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The Magical Mystery Tour

So I’m sure you’re all fascinated with the birthday and will not turn away from the blog until well after last call. The truth is we do feel very lucky but we have changed in the last five years. The hope is that we’re more proactive rather than being reactive to everything mystery.

Today’s essay was brought about by a couple of recent conversations and a wonderful editorial coming your way via the print edition of the magazine. For Jon and myself mystery is much more than a book. It is a lifestyle. But what exactly is the mystery community? How do we grow it? Who’s a member?
How do you join?

Five years has defined and honed my own opinion. And so next weekend we’re heading to New York City for Edgar Week, the most respected celebration of mystery annually in the U.S. This is a great jumping off point because last year Harlan Coben gave an inspired speech, Crime Doesn’t Pay … Enough… My favorite line from that speech is “we as members of Mystery Writers of America rise and fall together. We benefit not by grabbing as big a slice of the pie as we can for ourselves and our niche — but by increasing the size of that mystery-lovin’ pie. That’s what we at MWA should aim to do.” An idea, a sentiment Harlan held true to his entire term as President and I know Lee Child will run with.

Five years after the original Crimespree concept was first discussed the original idea feels rather rakish. We’ll talk about mystery, and anything a mystery reader or writer cares to write about counts because it is the people who make up the community who define the Jordan term, “Mystery”. It’s about that Aretha Franklin song baby!! RESPECT.

If I told you I haven’t used the term “transcends the genre” in four years except with disdain would you be surprised? I was when I looked back. It was a “go to” phrase when I first started beating the internet pavement with reviews and “articles”. Somewhere along the line I realized there simply is no need to elevate the crime novel. In 2009 it’s here, it’s nicely holding its own in sales, it folds in more writing styles than any other fiction genre and no matter what you like as a reader you will find the best of the best available in the Crimespree genre of choice.

Comparing Crime Fiction to Literature or Romance or Sci Fi or Horror is redundant. We have it all within our books and teleplays and yes, comics. People call today the second Golden Age of Mystery. I will stand toe to toe with anyone who says mysteries are just mysteries. Because the best will make you laugh or cry. Crime fiction raises awareness, celebrates every life style, explores prejudices. A Crime Fiction Novel can span decades or hours, have just one character or 1,000. Hell, in crime fiction you can learn how to play the lotto with better odds or how to knit. And the recipes? We have Bobby Flay beat by miles. There are sociopaths to love and little old ladies to declare our nemesis. In Crime fiction we have “Cats and Dogs, Living together ….”.

Are you feeling the breeze from my pom poms ?

And yet…..

We all guffaw. All the time. Because if you love mystery you love the history of mystery. The canons of individual writers, the perfectly structured PI novel, the serial killer book with a twist. Does anything beat not knowing who the killer was? And yet is it important to every story labeled Suspense? So why doesn’t George Pelecanos get the same respect as Philip Roth? Why do I worry about Jan Burke’s fan base being happy when she writes something as wonderful and outside of the box as THE MESSENGER? Why do I feel as though I owe Ace Atkins a beer for pulling off a book as outrageously audacious as DEVIL’S GARDEN? And why have I heard myself say at least three times in the past two months, “No, it’s a really great Cozy.”

Like everyone, I have preconceptions and an underlying desire to demystify my own biases. And if you’ve gotten this far in my ramblings you, my friend are a member of the mystery community. Whether you enjoy the community through “just the books” or meander through the internet, looking for more info on a favorite author or sub genre…. If you belong to one or more than one of the many mystery organizations, if you’ve had the chance to shake a hero’s hand at a signing or encourage a new writer with a note, have you been to a convention, are you worried about the movie State of Play holding up to the British mini-series, Do you know a real life Bernard Black? Do you subscribe to Crimespree (okay, I had to sneak that in)?

You are a member of our community. It’s easy to grow Mystery. Pass along a book, buy a book, find someone to talk to about a book. Disseminate the works of Nero Wolfe or Sara Paretsky with someone you’ve just met. Mourn Rankin’s Rebus and embrace Meredith Cole’s debut. Gather together, sing kum bay yah…. Or grab a beer with Michael Koryta…. I think that’s what I’ll do tonight…. Because life is an endless mystery and we wouldn’t have it any other way….

Tomorrow: Our beginnings and some thank-yous….