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I’m startled to realize that it’s been a month since I added anything to my blog space. Flu, taxes, my annual stint with community theater (I direct), and that old standby procrastination have combined to delay me. But I’m back. To cheering crowds, I’m sure. So onward.
Murdaland Magazine is a brand new crime fiction (Yes, you lit fiction aficionados, it’s a [shudderandcollapse] genre mag) publication from an outfit called Mug Shot Press, and the first issue is terrific. The writing is high quality, the contributors ranging from well-established authors such as Richard Bausch to an ex-Sandinista from Managua. The story situations range from perversion that borders on–no crosses into–gothic to battlefield crime. You may think battlefields are crimes in themselves, but we’re not discussing that here.
What brought me to the magazine was an e-mail from my main mentor, Les Edgerton, whose fine story “Felon” is perhaps the finest of a fine lot. You’ve never been inside the mind of a criminal the thrilling way Edgerton takes you there–unless you’re into crime yourself, in which case you’ll be abel to identify and thrill even more. What’s more important, though, is the way Les subordinates the crime to the psychology. The Lit Fiction crowd will immediately label and dismiss “Felon” as an “action-driven” piece unworthy of consideration. But they’ll be missing a great experience, as will anyone who lets Murdaland go by.  The main character in ”Felon” presents as a man full of bravado who claims to have committed as many as ten or twenty robberies/burglaries in a single night. He’s the very definition of incorrigible, assaulting the world for thrills. By the end of the tale, however, we know we’ve been living inside the heart of someone crippled by fear and self-loathing. And check out the last sentence. Except don’t read it till you’ve read the rest or you’ll miss the meaning.
A nice pair to “Felon” is “Nasty Jay” by Cortright McMeel, who is, incidentally, the founder of Mug Shot Press. (If I found a publishing company to print my own stuff, is that vanity publishing? Not in this case. McMeel is a real writer.) McMeel’s protagonist has a number of similarities to Edgerton’s, but he’s nowhere near as self-aware. He’s a man who wants the world set up his own way and has no patience with those who would rather live their lives in a manner not matching his prescription. Like “Felon,” “Nasty Jay” is full of action and tension, but if you open yourself to truly reading the story, character dominates  The final action sequence is so startling and terrifyingly abrupt, I had to put the book down a minute before I could read the short denouement–and another great final sentence.
The endings of both stories carry implications of philosophy and thought that echo beyond their own action and characters. For “Felon,” it’s a dive into life’s mix of choices and circumstances, the conundrum of how much power we have to shape our lives as opposed to how much our lives shape us. For “Nasty Jay,” it’s a look into what constitutes authority, what brutality. At least those are themes that struck me hardest.
And there are plenty of other worthy pieces in Murdaland. It’s got more grit and gore than Ellery Queen, and Murdaland is not Agatha Christie Land. But the writing gets to the heart. That is, after all, where the blood is. Check it out.

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