Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Crime Goes Under Covers

After considerable hype, both around the blogosphere and elsewhere (Anthony Neil Smith proclaimed it “the rightful heir to Plots With Guns”), the first edition of Murdaland: Crime Fiction for the 21st Century finally dropped through my mailslot, courtesy of editor-in-chief Michael Langnas. I had been expecting something that looked like a slick magazine, but this bi-annual literary pub looks more like a book--perfect-bound and 272 pages long, with a $12 U.S. price tag. Impressive. And that’s even before you open the damn thing.

Murdaland’s back-jacket copy promises “scenes of violence, repercussion, mayhem, and dread,” and all of those are manifested in 19 stories from authors as diverse as Ken Bruen and Mary Gaitskill. Also contributing work are Patricia Abbott, Richard Bausch, Paolo Madrigal, Gary Phillips, J.D. Rhoades, and Rolo Diez, a Hammett Prize winner whose first short story published in English, “Eclipse,” appears here. Don’t miss Daniel Woodrell’s brutal, four-page number titled “The Echo of Neighborly Bones,” which kicks off with a couple of sentences that make it near impossible not to read on immediately. (“Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn’t seem to quit killing him. He killed him again whenever he felt unloved or blue or simply had empty hours facing him.”) And Murdaland includes both an excerpt from Tom Franklin’s latest novel, Smonk, and a “classic reprint” of David Goodis’ “Professional Man” (published originally in Manhunt in 1953).

A full year’s subscription to Murdaland (two issues) will set you back $24. If Langnas & Company can maintain the quality of this first issue, that’s small dough for big delights.

By the way, Tribe has a quite thorough interview with Murdaland editor Langnas over at his blog. Well worth reading.

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Meanwhile, Bill Crider alerts me to a future Murdaland competitor, the evocatively titled Out of the Gutter. According to an explanation from editor “MLB” (who told me in a separate e-note that he’s “keeping a degree of anonymity for various reasons”), “Out of the Gutter is going to be an anthology of grim, fierce, uncomfortably realistic crime fiction and more. The idea is to create a modern pulp magazine (presented in book form) but more than that I want to test boundaries, to collect material that is at once as troubling and fascinating as a bloody freeway accident. The essays and stories already amassed cover subjects ranging from organized dog fighting to homosexual prostitution in Mexico, to prison violence (a piece from celebrated prison author Seth ‘Soul Man’ Ferranti) to classic detective noir--with a twist.” To fill OOTG’s debut issue, MLB is currently looking for stories of 8,000 words or fewer. The deadline is the rapidly approaching November 1.

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