I’ve never met Kevin Burton Smith but, after exchanging a few emails with the editor of Thrilling Detective, I really hope I get to have a beer with him someday. It wasn’t just his assurance that his web magazine is “100% gluten-free”—nor was it his savvy remark that “librarians are extremely good-looking.” (When I explained that the purpose of this blog post would be to let our readers get to know him, he answered, “My wife, mystery writer Diana Killian, says I’m not allowed to show those photos.”) Clearly this is a guy who enjoys reading crime fiction, writing about crime fiction, and has a great sense of humor about living life.
Please describe your publication.
Thrilling Detective is the cyber monkey on my back, a labour of love that won’t let go, even after all these years. A few years ago, Amazon rated it the most popular mystery site on the web, but you know those guys. I hear they drink a bit sometimes. The aim of the site, once I got serious, was to cover the fictional private eye genre as well as I could. Not just books, but short stories, film, television, radio, comics, the pulps, etc. If it featured a private eye (or my loosely defined definition of a private eye) it was in. The original motto was “For lovers of private eye and other tough guys and girls who make trouble their business, not their hobby.”Yeah, that’s a little wishy-washy, but I’ve stuck with it. You won’t find many cops or amateur sleuths on my pages.
What is your format and how long have you been publishing?
After a couple of years of using it for HTML practice (I was a turfed-out graphic designer at the time), I decided to go public with it in 1998, at the urging of a cyber-buddy (and fellow gumshoe groupie) from the UK, Peter Walker. I thought the site would have limited appeal. It didn’t.
Tell us about yourself.
My role? I’m the editor and web monkey, the publisher and the patsy. Over the years, I’ve had lots of help, from co-editors and a ton of contributors, but in the dead of night, it’s still essentially a one-man show; a soapbox for my opinions, a podium for my favourites, a dartboard for my pet peeves.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Got a few hours? The usual suspects, of course. Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker are the big ones, but Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald are right in there as well, the four corners of the P.I. box. After that, it’s a roll call: Lawrence Block, Michael Collins, Ken Bruen, Howard Engel, Ray Banks, Richard Deming, Dick Francis, George Pelecanos, Peter Corris, Sara Paretsky, Elmore Leonard, John Shannon, William Ard, Giles Blunt, Declan Hughes, Walter Mosley, Sue Grafton, Philip Kerr, William Campbell Gault, Bart Spicer, Gary Phillips, John D. MacDonald, Dick Lochte, Laura Lippmann, Bill Pronzini, Jonathan Latimer, Loren Estelman, Ed Brubaker (an awesome comic book writer), Lee Child . . . no, seriously, have you got all night?
And that’s just the crime and detective writers. I also read Stephen King, my homie Mordecai Richler, John Irving, Richard Price, John Steinbeck . . . .
Tell us about a recent review or article of which you’re particularly fond.
My recent column for Mystery Scene about voices in detective fiction helped me crystallize what it was that attracts me to so much detective fiction. There’s a link to it here and of course it appeared in the print addition as well.
What does the future hold for your publication?
Honestly? I have no idea. It’s a hobby. It’s a job. It’s a way to relax, and an ominous perpetual deadline, albeit often self-imposed. It’s a breath mint. It’s a floor wax. It’s a desert topping. I’ve tried to quit, but it never really took. As long as the genre continues to excite me, and the beer and the music don’t run out, I suppose I’ll keep doing it. The site itself has followed me through three or four jobs, a divorce, a major relocation (ever ridden a Greyhound for 3000 miles, Billy?) and numerous other adventures, and I can’t seem to shake the sucker. Sometimes I feel like the site and I are co-starring in The Defiant Ones, although I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be Tony Curtis or Sydney Poitier.
Which other mystery magazines and blogs do you believe are must-reads?
My gang of Twitter friends, enemies and accomplices are probably my single biggest source these days, plus I try to read CrimeSpree, Mystery Scene (of course), Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, CrimeTime, Bill Crider’s blog, Ed Gorman’s blog . . . again, I could go on and on, although I must confess, I’ve reached a level of universal adoration notoriety (or perhaps simply glassy-eyed acceptance on their part) that a lot of the info on the genre finds me via e-mail.
Oh, and since I work in a bookstore, I’m continually prowling the shelves and the magazine section for goodies.
Thrilling Detective Data
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequency of publication: Perpetual. Additions every few days, new “issues” every few months.
Cost to subscribe: Free (and a bargain at twice the price! Why pay more?)