Mystery Scene: If You Don't Know Them, It's a Crime

Mystery Scene‘s glossy format definitely lends a bit of glamor to their newsstand presence, helping them stand out in a field that includes publications printed on everything from newsprint to pixels. But it’s not just the format that makes this magazine appealing—it’s also the content. Mystery Scene covers a wide-ranging beat and often gains access to some of the biggest stars in the field. As part of our ongoing Mystery Month efforts to spread the crime-fiction love, co-publisher Kate Stine recently took time to make the case as to why her publication deserves your hard-earned attention. (Here’s a sneak peek at one of their popular features, “The Hook: Intriguing First Lines.”)

Please describe your publication.

Mystery Scene is a glossy, full-color magazine established in 1985 for fans of crime fiction. Our goal is to offer expert guidance to the entire world of crime fiction from cozy to noir to thrillers. Each issue offers in-depth articles and profiles of both new and well-known writers. Our wide-ranging interests include book collecting, cover art and illustration, the history of the genre, travel, kids’ mystery series, and much more.

Mystery Scene reviews novels, TV shows, films, reference works, audio books, short stories, small press titles, paperback originals, and whatever else we deem of mysterious interest. Our critics include Jon L. Breen, Art Taylor, Betty Webb, Bill Crider, and Dick Lochte. Lawrence Block is contributing a series called “The Murders in Memory Lane” about people he’s met over his 50-year writing career. Oline H. Cogdill, the well-known journalist and reviewer, is a frequent contributor and also blogs three times a week or more at the Mystery Scene Blog.

Mystery Scene‘s print edition is distributed in the US and Canada by Ingram Periodicals and is carried in Barnes & Noble, Hastings, and Books-A-Million stores as well as independent bookstores and newsstands. Mystery Scene is also available in over 275 public libraries. Our website,, offers a selection of past articles, original content, 10-plus years of book reviews, and a regularly updated blog.

Mystery fans can also sign up for the monthly “At the Scene” newsletter which offers original reviews, the “Writers on Reading” series, short articles and information about upcoming books, TV shows, films, and events.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m the editor-in-chief of Mystery Scene and, along with my husband Brian Skupin, the publisher. Brian also oversees the website and writes the popular “What’s Happening With?” series, which are reader-requested interviews of mystery writers who haven’t published for a while. We actually met at the Magna cum Murder Mystery Convention where I was speaking on a panel and he was in the audience. We got married in 1999 and took over the magazine in 2002 from the former editor, Ed Gorman, who still contributes a regular column.

I started out in book publishing, working as an editor at various mystery imprints at Warner Books and Simon & Schuster in the early 1990s. About that time, I became first the book review editor, and then the editor in chief of The Armchair Detective, the first scholarly journal devoted to the mystery genre. Later I edited the MWA national newsletter and the newsletter for the Agatha Christie Society with stints at other mystery magazines as well. I discovered I really enjoy talking about books, researching the history of the genre, and putting together a magazine that shared these interests with other readers.

I’ve gotten to know many fiction writers over the years—and an entertaining bunch they are!—but I’ve also been fortunate to meet many talented critics, journalists and scholars of the mystery genre. It’s their hard work and passion  that make Mystery Scene such informative, lively fun for our readers—and for me, too. Here’s a link to our Contributors Page online, it’s a pretty impressive group!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

One of my new favorites is Elizabeth Hand (Available Dark and Generation Loss), who is interviewed in our Spring Issue. I find Cass Neary, her damaged, aging punk rock relic absolutely mesmerizing. The subject matter is tough, sometimes very tough, but Hand writes beautifully and insightfully about a woman who careens through life without brakes.

Another writer I enjoy is Barbara Hambly whose historical mysteries (A Free Man of Color, the forthcoming Ran Away) are set in 1830s New Orleans and feature Benjamin January, a freed slave. History is so seldom told from this point of view. Hambly brings that long-ago New Orleans to vivid life in a way that also illuminates its present. We’re working on a overview of the Benjamin January series for our Summer Issue and it’s making me long for another trip to New Orleans…

I have wildly eclectic reading tastes so my to-be-read pile includes books by Anna Dean (author of a very well done new Regency series, most recently A Woman of Consequence), Lee Child, Reginald Hill, Matthew Reilly (ridiculously fun action scenes), Rex Stout, and Amnon Kabatchnik’s Blood on the Stage: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery and Detection 1900–1925.

Tell us about a recent review or article of which you’re particularly fond.

Our Spring Issue has an interesting profile of John Buchan, who wrote The 39 Steps among many other books and went on to be Governor General of Canada. Another interesting article about a vintage writer was “No Escape: Jacques Futrelle and the Titanic.”

In our Winter Issue, Jon L. Breen did a career retrospective of Simon Brett, who is winning a lifetime achievement award at the Malice Domestic Convention this spring.

And I always liked this interview with Charlaine Harris by Oline Cogdill and Art Taylor’s tribute to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Nate Pedersen’s series on Building Your Book Collection and Kevin Burton Smith’s tribute to Kalinda Sharma of The Good Wife and…

What does the future hold for your publication?

We are expanding our reach with the Mystery Scene website and our monthly e-newsletter (6,000 subscribers and climbing). We’re also exploring a line of branded “Mystery Scene Mysteries” beginning with a locked-room mystery anthology making the rounds to publishers right now. At some point we’ll do a e-reader edition of Mystery Scene but I’m not happy with the technology for magazines right now.

Which other mystery magazines and blogs do you believe are must-reads?

I enjoy the blog Mysterious Matters: Mystery Publishing Demystified. It’s written by “Agatho,” an anonymous editor at a small indy press who has strong opinions about the industry, gives useful tips to writers, and has really quite interesting takes on a wide range of books. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine are the breeding grounds for new fiction talent in the field although nowadays there are dozens of e-zines that also have lots to offer. I enjoy The Rap Sheet, which covers current events and books, and Elizabeth Foxwell’s The Bunburyist which covers mystery history. (Foxwell is also a contributing editor to Mystery Scene.) Kevin Burton Smith (another frequent contributor) runs the comprehensive and colorful Thrilling Detective Website. I’m sure I’m forgetting dozens more.

Mystery Scene Data




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Frequency of publication: 5 times per year

Cost to subscribe: 1 year $32; 2 years $60; 3 years $90



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

1 Comment on "Mystery Scene: If You Don't Know Them, It's a Crime"

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  1. Great read, i’m big on mystery books! Edgar Wallace is my fav.

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