30 October 2019
The Last Lesson: Queen vs Hitchcock
reported that I had been invited to speak to the Northwest branch of the Mystery Writers of American on the subject: "Ten Things I learned Writing Short Stories." I listed nine of them and promised to deliver the last one this week. Here goes!
10. What's the difference between Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine? That's the second-most common question I hear about my writing. (The first is the dreaded WDYGYI?)
For many years my reply was simple: AH buys my stories and EQ doesn't. But since EQ has surrendered to my dubious charms several times I have to come up with some better distinction. So here are a few.
Origin stories. I mean the origins of the magazines themselves. I think they are useful in thinking about how the editors think: What is in the magazine's DNA, so to speak? Because as the old saying goes "What's bred in the bone, comes out in the flesh."
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which actually filmed some stories that had originally appeared in the magazine. Like the TV show, the magazine leaned toward suspense, twist endings, and a macabre sense of humor. It still does.
Distinctions today. EQ has regular departments. Going all the way back to Dannay's day it has featured the Department of First Stories, which has premiered the work of up-and-coming artists who went on to fame such as Harry Kemelman, Henry Slesar, Stanley Ellin, and Thomas Flanagan. Every issue features Passport to Crime, a story translated from another language. EQ also owns the rights to the Black Mask name and often features a story in that magazine's hardboiled style.
allowed in the mystery world.)
And some more quick generalizations.
EQ seems to lean more toward the grim, the longer, and the fair-play detection stories.
It is important to be clear that everything I am saying here is about tendencies, not absolutes. You can find exceptions in every issue, but if you are trying to decide which magazine to submit a story to first, this might help you.
One thing both seem to insist on, is high quality, which may explain why my overall sale record at AHMM is only about 33% and much worse at EQMM.
Your mileage, needless to say, may vary.