“The first time I discovered digest magazines I was a boy living in Simsbury, Connecticut. I’d walk up through the woods, jump over a small creek, walk along a road, cut through a graveyard and then the Little League fields, and finally down a hill to the public library. I’d wander through the upstairs section, with the adult books, and at some point, I came across boxes of old Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazines. I think they were being edited either by Ben Bova or Stanley Schmidt at that time.”
“Breakage” by Reed Farrel Coleman is the issue’s feature story. Rack up another win for PI Moe Prager’s casebook, and for Coleman, who hits all the right notes. The mystery is a missing person’s case, with emphasis on the characters’ humanity and the scars of wounds sealed, but never really healed.
Rick Ollerman’s Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals collects many of his essays from the collected works of paperback original authors, published by Stark House Press. Below is an excerpt from his interview in The Digest Enthusiast No. 7 in which he describes his approach to research for his essays:
“Whenever I write an essay, I always want to find something new to say about either that writer or their work, maybe both.
“It’s not always easy to know what that something new is going to be before I start researching and taking notes for the essay. In fact, it’s usually not. Sometimes I have an idea what it could be, and sometimes it even works out, but often not. Very often in the case of some of the paperback original guys, no one seems to have written down much about them, and reading is my primary form of research.”
Book news and reviews are “Placed in Evidence” by J. Kingston Pierce. A good review tells you enough to judge your interest in a book without spoiling the read. A great review adds entertainment and context, along with clear, fluid writing. Pierce’s reviews deliver the goods in spades.
TDE: Take us back to the beginning of your love affair with reading > crime fiction > and the giants of the PBO era
RO: Things didn’t get serious until my adult life, and the two things that probably did the most to trigger further adventure were the nearly simultaneous discoveries of the introduction of the Gregg Press edition of Donald Westlake’s The Hunter, and coming across Ed Gorman’s blog. Westlake talks about Peter Rabe and some things from his past, and Gorman talks about nearly everything else.
For crime with a more international import, Terrence McCauley’s crowd from The University series leaves Inspector Alain Ducard on the banks of the Seine with two murders on his hands. “The Solitary Man” is espionage told just the way you didn’t see coming, with menace beneath its decorum and elegance, conversations with unspoken portent, and a fractured morality fraught between what’s right and what’s best for someone or something greater.
“Hit Me” by Rick Ollerman reminded me a lot of a story one might’ve found in a 1960s newsstand digest. It’s a first person account of a self-aggrandizing refrigerator salesman who whips up the perfect plan to put a hit on his wife and inherit her otherwise untouchable bankroll. The fun is not in reaching the wrong destination, it’s the journey that takes you there.
TDE: What are the core elements of The Magazine?
RO: I knew that I wanted to cross-pollinate fanbases as much as I could, and to promote the authors and their stories—especially when they write a story with their series’ characters—as much as their own fanbases would support the magazine.
Another was kind of the unspoken notion of size; we just sort of knew it should be a digest-sized magazine without ever really talking about it.
Another thing I want to do that many new magazines in the POD era don’t do is offer subscriptions, something we will definitely do, probably starting with the second issue.
We’ve also got a non-fiction column by J. Kingston Pierce, who used to write for Kirkus Reviews before they reshuffled.
Another hopefully unique feature answers that burning question you never knew you wanted to ask: what happened to short crime fiction after Hammett and Chandler left the pulps for the slicks and nov- els and Hollywood? Obviously, the pulps kept going, but who kept them going with the two big stars gone?
The page count is right around 170 for the first issue. I think we’ll wait on reader response to see if that moves, and by how much.
Editor Rick Ollerman introduces his new magazine with the assertion, “Digest magazines aren’t what they used to be.” There are few crime fiction magazines on newsstands today. Even the influx of new titles, since the advent of Print on Demand, are often infrequent or published erratically. The Magazine intends to shake things up. How? The backing of a publisher like Down & Out Books should help. But The Magazine’s big idea is to leverage a character from a novel series in a brand new short story. In the debut edition, that’s Reed Farrel Coleman’s ex-cop, ex-PI, ex-retiree, Moe Prager.
In fact, every story in issue No. 1 features a series character, making it an ideal venue to reach new readers or delight series’ fans with short, between-novels, adventures. There’s nonfiction too. J. Kingston Pierce, who manages The Rap Sheet website, provides crime fiction news and reviews, and Ollerman introduces the issue’s only reprint in a column called, “A Few Cents a Word.”
“I had been thinking about all of the latest wave of magazines that have hit the marketplace, mostly made possible by newer technologies like POD and the ability to do layouts and upload .pdf files to a publisher, etc. and wondered why they seemed to have a limited shelf life.
“I bumped into Eric Campbell from Down and Out Books at Bouchercon in New Orleans. And I told him, ‘You should do a magazine.’ He took a sip of something that wasn’t Kool-Aid and said, ‘That’s funny, I’ve been thinking the same thing.’ I told him I’d be interested in editing it and putting it together.”
The first issue of Down & Out: The Magazine debuted in the summer of 2017.