -- he has a very distinctive style -- popping up all over the place. An Aimee Man album cover (for which he won a Grammy). Maureeen Dowd's Are Men Really Necessary?. Numerous magazine covers, including The New Yorker and, I think, Sports Illustrated.

Owen's illustrative work is a marvel of swirling, pulpish impressionism that harkens back to the days of public works programs and working class murals as much as it does pulp magazines. It's not really "realistic," but it's vibrant and muscular and there's a throbbing, almost disturbing visceral energy about the way he portrays the people in his paintings. There are no wimps or pretty people in his work -- everyone's built like a bruised brick shithouse.

But his cover for the March/April 2008 issue of Mother Jones is something else again. The theme and title of the issue (and presumably the illustration itself) is "Torture Hits Home" and if you don't think a simple illustration can shock or disturb you, if you can look at this and not squirm, if you can study this picture and simply shrug it off, we all know which side of the torture debate you stand on. And it's far, far away from most of us.

This is illustration played for keeps, a mouthful of blood spit out in defiance. One image, and it makes all the rest of the issue, all those well-intentioned passionate words of condemnation and righteous outrage superfluous.

Look at that illustration. Look at it close.

This is pulp. This is hardcore.

Well done, Mr. Smith.

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