Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Crime Short Story, A Rant In Which Hammett is Berated

It makes you wonder sometimes. My experience has been that there are plenty of places to get a crime story published. People complain about the disappearance of outlets like Black Mask, and they might be right... I've never seen Black Mask, it must have disappeared.

But what about CrimeSpree? A dozen or more stories a year published right there - quality stuff. Sometimes written by me :). Or the anthologies that seem to be all the rage. Not the reprint ones (fine collections though they are) but the Noir series from Akashic or the Damn Near Dead Anthology put out by Busted Flush Press? There are others like the yearly ones put out by MWA or Hard Boiled Brooklyn put out by Bleak House .

Oh, and online places like Tribe's Flashing in the Gutters or SHOTS .* A few others are in the right hand column of this blog.

Now, I know the chorus will say "but most of these places don't pay." True and problematic at the same time. I love getting paid for short stories. This has happened twice with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine . I'm hoping to pull down another couple of paychecks this year for short stories. But the ratio of unpaid to paid publications on my CV is about 5:1.

Still...Forget the writer's rent or car payments for a moment** For the reader, this, right now, has got to be the Golden Age of Crime Short Stories. If you say, "No, the 1930s were the Golden Age; Hammett and Chandler were publishing back then..." then you've got a very skewed sense of what makes a Golden Age. First, I've read Chandler and Hammett short stories and been unimpressed. Good, but I've read better. Often. A choice between either of them and IJ Parker or Martin Limon*** is no choice at all. Parker and Limon are better at the short story form. Russel Mclean is too, no matter what he says. And Steve Hockensmith is more entertaining by far. In fact, I'd say he's at least 132% more entertaining as a short story writer than Chandler was. Maybe more.

Secondly, Hammett and Chandler were just two guys. And they wrote the same sub-genre for the most part: tough guy PIs. There's more variety than that with just the Hockensmith stories. Two guys cannot make a Golden Age. If you don't believe me, look it up, I'll wait. I can name a dozen great short story writers writing in the field today, and I'm not that good with names.

Now, there are at least two flaws with my argument here, but I'll save them for another time. I'll note them now - 1. I don't know a lot about the other crime writers of the 1930s. 2. Aren't short stories mere ephemera anyway?

* Yes, If I mention the title and provide the link, I think you should check it out.

** Difficult if you're the writer.

*** No website??!??


Blogger Graham said...

The Internet has really helped the visibility of short stories, though mainly they're a labor of love. DAMN NEAR DEAD was a really good anthology.

And you forgot markets like DEMOLITION, where you've got a story up right now!

August 01, 2006 5:48 PM  

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