by Deborah Harter Williams
Mystery Readers Journal is a cross between a college course and a coffee date with your favorite author. What started out as a 4-page newsletter, back in the manual cut and paste days, has evolved into an 80 plus page quarterly magazine (both online and print) that covers the spectrum of the mystery genre.
Each issue has a theme – most recently Shrinks and other Mental Health Professionals and the upcoming up Mysteries set in France. Issues have covered animal mysteries, paranormals, hobbies and crafts as well as sports, historical and religious mysteries. Topics are as varied as many sub-genres that continue to spring up: Art, biblio, food, gardening, medical, musical and murders in transit (crimes involving various methods of transport).
Geographically the journal has covered the globe from Africa and Scandinavia, to London, LA and the Far East. Seems murder is everywhere. And for those who pick their books based on locale the selection is as good as any travelogue. Oh the places you can go with the Mystery Readers Journal.
Born from Bouchercon
Editor Janet Rudolph had attended and participated in putting together a number of Bouchercon Conventions, which spawned a small-scale newsletter to update folks on mystery events. At the same time she was teaching mystery fiction courses through college extension programs. As she frequently taught themed classes it made sense to extend the newsletter into a journal, which could deal with topics in more depth. The concept grew and authors volunteered to write and be interviewed. Twenty-eight years later it is still going strong.
Regular columns cover children and Young Adult mysteries, short stories and True Crime. There are always reviews as well as articles by the authors themselves, talking about why they set their books in a certain place or why their character does what they do. Rudolph says those are her favorite articles, which is like having the author come to visit in your living room. A highlight for her was interviewing the late British crime novelist and cook, Nicholas Freeling via a telephone call (pre-Skype days) to Europe. Food and crime mix well for Rudolph who also writes a blog called Dying for Chocolate.
To read the journal is like getting a PhD in mystery. It is a priceless compendium of reviews, author observations and trends in topics and techniques. Were you to land from another planet and want to get a crash course in what the natives are reading this would be the place to go. Not so coincidentally, Rudolph herself has a PhD in religion and literature, specializing in mystery fiction.
Sustained by Friendship
In the 90s Rudolph was lucky enough to befriend Kate Derie (creator of one of the first and best mystery sites – Cluelass). What started as an email acquaintance turned into an online friendship and then the realization came that they both lived in Berkeley. Rudolph credits Derie’s facility with editing and technology as what sustained the publication and made possible its expansion. Now it is available via subscription and PDF download as well as in libraries, specialty and mystery bookstores.
Fifteen years worth of Tables of Contents are available online for those who want to peruse the vast array of topics, authors and settings that have been explored. It reads like a Who’s Who of the crime and mystery world. An issue in 1995 about San Francisco based books featured Dianne Day, Linda Grant, Laurie King, Joanne Pence, John Lescroart, Gloria White and Collin Wilcox.
Rudolph observes that mysteries have gotten darker and edgier while at the same time crafty cozies are proliferating and exploring new areas. She hopes that the ever-evolving genre can attract new young readers to the fold, to the journal and to mystery conventions. As one of the founders of Left Coast Crime, Rudolph is still a regular attendee. She counts many authors as her friends. Mystery fans and authors are very supportive of each other and make up “one of the nicest communities to be a part of,” says Rudolph. She will lead off this year’s LCC in Sacramento co-chairing a panel called
“It’s my LCC – what do I do now?” Couldn’t be a better person to answer that question. But if you can’t come to Sacramento, treat yourself to a copy of Mystery Readers Journal.
Check out Janet’s article here in KRL about the history of Left Coast Crime.