Guest Editor Anthony Neil Smith's introduction
"If you want to sell to Gold Medal Books, don't read Gold Medal and ape them. Read Faulkner, Hemingway, Dostoevski and Scott Fitzgerald, O'Hara and Herman Wouk. If you read Gold Medal Books, you might hit a market several pay grades lower. In order to hit those markets, read Gold Medal. But to hit Gold Medal, read Faulkner."
--Hary Whittington, pulp novelist
I would like to say thanks to Steven for indulging all of us crime fiction fetishists with this issue of STORYGLOSSIA. I hope the choices I made for the issue make you proud, sir.
I've never bought the concept that pulp crime fiction is only good for entertainment purposes, and that whatever aspirations it had towards literature were worthless. A simple time-waster. Escapist. What to read while taking a break from serious reading. Sorry, just can't accept that. All the crime novels I've read, all the stunning scenes, unforgettable characters, burned-into-your-eyes images, and you're telling me they're throwaways?
I believe crime fiction, as with any subgenre, can be lifted into the literary stratosphere while still keeping the hyper-real over-the-top intensity that so readily identifies the work as pulp. Maybe it's the hyper-reality that brings me back again and again—things in crime fiction land are louder, harder, more vivid, more sexy, more dangerous than everyday life, and yet look at what you can learn about the human condition when you push folks to their breaking points. I don't read crime fiction to solve a puzzle. I read it to witness the consequences of the terrible things people do to each other, and how they deal with the aftermath.
So that's what I was looking for this time around—crime stories that really got to me. The stories I couldn't shake out of my head. The stories that hooked me immediately without wasting any time. The ones that gave me a person to empathize with throughout, even if I didn't trust one goddamned word that came out of his or her mouth. The ones that surprised me in the right way, making perfect sense with what I'd read before.
I'm glad there's plenty of room in the crime fiction genre for so many different types of stories—classic P.I., traditional amateur sleuths, good cops, bad cops, locked room, noir, cozy, funny, tragic, both, with cats, without cats—even if I can't stand some of the stuff. At least the rest of it gets to those other people in a way a cat mystery will never get to me. It's just nice to see the choices. I don't even mind when a little old lady who loves her Big Thriller Author comes up and lambasts me for all the naughty words, dirty sex, and unblinking violence in my work. The best thing I can do is say "Well, just don't read it, then."
However, these are the stories that reached inside and really held on. They were determined to be in this issue. And I can't help but oblige them. Maybe they won't be your cup of tea regardless of what side of the literary fence you're sitting on. But I've got no problem walking that fence like a tightrope, ready and willing to fall off over and over again before hopping right back up and tightwalking some more. It's exhilarating, hovering above it all, but not afraid to get your hands dirty when the time comes.
Crime fiction is all about dirty hands and dirty minds. We wouldn't have it any other way.