19 March 2016

Let's Hear It for MMs

No, not mss (the plural of "manuscript").  MMs (the plural of "mystery magazine").  In fact, let's hear it for MM mss.

Several years ago I was Googling markets for short mystery stories (I do that from time to time) and stumbled upon a site called, believe it or not, Better Holmes and Gardens. When I investigated, I found submission guidelines for a publication I hadn't heard of before: Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. That's right--yet another MM.

Like all mystery writers, I love AHMM and EQMM, and I also submit a lot of stories to other current magazines that regularly feature mystery fiction, like The StrandWoman's WorldOver My Dead BodyCrimespreeMysterical-E, BJ Bourg's Flash Bang Mysteries, etc. But the truth is, there aren't a lot of markets out there anymore--paying or non-paying--that specialize in mystery shorts.

Holmes Sweet Holmes

Back to my discovery. Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine is a product of Wildside Press, which I believe also publishes the iconic Weird Tales. As soon as I found SHMM I sent them a story, a little mystery called "Traveling Light," and was pleased and surprised when they accepted it. They paid me promptly, and when the piece was published they mailed me several copies of what turned out to be a smart-looking magazine, with an attractive cover and a wealth of interesting stories inside. Since then they've been kind enough to publish four more of my mysteries, all of them installments in a series featuring a female sheriff and her crime-solving mother.

My latest is in Issue #19, and appears alongside tales by my friend Jacqueline Seewald and my fellow SleuthSayer Janice Law. I've not yet read all the stories in the issue, but I've read Jacqueline's ("The Letter of the Law") and Janice's ("A Business Proposition") and they're excellent as usual.

Anytime mystery magazines are the topic, I find myself thinking about those that have come and gone, over the years. A few were receptive to my stories and a few rejected everything I sent them (sort of like some of the magazines that are still around), but I think I tried them all. And I thought it might be fun to take a quick trip down MM-memory lane:

Mystery mags of the past

Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine -- One of my favorites. Margo Power, editor.

Crimestalker Casebook -- Andrew McAleer, editor. Boston-based.

Mystery Time -- a small but wonderful little magazine. Linda Hutton, editor.

Blue Murder -- I think I remember trying these folks and getting rejected every time.

Red Herring Mystery Magazine -- RHMM published two of my stories, accepted another, and disappeared.

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine -- Sadly, before my time.

Mouth Full of Bullets -- BJ Bourg, editor. Loved this magazine.

Whispering Willows Mystery Magazine -- Short-lived. I barely remember this one.

Heist Magazine -- Australian, featured stories only on CD-ROM.

Crime and Suspense -- This had some fine stories during its short run. Tony Burton, editor.

Nefarious -- Online-only, if I remember correctly. One of the first e-zines.

Black Mask -- Again, before my time.

Raconteur -- Like RHMM, this one accepted one of my stories and then put all four feet in the air.

Detective Mystery Stories -- Print publication, editors Tom and Ginger Johnson.

Orchard Press Mysteries -- This was an early e-zine as well. I had only one story there.

The Rex Stout Journal -- Another short-lived print magazine.

Futures -- Babs Lakey, editor. Later became Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine.

NOTE: Please let me know if you remember some of the many that I've overlooked--or if any of these I've listed have taken on new life.

Square pegs, round holes

Besides the obvious choices, I also continue to try to sell my mystery/crime shorts to places that don't specialize in mysteries but that occasionally publish them anyway--and there are more of those than one might think. Here are some, from both now and long ago: GritDogwood Tales, Spinetingler Magazine, Untreed Reads, Writers on the RiverYellow Sticky NotesPrairie TimesMindprintsSniplitsPages of Stories, Amazon Shorts, Just a Moment, Kings River LifeReader's BreakWriters' Post JournalShort Stuff for GrownupsChampagne Shivers, and The Saturday Evening Post. (Remember, it's generally accepted that a mystery is any story in which a crime is central to the plot. It doesn't have to be a whodunit.)

Now and then, even so-called literary magazines will feature a mystery story: Pleiades, Thema, Glimmer TrainPhoebe, some of the college lit journals, etc. Tom Franklin's short story "Poachers," which won an Edgar and appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories 1999, was first published in The Texas Review.


Finally, any discussion of mystery markets should include a mention of anthologies. I usually find them by Googling "anthology calls for submission" and checking Ralan's Webstravaganza, which is advertised as a science-fiction site but doesn't limit itself to that. The two advantages of anthologies over magazines, I think, are that (1) anthos usually request submissions in a fixed window of time, which can be a plus if you hop in right away, and (2) they are often "themed." If you happen to have a finished story that fits their theme--or can write one quickly--you'll already have a leg up on the competition. Another excellent site to check, for mags as well as anthos, is Sandra Seamans's My Little Corner.

Anthologies that I've been associated with, all of which contained some mystery stories and most of which you've never heard of, include Seven by SevenTrust and TreacheryMagnolia Blossoms and Afternoon TalesAfter DeathFlash and BangCrime and Suspense IMad Dogs and MoonshineThe Gift of MurderQuakes and StormsShort TalesFireflies in Fruit JarsSweet Tea and Afternoon Tales, Ten for TenThou Shalt NotA Criminal Brief ChristmasRocking Chairs and Afternoon Tales, and Short Attention Span Mysteries.

A leading anthology for mystery writers is of course the "noir" series produced by Akashic Books, in Brooklyn. Several of my SleuthSayers colleagues have graced those pages, and one of my stories will be in the upcoming Mississippi Noir. Other anthology possibilities are the annual "best of" editions that feature stories published during the previous year, like Otto Penzler's Best American Mystery Stories series.

And that's it--I'm out of examples. I'll end with a question: What are some of your favorite short mystery markets, past and present?

May the ones we have now last forever.


  1. Fun article, John, and it sent me to my files. Here are a few, all E-Zines, that I sold stories to in the past.
    HandHeld Crime
    Judas EZine
    Shred OF Evidence.

    I believe they are all out of business, and hope I wasn't in any way responsible for that.

  2. You missed ThugLit which is alive, a paying market, and pretty darned good. Two of their stories made my Best Of The Year List last month.

    Dead markets: Espionage Magazine and P.I. Magazine, both early 1980s. P.I. was mostly nonfiction, aimed at people in the field but they published several of my stories.

    I had a story accepted by SHMM last year and look forward to seeing it.

    Oddly enough, and knock on wood, all of my 60-plus stories that have sold got published. No magazines said yes and then ran away. Now I have probably jinxed it...

  3. Herschel and Rob -- Thanks for those additional markets. I completely forgot about ThugLit, and I find myself wondering about Plots With Guns. They might still be around as well.

    Herschel, I don't believe I'd heard about three of those you mentioned, although I do remember HandHeld Crime.

    Rob, you SHOULD knock on wood. About a dozen stories I've had accepted over the past 20 years or so never made it into the magazines. Like Herschel, I might've jinxed them.

  4. John, great list. And makes me nostalgic for some of those that have gone away. One of those that comes to mind was Dave Zeltserman’s HardLuck stories. I had a couple in there and like Herschel said re: something else, hope I didn’t contribute to its demise.

    Agree with you on AHMM and EQMM, also the Akashich Noir series. I have stories coming out in the latter two, not sure which issue of EQMM, but in St. Louis Noir due this summer.

    Another paying market is Dave Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp, where my story Nature of the Beast just recently appeared.

    There’s also Mysterical-E and Futures, both of which I had a couple stories in a long time ago. And Crime Syndicate, Betty Fedora and Spelk, though I don’t know much about the latter. And others that don’t come to mind off the top of my head. And as you mentioned Sandra Seamans is a great resource.


  5. I always learn a lot from your columns!
    Thanks for the useful list of other markets and congratulations on having a piece in Mississippi Noir.

  6. Paul, I forgot HardLuck stories, and I confess I don't remember Crime Syndicate or Spelk, so thanks for mentioning those as well. Babs Lakey at Futures and Joe DeMarco at Myst-E have both been kind to me, regarding my mystery stories. As for Sandra Seamans, I can't imagine how she has the time to keep that site so current, but she does a great job.

    As for our stories causing the downfall of some of these long-ago publications, I've wondered that myself.

    Thanks, Janice! Like Paul, I'm fortunate that one of my stories is being featured in the Akashic series. Looking forward to that.

  7. And don't forget Charles Raisch's New Mystery, Layman and Bruccoli's New Black Mask, Wayne Dundee's Hardboiled, Gary Lovisi's Detective Story Magazine, The Saint MM, Mary Higgins Clark MM, the short-lived Charlie Chan MM and Ed McBain's 87th Precinct MM. Espionage was published by Bob Guccione's twin sisters Jackie Lewis and Jeri Winston and edited by Jackie; I sold quite a few stories to them and got to know Jackie well. Anyone know what ever happened to her? I lost track of her and would love to reconnect, if she's still living....

  8. Josh, thanks so much for that--I wish you and I had swapped emails before I wrote this piece! I have great memories of New Mystery, Mary Higgins Clark MM, Hardboiled, and Lovisi's magazine, but so help me I can't remember Ed McBain's MM, New Black Mask, The Saint, or Charlie Chan MM. I love it that Espionage was published by Guccione's twin sister--that sounds like a piece of fiction in itself.

    The fact that there used to be so many of these kinds of magazines shows, I guess, that there was a greater love of short stories back then than now. There are now probably too many other things competing for our reading time . . .

  9. So many magazines come and go that it takes an entire herd of us to remember them all.

    The Saint, a digest in the early 1980s, accepted one of my stories but went under before publishing it.

    New Black Mask Quarterly (a revival in book form)

    New Mystery

    Mystery Street

    Over My Dead Body!

    Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine

    Magazine of Mystery & Suspense

    Mean Streets


    Naked Kiss




    Malone's White Fedora

    Without A Clue

    Detective Mystery Stories

    Out of the Gutter

    Crime Factory


    Kings River Life

    Shotgun Honey

    Mystery Weekly Magazine


    Those are just the ones I can remember (print and electronic) that either published or rejected my stories and may not already be listed by others above.

    And crime fiction has always found a home in men's magazines (with stories that incorporated sexual activity at varying levels of descriptiveness). Playboy--which still publishes and still publishes crime fiction--is the one most people will recognize, but over the years I've placed crime fiction in many men's magazines.

    I've also placed crime fiction in several erotica anthologies. The best source for information about those markets is:

    Finding markets for our crime fiction--even though they come and go with regularity--isn't the hard part. The hard part is finding markets that pay reasonable rates.

  10. "I love it that Espionage was published by Guccione's twin sister--that sounds like a piece of fiction in itself."

    Not exactly.

    Publishers Jackie Lewis and Jeri Winston were twin sisters who happened to also be sisters of Bob Guccione.

    Espionage published three of my stories, but I also sold several stories to their other publications (digest-sized letters magazines similar to, but not as slick as, Penthouse Letters).

  11. Michael -- How true: there are and have been a lot of markets for mystery/crime shorts, but few that pay well.

    Thanks for this long list--you've indeed included a bunch that I forgot or never knew about. And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who's had stories accepted that wound up never seeing the light of day. Some of these magazines stayed on the scene only a very short time.

  12. And thanks for the correction, Michael, about the publishers of Espionage. I never submitted to--or knew about--that magazine, but I wish I had.

  13. "The Mysterious Traveler" was associated with a radio show of the same name and published mystery as well as sci-fi, fantasy and horror. It lasted about six issues and was actually revived online a few years ago for a few years (gone now, alas!) Thanks John (and everybody else) for all the info on markets!

  14. Love your list, John, and all the addenda that it drew. Thanks, and you just keep on keeping on. Marilyn

  15. Another one I didn't know about, Jeff--thanks for the comment. The whole markets picture keeps changing all the time, but--as I said--I sure hope the mystery magazines that are out there now stay put for awhile.

    Many thanks, Marilyn! I knew I'd left a lot of publications off the list, but didn't realize how many. It truly is fun remembering those bygone magazines, some of which (Mary Higgins Clark MM, for example) were really well done.

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  17. Thuglit is a frequent review subject on my blog. Tends more towards noir and crime fiction than mystery, but should be included in any list.

    (who is incapable of catching many typos BEFORE he posts a comment)

  18. John, great article. I remember so many of those you listed. But here are a few more, all of whom published a story or two of mine, some still alive and well:

    Yellow Mama
    Long Story Short
    Hardluck Stories
    Web Mystery Magazine
    Writer’s Journal
    Whortleberry Press does anthologies, often with mysteries
    And the new Mystery Weekly Magazine—paying, nice folks there

    Whispering Willows: I think it shut down after three issues, maybe four, and paid. Several shut-downs were because of poor health of the publishers—Futures and Whispering Willows being two that come to mind. You and I were both in Detective Mystery Stories several times—maybe even the last issue together. I also had the experience of being either accepted, then the publication folded before my story got in, or being in the last issue of several magazines and ‘zines. I do have a list of about one hundred who either exclusively or occasionally publish short mystery stories. However, most do not pay, or only pay a few dollars.

    So it seems to me there are still a large amount of mystery mags out there. But the difference now is that few pay much of anything, or they pay nothing at all.

  19. Hey Kevin -- Many thanks for taking the time to stop by. Yes, ThugLit definitely should be included--sorry I neglected to mention them.

    Also, Plots With Guns. Do you know if they're still active? Their website's still up, but I think the last issue was a couple years ago. I first heard of them when Steve Hamilton published a story there about ten years ago, called "The Shovel." It was then adapted into a excellent short film starring, I think, David Strathairn.

    Thanks, Jan, for that long list. Again, I knew I left some publications out, but didn't realize how many. And, yes, as has been sadly mentioned, most of those in any list do not pay much, or anything, for stories. Thank God a few still do.

  20. Okay, that should've been AN excellent short film, not A. I really must start proofreading before hitting "Publish Your Comment."

  21. Anyone interested in this subject should consider reading The Digest Enthusiast, a new magazine: http://larquepress.com/digests.htm

    Full disclosure: issue 2 has a long interview with me.

  22. Hey John, thanks for the kind mention. Plots with Guns shut down about two years ago after Neil Smith had a heart attack. He's still alive and kicking but something had to go and it was sadly, the magazine.

    Recently we lost The Big Click and Plan B but gained Crime Syndicate Magazine and The Dark City. Out of the Gutter is still publishing flash fiction and The Thrilling Detective is still out there but no longer publishes short fiction. Pulp Modern just published a new issue but we lost All Due Respect. And the future of ThugLit is up in the air right now. We seem to lose as many as we gain.

  23. I also sold to several magazines that folded before they got around to publishing the stories they'd purchased, including Mike Shayne and The Saint.

    If I'm remembering correctly, Espionage published ten issues during its two-year (early '85 to mid '87) run: the first eight were digest-sized and pulp, and then the last two were Penthouse-sized and slick (and designed by brother Bob's people, which accounted for the format change). I was sort of a house writer for Jackie and Jeri: they published six stories of mine, including two that they split into two-parters and one they ran under a pseudonym in an issue that also included one credited to my real name, so I was in a total of seven of the ten issues.

  24. And I forgot Manslaughter Review which just published their first issue.

  25. Short stories are still extremely popular in the U.K. From this page


    you can click up no less than EIGHT short stories! That page is in my bookmarks now.

    Years ago there was an ezine called Burst, which was intended for reading on mobile phones. It was before the iPad was available. Burst published stories up to about 1,000 words, including one of my mystery stories. They were even a paying market. Unfortunately, they closed in 2008 or thereabouts.

  26. Whoa, I'm the one learning something, today.

    Rob, thanks for the link. Headed over there now to check this out.

    Sandra, thank you so much! If anyone would know about all this, it's you. I never got around to sending anything to Plots With Guns, but I wish I had, in their heyday. I liked their stories. And I should've thought of The Thrilling Detective. Thanks for mentioning all these, and thanks also for the GREAT website.

    Josh, it's always a letdown to have a story accepted and then, through no fault of your own, have the magazine do a DFO (done fell out) and the story never gets published. But it sure does happen. And that's interesting stuff, about Espionage. I love the fact that you had two stories in one issue under two different names. I have enough trouble getting one story published.

  27. Hey Liz -- thanks for the comment, my friend, and for providing that link. I've sold some stories in the UK but none recently.

    It is now in my bookmarks as well.

  28. Lots of great information here! Thanks to everyone who shared and as always, great article, John!

  29. Thanks, Deborah. You're pretty familiar with those magazines yourself, right? I think you and I have been together in at least three of the anthologies I listed.

  30. Anyone here remember Storyteller? It was a genre magazine in Canada, one I loved. Also featured sci-fi and some fantasy. Really unique stories, some of which haunt me still. It was a victim of big box book stores, and Amazon. The problem with big box bookstores, is you have to have a print run to satisfy their requirement to have copies of the mag in ever store. That costs a fortune, alas.

    Miss a lot of the mags on your list, John. snif.

  31. Hey Melodie -- No, I don't remember Storyteller. Sounds like one I would've liked knowing about, though.

    I too miss a lot of those magazines--some never knew I existed, but others were VERY good to me, over the years. Fond memories, for sure.

  32. John,

    A great column! One of the first magazines to publish my work was LONDON MYSTERIES. I know that's out of business as well. But it was an exciting experience.

  33. Thanks, Jacqueline! Another market I didn't recall.

    All those long-ago publications that helped us, early on, will always be remembered by those in their pages.

  34. Correction: Jacqueline's story in the new Sherlock Holmes MM is "Letter of the Law," not "THE Letter of the Law." My mistake. I did read the story more carefully than I did the title, though, and it's an outstanding tale--and also, I believe, the longest one in the issue.

  35. I'm directing this to mystery writers in general, not John.

    Tipping your hat to mystery magazines is great, but supporting them with a paid subscription is even better. I subscribe to every mystery magazine that I'm aware of and consider it an important business expense. And whenever we get a new paying subscriber it puts a big smile on my face. Small magazines in particular really appreciate it.

    Most of the great magazines in the past probably went broke buying stories...

  36. Good thought, Chuck. Thank you for that.

    You are correct, if there'd been more subscriber support, I'm sure some of these magazines we've been discussing would still be around.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  37. A lack of sales support is the issue for Thuglit.

    It can also be just flat out burnout or a time crunch. As one who was involved in a supporting role with both MFOB and Hardluck Stories, these deals take a lot of time. Time that those in charge wanted to devote to their own writing projects. Between that and other deals where health concerns took priority, it is not always the lack of subscription or sales support that is the issue.

  38. Thanks, Kevin. Those are more good points, from one who has experience with all this.

    I've heard that health problems also played a part in the demise of Futures, and I suspect that time issues were certainly a factor with editor Andy McAleer at Crimestalker and Tony Burton at Crime & Suspense. Running these publications, as you know and I can only imagine, must be quite a task.

  39. Thanks for this, John. The only other one I could think of was the Mary Higgins Clark magazine, but Michael mentioned it. Sandra's blog is always my "go to" place to read about markets.

    I'm sure there are others that are considered "literary" mags that publish the occasional mystery story. But those usually take so long to respond, I don't bother with them much.

    bobbi c.

  40. Bobbi, I've found a lot of the markets I've submitted to in Sandra's blog, a few at Ralan, some in the Novel & Short Story Writers' Market, and a lot of them via the occasional Google search. And yes, I've had stories in many of the literary magazines too, and you're right that they usually take a long time to respond. (But so do many of the genre publications.) As we've said so often at this blog, it's a crazy business, and certainly an inexact science.

    Thanks for stopping in!

  41. I also publish market news and submission calls on my blog.

  42. I know that, Kevin--I should've mentioned it.

    Many thanks!

  43. John,

    What a great post. I remember Detective Mystery Stories well. While Future's Mysterious Anthology Magazine was the first pub to accept one of my stories, it was a while before it was actually published. In the meanwhile, Detective Mystery Stories accepted and published one of my stories, so that was the first time I saw one of my pieces in print.

    Here are a few publications that haven't been mentioned yet (that I could tell) and who were good to me back in the day:

    Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine (print), Vicki Lipira, Editor
    Apollo's Lyre (online), Lea Schizas, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
    Bewildering Stories (online), Jerry Wright and Don Webb, Editors (STILL OPEN)
    Flashing in the Gutters (online), Tribe, Editor

    Again, another great post, John.

    P.S. And by the way, thanks for mentioning Flash Bang Mysteries.

  44. Thanks, BJ! I actually remember (now) three of those four that you mentioned--I even had a story in Apollo's Lyre.

    After hearing from you and others, it's hard to believe there have been so many of these magazines, some of which lasted awhile, some of which were only here for a blink. As you said, though, some of them gave us our start--my first was in Mystery Time.

    Keep up the good work!!


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