by John M. Floyd
A few months ago I got a phone call from Strand Magazine editor Andrew Gulli. That, of course, usually means good news, and it was: he said they had accepted a story I'd submitted to them. He wasn't sure when it would come out, so I've been watching their web site, and last week I noticed that my story was listed as one of those in the newly-released Holiday 2011 issue.
Having completed my investigation, I decided to drive over to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of the magazine. But there was one more thing to do. Our nearest bookstore, now that Borders has put all four feet in the air, is now almost twenty miles away. No great distance, but since this was late afternoon, and since Jackson's rush-hour traffic reminds me of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, I didn't want to make a special trip all the way over there until I was certain they had the current issue on their shelves; sometimes they've been known to run a little behind. Besides, I'd been there only a few days earlier, to buy the latest Stephen King novel, and the only Strand they'd had in stock on that visit was the previous (June - September) issue. Cautious soul that I am, I called the bookstore and asked the lady who answered the phone if they'd received the Holiday issue. She said she'd check.
When she came back on the line she told me yes, they had the latest issue in stock, but it didn't say anything on the cover about being a "holiday" issue. She was holding it her hand, she said, and down in the bottom corner of the front cover were the words "October through January." That sounded to me as if that adequately covered the holidays, but I wanted to be sure. For all I knew, they might've put out an extra issue this year. I thought for a moment, and after a rare brainflash I asked her if she saw any authors' names on the cover.
"Yes," she said. "Five or six."
"Would you read them out to me?"
"Read them out?"
"I want to make sure this is the issue I'm looking for."
"Okay." After a pause she said, "Alexander McCall Smith . . . Cornell Woolrich . . . Laura Lippman . . ."
I tried to remember if those names had been listed on the web site for the new issue. I thought Laura's had been, but I wasn't positive. "Keep going," I said.
She hesitated. "Woolrich sounds familiar."
"He wrote 'Rear Window,'" I said.
"Three more names," she said. "Harlan Coben?"
"M. L. Malcolm?"
I could tell she was beginning to lose patience with this. "Keep going."
"Okay," I said, relieved. "That's who I was looking for. Thanks--I'll be over in about an hour to buy one."
"You're going to come over here and buy the magazine just because this guy Floyd's one of the writers?"
"Yeah," I said. "He's really good."
If this were a perfect world, she would have then put down the phone, hurried over to the fiction section, and bought one of my books. After all, employees get a discount. But somehow I doubt that happened.
The truth of the matter is, I can't figure out how I deserve being included in the company of those other folks whose names she read to me. As a friend of mine once said when he first heard he'd received a prestigious award, "They must've made a mistake." But if they did, I'm glad they did. Anyhow, I hotfooted it over to the store and bought the magazine, and in the process I got a lot more than just a contributor's copy. The October - January issue (a.k.a. the Holiday issue, apparently) has some interesting stories and interviews. Here's a quick summary, in order of appearance:
- "Chameleon in Berlin," by M. L. Malcolm, is an enjoyable tale about spies and passwords and stealth in the cold-war era. It reminded me a little of George Smiley's adventures.
- Cornell Woolrich's "Never Kick a Dick" brings back a long-lost story that mixes New York gangsters and Miami vice. And this one has an especially effective surprise near the end.
- "The Adventure of the Vintner's Codex" is a New Year's Eve mystery featuring Holmes and Watson, by Dust and Shadow author Lyndsay Faye.
- My story, "Turnabout," is--in the introductory words of the editor--"a desert-highway caper full of his [my] trademark twists and turns."
- The interviews with Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben are--what can I say?--as informative and entertaining as you would expect them to be, from those two authors. LL and HC are among the best crime writers around, and it was fun to get a look inside their heads.
- "A Very Personal Gift" by Alexander McCall Smith is a tale of love and suspense set in western Australia. This one is probably my favorite story in the group.
Also featured are more than a dozen book reviews and detailed coverage of the annual Strand Critics Awards ceremony, which was held this summer in New York City.
If you've not picked up this latest issue, I hope you will--I think you'll enjoy it. The Strand, like AHMM, EQMM, Woman's World, and a few others, has always been a great mystery market for both readers and writers.
There aren't many of them left.