Sunday, April 01, 2018

A Thrilling Twenty Years

© by Gerald So | 9:00 a.m.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of Kevin Burton Smith's Thrilling Detective, a virtual encyclopedia of fictional private eyes.

It's hard for me to believe it's been twenty years. I so associate the site with my discovery of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels in 1993, which hooked me on the private eye genre. Certainly I got to know Kevin writing in additions and corrections to his already excellent entry on Spenser.

As I recall, Thrilling had been publishing first-run short stories for some time. I submitted one about an ex-cop, ex-linebacker whose most distinctive trait was his soft drinking. When the story was rejected, I considered that maybe I wouldn't break into the genre as a writer. Maybe my ideas weren't as fresh as those I expected from my choice of reading.

I was surprised, honored, and intimidated when Kevin recruited me in March 2001 to take over for fiction editor Victoria Esposito, who was leaving to focus on one of the first magazines for mobile devices, HandHeldCrime.

Kevin, and Victoria especially, reassured me that I could work up to the job of determining Thrilling's future stories. It's difficult to overstate how much Victoria taught me about editing in those two months before she left Thrilling Detective. The three of us worked surprisingly well together, and then, in eight years on the job, I maintained and grew rapport with Kevin. Bouchercon 2017 was the first I met Kevin in person, and it was as epic as I'd imagined.

Being fiction editor, I never did publish my own P.I. story at Thrilling, but I did land a couple elsewhere.

My personal favorite character, though, is roguish aviator C.J. Stone, who debuted in the July 2003 HandHeldCrime story "For Old Times' Sake", who has since appeared in nine more stories, and even gained his own theme music.

I recall replying to Victoria about "For Old Times' Sake", asking if she were sure she wanted to publish it—her standards were so high—and again she assured me she did.

For the last few years, Victoria seemed to have disappeared from the Web, but last week, Kevin put out a call for anniversary material, and she reconnected with us on Twitter. I am forever grateful to her, Kevin, and all the writers we worked with.

Thrilling doesn't publish fiction regularly anymore, but it remains an essential genre resource.


Victoria said...

You're being entirely too kind and self-deprecating. But I will take it, with deep gratitude.

Kevin Burton Smith said...

It's a G thing.

I'm still a little bummed that you wouldn't pose for our first nude centerfold for this issue, Gerald., but other than that, you're an okay guy. I enjoyed the hell out of working with you, and our back ands forths over various stories will always be a highlight of the last twenty years. (Anyone who thinks editing is easy, or consists of simply looking for misspelled words is never going to be a writer).

Working on the good stories was fun, but sometimes it was the WTF? stories that were the most enjoyable, although not in the way, perhaps, that the writers intended. I'm so grateful you were there to take the edge off our rejections. Not only were you a great editor, but you were a great diplomat.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Very cool, indeed. Congrats!

Gerald So said...

Trust me, Kevin. After twenty years, there's less to see. :)

I'm likewise grateful to have been able to tap into your superior knowledge of the P.I. genre as we discussed the stories. I approached summing up our rap sessions much like a writer polishing a story: figuring out what we wanted to say, and then finding the way to tell our writers that would bring out their best.

Thank you for your friendship, and for keeping the site going all these years.