Mystery Magazine: At 70, Ellery Queen's publication still has a clue
The last couple of decades have been rough but editor Janet Hutchings says the Internet era is now boosting EQMM's profile and leading to a rebirth.
When Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine first appeared in 1941, the detective story was more read than respected, frowned upon by the fusty gatekeepers of the literary establishment.Skip to next paragraph
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Over the next seven decades, the mystery novel has clawed its way to a better reputation, although it still doesn't get invited to the best dinner parties. (Good thing: Knocking off the host is considered gauche.)
While they don't get as much attention, mystery short stories have tagged along for the ride to semi-respectability. In large part, that's thanks to what fans like to call EQMM. As always, it's a compilation of both new and classic mystery short stories along with columns about topics like books and, now, sites on the Internet.
The last couple of decades have been rough on the monthly magazine, which now has about a readership of about 30,000. But Janet Hutchings, its editor of 20 years, says the Internet era is boosting EQMM's profile and leading to a rebirth. In an interview this week, we talked about the evolution of mysteries, the long odds against getting your story published and the value of violating writerly rules.
Q: What do you like best about short stories?
It's so complete. You read it in one sitting, and the impact is different just because you're reading it all at once. That's what I enjoy the most.
Q: What was behind the founding of the magazine by Frederic Dannay, who with Manfred B. Lee created the pseudonymous author Ellery Queen and gave their detective the same name?
A: Dannay wanted to show the world that mysteries should be a respected genre. He believed that every great writer in history had written at least one mystery.
He also wanted the magazine to represent every aspect of the genre. When [detective story author] Dashiell Hammett got in trouble during the McCarthy era, Fred put out his books. It wasn't just his friendship. He wanted to keep that area of the genre going strongly.
Q: How has the magazine evolved?
A: It's changed with the times. The stories are edgier sometimes, and fewer people are writing traditional whodunnits. That's been the case at least since the 1980s, and then we lost Edward D. Hoch, the best of the puzzler writers. [Hoch, who passed away in 2008, wrote hundreds of stories for the magazine and became famed for his locked-room mysteries.]
But we're seeing more locked-room mysteries lately. It's starting to come back. And we're seeing a lot of diversity, as with the pure crime stories that Clark Howard writes.
Q: How are mystery novels changing?
A: The biggest change I've noticed is that there's a lot of use of sexual language and profanity. But that just isn't our readership.