Thursday, April 05, 2007

Short, Mean, Tough--What’s Not to Like?

The latest, April issue of ThugLit is out. (And why do my fingers always want to write “out cold” when I’m talking about new editions of this Webzine being posted?) Predictably, the stories are rough and raw, with submissions this time coming from Max Glaessner (“Carrion”), Lloyd Hudson Frye (“Sooty Tears”), Michael Colangelo (“Beg for Death”), and others.

ThugLit, it seems, has also taken to flogging a monthly book pick (The Blade Itself, by Marcus Sakey, wins the honors this time around) and promoting the new noir-fiction mag Out of the Gutter (OOTG).

I’ve written about OOTG previously in The Rap Sheet, and was all prepped to share my opinions about the first issue. But other business and trips got in the way, and I never seemed able to gather my thoughts on the subject. It’s tough putting out a first edition of a magazine; I know, I’ve done it a couple of times. And on each occasion, my expectations for the finished product were too damn high. Nothing is perfect, least of all print publications. And especially fiction magazines. So my hat’s off to writer-editor Matthew Louis for giving OOTG a go. Issue #1, which came out recently, is both incredible and also predictably flawed. In the first case, because Louis has managed to gather together such talents as Victor Gischler, J.A. Konrath, Todd Robinson (aka “Big Daddy Thug” from ThugLit), Charlie Stella, Harry Shannon, and first novelist-blogger Sandra Ruttan between his colorful covers. But “flawed” mostly in the sense of the magazine being uneven. Very much so. Gischler’s submission is a tough little nut of a yarn born out of frustration for human rudeness, and in its way it stirs a visceral identification within the reader. On the other hand, Konrath’s “Punishment” exploits violence in a manner that seems to me vaguely juvenile, and despite its twist at the end, I don’t think this was intentional. “Punishment” reads like something that novelist Konrath (Dirty Martini) wrote and then threw into a box many years ago, only to yank out when asked for a pulp mag submission. I was less disappointed in the other OOTG stories, because their prose and plots were pretty much up to what I had anticipated from their authors (those I recognized, anyway). Editor Louis has also peppered into his 20-plus pages a number of cartoons and phony, look-twice-or-you’ll-miss-the-joke advertisements that add to OOTG’s air of being a serious forum for writing, but not taking itself too seriously in general. His breakdown of stories into those requiring 10, 20, and 30 minutes or more to read doesn’t strike me as essential, but there’s nothing wrong with it, either. All in all, I’d say that OOTG is a rough gem coming out of the box. Polishing can only make it shine. I look forward to Issue #2.

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