Mystery or Crime Fiction? Less Filling.

Both Patti Abbott and Spinetingler editor Brian Lindemuth (at Do Some Damage) have asked whether you prefer Mysteries or Crime Fiction, both as a reader, and a writer, when it comes to labeling books.
It used to be that Crime Fiction was a subset to Mystery, and now the tables seem to be turning somewhat. Here is my long comment at DSD.

Almost every story has an element of mystery. What happens next? Parker is on a bridge and he tells a guy off. I like this guy. What’s he gonna do next? But that’s not a story of deduction. Is Tana French’s excellent Faithful Place allowed to be crime fiction? There’s a murder and we don’t know who did it. But her depiction of Dublin and her excellent characters are right out of Hammett or Chandler.

I like both mysteries and crime fiction. I consider Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr “Burglar” mysteries to be cozies. I can never keep up with the classifications that nerds keep narrowing down, whether it’s in music (no dude, that’s not shoegaze, it’s um, darkwave fartsniff dubstep!) or books or whatever. I can’t be bothered.

Let’s face it, Mystery and Crime Fiction are labels to sell a book. If it bothers you to see “Mystery” on a book you like, is it because you imagine Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher and don’t want to be associated with fans of those stories?
Mystery lovers likely get the same shiver when they see Crime Fiction or Noir on a label, they know there may be foul language and testicles (probably severed ones).
It’s a marketing construct. I don’t like either label. “Crime Fiction” can certainly drive away readers who assume it’s all about serial killers and gumshoes wearing fedoras and talking like Bogart, just like “Mystery” may be dismissed as a puzzler to keep you occupied in the waiting room for the gastroenterologist.

What about “Suspense”? I hope your story has suspense, even if it’s “literary fiction.” But heavens forfend it be labeled a “thriller,” those are for reading on airplanes, right? Speaking of thrills, I’m thrilled when an author I like is in the good old Fiction section. Megan Abbott, Pete Dexter, Scott Phillips are all recent sightings. But I don’t mind wandering to the Mystery corner, like the “Adult” section of the video store (if you remember those) to get my kicks.

Like Colson Whitehead says about those who call genre fiction a guilty pleasure:

“Other people’s labels. Other people’s hang-ups.”

Spinetingler Awards

No, not that Tingler!

First of all, congratulations to everyone who was nominated for a Spinetingler Award this year. The winners are listed here: Spinetingler Awards

I’m very proud to have a story, “Black-Eyed Susan,” in the winner for Best Anthology, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled. Special thanks and congratulations to David Cranmer for editing the anthology, and calling me at the last minute when he needed a story.

It is 99 cents for Kindle; check out what the fuss is about.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Spinetingler Awards

Spinetingler has announced its nominees for this year’s awards, and I’m glad to see many of my favorite writers receive well-deserved nominations. Not to leave anyone out, but some books getting the attention they deserve include The Bitch by Les Edgerton, Josh Stallings’ Beautiful, Naked & Dead, Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana, Johnny Shaw’s Dove Season, Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time, and Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything.

I nominated more, like Matthew McBride’s incredible debut Frank Sinatra in a Blender, and I still don’t know how that didn’t make it. I haven’t read all the nominees, but they had better be astounding to knock Matt out of the running.

I’ve crowed about how great my buddy Josh’s two novels are many, many times… but here it comes again. I read them before I met him, and I sought him out because he writes like James Crumley with anger displacing the sense of loss that master infused in his work. A much deserved nomination.

I’m also very happy to see Sabrina Ogden, Sandra Seamans, Elizabeth White, Heath Lowrance, and Patti Abbott nominated for the David Thompson Community Leader award. They are pillars of the online crime fiction community, and give the genre a boost when it often can spin its wheels going over the same muddy ground. It’s a very tough choice to choose just one of them.

I’m not nominated specifically- I was hoping to get a nomination for best short story on the web, but there is some very tough competition and I’m happy for all the writers who did make it. Matt Funk, David James Keaton, Court Merrigan, Nigel Bird, Peter Farris, Hilary Davidson… I hope one of you knocked me out of contention. That would be a death with honor.

Several publications I’ve been a part of are nominated, so please vote early and often:

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled AND Off the Record are both nominated for best short story anthology. My stories “Black-Eyed Susan” and “Free Bird” appear in them, respectively:
Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled
Off the Record

Pulp Modern, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, Needle, Noir Nation, and Crimefactory are all up for Best Zine (hey, no Plots With Guns?) and I my stories have or will appear in all six of those… and Plots with Guns, who I think is criminally underrated, no pun intended.
“Legacy of Brutality” in Pulp Modern
A Glutton for Punishment” in Beat to a Pulp
Faggot,” “Shogun Honey,” and “The Last Sacrament” in Shotgun Honey
“Tiger Mother” in Noir Nation #2
“Lefty” in Crimefactory #10
“Gumbo Weather” in the next issue of Needle

I’m proud as a Proudfoot to have stories in these excellent zines, and I’m glad the ballot’s secret. I have no idea how to choose just one.

And don’t forget that Spinetingler just released their first Kindle issue, and my story “Two to Tango” is included. If that story doesn’t affect you, I’m handing in my gloves.

Please take the time to vote. We writers can be little attention leeches, but even the champs love to hear when they throw a good punch, and you readers have the good seats. We can’t always tell from inside the ring.


© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Two to Tango in Spinetingler

I am honored to appear in Spinetingler Magazine’s first Kindle issue, Winter 2012. My illustrious company includes Patti Nase Abbott, Mike Miner, Court Merrigan and Albert Tucher. Spinetingler has been around for ten years online and is a Mystery Writers of America approved venue. I highly doubt “Two to Tango” will be to the MWA’s taste, but here’s hoping that a few of them read it.

It’s one of my most polarizing stories, and while the characters are all adults, the title comes from the true closing statement of a judge who gave a child rapist a soft sentence. I learned of this judge through Alice Vachss’s eye-opening book Sex Crimes: Ten Years on the Front Lines Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators, where she details how difficult it is to prosecute sex offenders in the D.A.’s office. It is out of print, but I urge you to hunt it down if you think SVU is how things play out in court.

It is a revenge story, but not a straightforward one. I’d like to hear what you think. You can’t comment on a Kindle, but you can here, and in the Amazon reviews for the magazine. I’d appreciate your feedback.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

it’s a major award!

Lost Children: a Charity Anthology has been nominated for a Predators & Editors Award for best anthology! We’d appreciate your VOTE.

Also, Spinetingler Magazine has their nominations open for best crime fiction books and stories. I made my picks, go make yours!

If I tingled your spine, nominate the story that did it. If you can’t pick one (how cocky does that sound? I had 29 stories published this year) perhaps you should read “Junkyard Dog” at Plots with Guns, which the last reader, Joe Myers (a fine writer himself) said brought a tear to his eye…

© 2011 Thomas Pluck