Our Tribe: The Malmons
By Kristi Belcamino
This is a very special column for me to write this month because the couple I’m featuring, Dan and Kate Malmon, holds a special place in my heart.
These two wacky kids welcomed me to this crime fiction tribe with open arms and have paved the way to many friendships I’ve made over the past few years.
With The Malmons vouching for me (God knows what I ever did to deserve that lucky blessing), I was introduced to luminaries in this crime fiction world, such as Matthew Clemens and Jon Jordan.
I’ll never forget the first time Jordan called me on the phone and said, “Welcome to the Crimespree family” and I was floored. I said, “You are offering me an all-access pass to the glorious Crimespree World and I’ve no idea why?”
“Easy,” Jordan said, “The Malmons said you’re in.”
I wanted to use my column this month, not only to sing the praises of The Malmons, but also to give people a heads up about #BikeMS ride, an annual fundraising event that Kate spearheads every May to raise money for MS. You can find out more by following Kate on Twitter. She’s at @saintkate
Donors of at least $40 are blessed with some of Kate’s scrumptious cookies, but more than that, they can feel like they are doing a small part to support such a kick ass, brave, strong woman. There is a reason we who love her call her Saint Kate.
Direct link to donation site is here: 2016 MS BIKE RIDE
Here is what some other people have to say about The Malmons.
“Every community needs their own Nick and Nora Charles (especially the mystery community, right?) and Dan and Kate Malmon are without a doubt ours. The Minneapolis contingent of the Crimespree family, they quietly welcome members of the mystery community to their city with tater tots and love. (Which are pretty close to the same thing, actually.) They also organize and head up regular meetings of Noir at the Bar, bringing people together for the love of crime fiction. Their love of both comics and the mystery community are deep and abiding, and I’m lucky enough to call them family. If you don’t know them yet, make sure you seek them out at Bouchercon this year. They’re nothing short of amazing.” — Erica Neubauer
“The Malmon Duo are just the best, most loyal to authors and booksellers alike, plus the entire industry. Oh how we will miss them and Crimespree.” — Pat Frovarp and Gary Schulze, former owners of Once Upon a Crime. (Frovarp noted that they still plan to see The Malmons and others at OUAC events in the future.)
“Book communities are only as strong as the people in them and one of the reasons that the crime fiction community is so strong is because of people like Dan and Kate Malmon. Anyone can be a fan, but it takes special people to get involved and grow reader communities. Dan and Kate not only support authors by showing up to their signings in the Twin Cities, but they’ve organized multiple Noir at the Bars in Minnesota, moderated panels at conferences and write both columns and reviews for Crimespree Magazine. If there’s more they could be doing to help spread the word about books and the people that write them, I’m not sure what it would be. And they aren’t doing it because they need or want something return. They are simply fans of the stories and their creators and they want to share their enthusiasm with others. I’m happy and honored to call them both friends…even if they do like to make fun of me every chance they get.” – Jeff Shelby
“Kate and Dan represent all that is best about the crime fiction community. Their joy in reading everything from comics to noir is real, and their excitement is contagious. They take great care in sharing their reading experiences, and great joy in meeting authors. They support big events and small ones. They’re fun, funny, and super smart. And as if all that isn’t enough, they have one of the coolest crime fiction canines on the planet.” – Erin Mitchell
Tell us about how you came to be such a huge part of this crime fiction community? What kicked it off?
Kate: It’s all Duane Swierczynski’s fault. Honest. It was 2010, and Dan was reading Swierczynski’s book THE WHEELMAN while we were in the Minneapolis airport waiting for a flight to Milwaukee. Twitter was a relatively new thing at this time and we didn’t quite have the hang of it yet. On a whim, Dan decided to tweet at Duane to tell him how much he was enjoying the book. And Duane replied to Dan! On Twitter!
The two would chat about books and stuff on Twitter, and this guy “@crimespreejon” would continually join in the conversation. Dan did some investigation into this “Crimespree Magazine” that this “Crimespree Jon” talked about, and found that it was based in Milwaukee, an hour south of my hometown, Sheboygan. We had planned a trip home to visit my parents when Dan reached out to Jon to see if Crimespree had a storefront so we could stop in and say Hello. Jon replied with “No, we don’t have a storefront, but we do like dinner.” Wait. A stranger on the Internet is inviting us out for dinner? We don’t know who this guy is. There might not even be a “Crimespree Magazine” and he’s just looking for some fresh meat. It is Wisconsin, you know.
After a couple long talks about Stranger Danger, we decided to meet Jon and his wife for lunch in Milwaukee. Before we left Sheboygan, Dan and I gave my parents all of the info about our lunch date: where we were going, who we’d be with, when we should be home, and the phone number for the Milwaukee Police Department. Needless to say, we hit it off with Jon and Ruth right away. They were the kindest, sincerest people we’d ever met and we had just met them.
About a year later at the St. Louis Bouchercon, they approached us about writing comic reviews for the blog and magazine. Dan’s the weekly comic book reader; I just read whatever he tosses my way. He would hand me weird books from the 1990’s with horrible foil covers and I would read them live on Twitter. Jon thought my comments were pretty funny and asked that we do it as a blog. After our first review of BATGIRL, we were in.
Dan: I just yell, “It’s all Duane’s fault!” as loud as I can.
What has been the best part or most rewarding part about your involvement?
K: For me, the best part has been getting to meet some of the coolest people in the world. There is no community like the mystery community. This is my tribe, hands down. They accept you no matter who you are or where you’re from. You enjoy crime fiction? Well, then pull up a chair and sit with us.
D: Because of our involvement in the mystery community, I’ve been able to help coordinate the Noir at the Bar author events here in the Twin Cities. We’ve had authors read that are from all across the Midwest, and as far away as Las Angeles. Having authors and readers reach out to me to say that they enjoyed the reading and want to know when the next event is? Well, that’s all kinds of awesome.
What has been the most difficult part?
K: It’s tough to keep up with the to be read pile. #ReaderProblems, I know. There are so many books I want to read and I still haven’t figured out how to get paid for reading.
D: Not being able to keep up with that stupid pile causes me real anxiety. Hearing about new stuff hitting the shelf that I haven’t read yet stresses the hell out of me. That’s when I know it’s time to take a deep breath and go walk the dog.
Crimespree a la Proust Questionnaire:
K: I like the challenge of figuring out who did it or why the terrible events occurred. Sometimes I get it figured out early on, and other times I’m left scratching my head after I read the last page. Also, bodice rippers make me uncomfortable.
D: I grew up in a house that reads. As a kid, I read comics and Stephen King. In the ‘90’s, I discovered Lawrence Block and Bernie Rhodenbarr. My mom reads mysteries, and we would pass them back and forth. Harlan Coben and Myron Bolitar were also in high demand at the Malmon house at this time.
What was the first mystery you read and loved?
K: I had aspirations of becoming a forensic pathologist, like Quincy, when I was in high school. As a result of this, I sought out anything where the protagonist would analyze the dead body for clues and use science to solve the crime. Early on, I found Patricia Cornwell and read as much of her work as I could.
D: Oh, god. Of course I read the Hardy Boys stuff, but it didn’t do much for me at the time. The first Bernie book I picked up was THE BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART. So we’ll go with that.
If you were going to “off” someone what method would you use?
K: If our life insurance adjustor is reading this, I wouldn’t choose any method. If he isn’t, then I would use poison. I don’t like fighting, so I’d want some method where I could slip something into someone’s dinner or after dinner drink and be done with them. But as I said at the start, I wouldn’t choose any method. Because I love my husband.
D: I stink at this. So I’ll say it’s a Locked Room Mystery, and let someone else figure out how it happened.
How would you dispose of the body?
K: Skip this part, Mr. Insurance Adjustor. I’d probably dissolve the body using acid. Kind of like how Mr. White tries to dispose of the gang member bodies in season 1 of BREAKING BAD, but I’d get the right type of plastic bin and wouldn’t use the second floor bathtub.
D: Please. Can you see me trying to drag a body out to the wood chipper? I’d get frustrated and walk away with the body lying in the backyard.
What are your favorite qualities in a writer?
K: I like authors that don’t take themselves too seriously. We’re in the land of make-believe, so have a little fun.
D: The ability to move the story along. I find myself wishing more books had a more active editor.
Who is your favorite fictional protagonist?
K: The necromancer Eric Carter written by Stephen Blackmoore.
D: Hank Thompson. Charlie Huston knocked me on my butt with CAUGHT STEALING, SIX BAD THINGS, and A DANGEROUS MAN.
Who is your favorite fictional antagonist?
K: Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk from season 1 of the DAREDEVIL Netflix series.
D: Dr. Doom
Who are your five favorite writers – mystery or otherwise?
K: Victor Gischler, Stephen Blackmoore, Chris Holm, Johnny Shaw, and Todd Robinson
D: This changes all the time. But off the top of my head: Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Charlie Huston, Duane Swierczynski, Chris Holm, and Rob Hart.
What do you appreciate most in a debut author?
K: I appreciate when they don’t try to put every plot idea they ever had in their first book. I understand that this might be an author’s one and only chance to get their thoughts published, but have just a little restraint. Save something for the next book.
D: The drive that it takes to get that lifelong dream into print. That alone is freaking amazing.
What is your chief characteristic?
K: Mine? I don’t like talking about myself, so I’ll let Dan answer that one. I’ll tell you his: He’s grounded. When I’m a whirling dervish of chaos, he’s the one that helps me sort everything out and put the crazy into perspective. Not everything is a big deal and Dan reminds me of that.
D: Kate is thinking on different levels all the time. Just because she comes off as a bit more proper and reserved at times, doesn’t mean she’s not about to drop the dirties comment ever uttered and reduce a grown man to tears. It’s true. I am that grown man.
What is your favorite word?
K: My favorite word to say out loud is beta glucuronidase. It was a chemical that we used when I worked in a drug-testing laboratory.
D: I use filler transition phrases. “For the listeners at home”, “As we saw last”, “In case you weren’t aware”, “Our boy…” I lean on these way too much.
What is your motto?
K: “Why not?” There is rarely a good reason to not do something (aside from jail time or death). If we hadn’t said “Why not?” to meeting Jon and Ruth for lunch, then we wouldn’t be doing this interview!
D: Why not? As a closet introvert, it’s far easier for me to say, “No thanks, I’m staying home tonight.” But then I take a breath and remind myself that then I’d be the guy who didn’t want to go out and be a part of this amazing community. “Why Not” has led us to some fantastic adventures. Here’s hoping it leads us to many more!
Kristi Belcamino is a crime fiction writer, cops beat reporter, and Italian mama who also bakes a tasty biscotti. In her former life, as an award-winning crime reporter at newspapers in California, she flew over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, watched autopsies, and conversed with serial killers. Find out more at http://www.kristibelcamino.com. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/kristibelcaminowriter/ or on Twitter @KristiBelcamino.