Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: If You Don't Know Them, It's a Crime

Everything I wrote about Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine yesterday goes for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, too—we know you know them, but it would be a crime to leave them out of our Mystery Month coverage. Of course, even though you do know this venerable name, it might be a good time to refamiliarize yourself with the magazine’s contents. Editor Janet Hutchings was kind enough to answer our call and does a wonderful job of cluing us in on EQMM’s past, present, and future.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine was launched by one of the world’s great collectors of mystery fiction, Frederic Dannay, who, with his cousin Manfred B. Lee, wrote under the pseudonym Ellery Queen. Dannay drew together a collection that probably remains today the world’s largest library of short crime fiction, currently housed at the University of Texas at Austin. He rediscovered many forgotten short-story gems and in addition to adding them to his growing library, he reprinted them in EQMM during the magazine’s first two decades. Of course, side by side with these rediscovered classics Dannay was also publishing new stories from the top mystery writers of his day, and that tradition of presenting the best the field has to offer has continued throughout our magazine’s nearly 71 years of publication.

We are a digest-sized magazine: In 1941, when EQMM first appeared, paperback books were new to the American scene, having been introduced to the market with the Pocket Books imprint in 1939. Dannay wanted his new magazine to resemble a paperback book, with book-quality paper and the convenient pocket size. In addition to providing the convenience of easy carrying, EQMM’s format was intended to make it readily shelvable and therefore collectible, and that meant the magazine’s fiction had to be of the highest quality—something a reader would want to keep, to refer back to and re-read. We continue to be a digest-sized magazine, collected by many of our readers. But in recent years we have also gained a strong presence in the market for electronic publications, with editions for Kindle, the Sony Reader, Nook, iPad, and more.

EQMM’s audience combines mystery fans and readers who simply love a good short story, whatever its classification. It has always been the viewpoint of our magazine that the headings Mystery, Crime, and Suspense can legitimately be used to cover a vast literary space. EQMM’s first editor is sometimes said to have hoped to prove, through his selections for EQMM, that every great writer in history wrote at least one story that could be considered a mystery—and that was long before there was general acceptance for an idea that has become popular today: that the boundaries between mystery and mainstream or literary fiction cannot be firmly drawn.

Although EQMM is often strongly associated with the classical whodunit (perhaps because Ellery Queen himself was one of America’s foremost writers in that area of the field) the magazine preserved the tradition of the great hardboiled magazine Black Mask by incorporating it as a department of EQMM for several years after it ceased independent publication in the 1950s. Four years ago, EQMM reinstituted the Black Mask department, in which we feature the harder-edged work of crime, noir, and private-eye writers. In between the classical and hardboiled ends of the mystery spectrum, many other types of stories find a home between our covers: historicals, psychological suspense, and police procedurals among them.

It isn’t only in subject matter that EQMM’s range is broad. Our focus has always been global, with about a third of our stories contributed by writers from Britain and other primarily English-speaking countries outside the U.S. For the past nine years, every issue of EQMM has also contained a story in translation, in the department Passport to Crime. Although Passport occasionally includes a classic, most of its stories are by contemporary authors, often in English-language publication for the first time.

That spirit of discovering and bringing new writers to American readers has informed the magazine from the beginning. Our Department of First Stories features the work of first-time writers, many of whom, like Harry Kemelman, Richard Levinson and William Link, and Nancy Pickard have gone on to become celebrated mystery writers.

When I became the editor of EQMM in 1991, we were publishing thirteen issues per year, two of them double. The challenge then was to find enough good material to fill so many pages. The challenge today, when we have only ten issues per year, two of them double, is to find space for the superabundance of good material submitted to us.

The overall standard of writing in the mystery field seems to me to have risen over the past two decades. I was asked to name some of my favorite authors in this piece, but with so much excellent work before me, I find the choice uncomfortable. Whom would I have to leave out? Besides, my interest as the editor of EQMM is not so much in particular authors or areas of the genre as in the art of telling a story. We human beings need stories, something most of us know instinctively but which has recently been confirmed by scientific research. According to Anne Murphy Paul’s March 17th New York Times article “Your Brain on Fiction,” “stories . . . research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.” Why? Well, for one thing, research is showing “that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them, and see the world from their perspective.”

I think virtually everyone who works in publishing in this time of seismic change would agree with me that the future of publishing in general, and therefore of any particular publication, is hard to predict. Will print editions of our magazine, which was conceived on the model of a paper book, still exist in ten years’ time? It’s hard to say. But although our print edition has great significance to me and to many of our subscribers, what’s most important, after all, is what we do with our pages, whether they come out in print or on a screen. And what we do is no secret. It’s earned us a reputation we’re proud of. We publish great stories, insightful book reviews (see The Jury Box), and a monthly roundup of the genre’s best blogs (see Blog Bytes). Check us out!

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Data

Website: www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm
 
Contact email: elleryqueenmm@dellmagazines.com
 
Frequency of publication: 10 times/year (with fall and spring double issues)
 
Cost to subscribe: $32.97/year (six-month and two-year subscriptions also available)

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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