Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jailhouse Rape, Cursing, Poop Jokes and Boobs

Todd Robinson, aka Big Daddy Thug, is the creator/lead editor of the online crimezine Thuglit. He’s brusque, nasty and funny as explosive diarrhea. He’s taken online publishing to some pretty respectable levels - Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll is the second volume of a three book deal with Kensington and polluting the shelf space of a bookstore near you – and Sean Chercover’s story A Sleep Not Unlike Death from last year’s Hardcore Hardboiled anthology earned an Edgar nomination. He’s also a writer of no small talent. Thuglit has just published it’s 31st issue.

Thuglit seems to be filling a niche in the culture. Where'd it come from?

Nobody else was publishing the kind of stories that I wanted to write or that liked to read. Plots With Guns had gone under, so I thought: Hey, why not? Four years later, I know why not. What kind of jerk-off takes on an extra forty hours of unpaid work every month? Seriously.

Is it what you want it to be?

Absolutely. I'm a megalomaniac and a bit of a prick (and so are my editors). A couple of people have offered to take over the mag if I decide to call it quits,and my response was that I'd see it die before I'd even give someone the CHANCE to make a mess of my ugly baby. Who knows? They'd probably do a better job than I can, but it's still MY beautiful mess.

What about your own writing? Has it eclipsed your other ambitions?

Absolutely. My own writing is dead and gone. But to blame the website completely wouldn't be fair. It certainly can claim its fair share of my demise, but not entirely. Ken Bruen once called me a "walking cautionary tale of the publishing industry". If anything can go wrong for a writer, it has for me over the last decade. The website has simply consumed up a looooooot of time that I could have used to forward my own writing.

Having now occupied both sides of the desk as a writer and an editor has given me an unfortunate insight into the business of writing. The business isn't fun and it sure as shit isn't fair. Nothing says it has to be, but that still doesn't keep the fact of it from sucking. George Burns nailed it when he said "Show business is a hideous bitch goddess." The industry of writing is more about show business than craft nowadays. My own ambitions have been squashed like a bug under the stiletto heel of that bitch goddess.

So what has replaced those ambitions? As an editor you seem to be experiencing success, a three book deal with Kensington is impressive and Sean Chercover's story getting the Edgar Nod couldn't have hurt. What next?

Nothing at all. No ambitions. Nothing. I never really wanted to be an editor at all, it just kind of played out that way. While Sean's Edgar nom is a nice feather in the cap for the site (and a hugely deserved honor for Sean), the book deal does nothing whatsoever. I give all of the money to the writers. What little is left over doesn't even cover the expenses of the website - which, honestly, would be gone if not for trying to give the books better exposure. It's my own personal Ouroboros.

If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I am a bitter, bitter angry man.

Is that an announcement of the end after the third anthology?

I'm not making any kind of announcement...yet. The only thing constant is that things change.

Let's get back to the bitterness then. Would you like to get anything off your chest?

Nah. Nobody wants to hear another failed writer bitching.

How about successes then, anybody you published early that you're particularly proud of?

Nope. I'm proud of all of our stories. There have been some award-winners that have surprised me, and some that I thought were instant classics that received no recognition whatsoever. I'm just glad to have helped writers in any way I can get the exposure they need.

Recently hitched and becoming a family man, are you mellowing?

Hell no. I think I'm becoming angrier - or less tolerant of the bullshit airs, pretensions and attitudes that choke the oxygen out of the room whenever dealing with 'the industry' cough...justwenttotheEdgarsforinstance...cough... Boy, I need to get my lungs checked. My coughs are elaborate. I have zero patience for that shit anymore.

How 'bout that stuff. Is there any felt pressure to justify yourself with awards or accolades?

None at all. I don't need to justify a damned thing. The awards aren't for me, I just provide the platform. It's all about the writers and trying to give them an extra round of ammunition when they step into the professional ring. I don't feel that the awards justify anything about what we do but for our ability to spot a good story. We do what we do, we'll always do what we do until we don't do it any more. It's like Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come...just that we built it with jailhouse rape, cursing, poop jokes and boobs.

Will that be the title of the third Thuglit anthology?

No, but that would be awesome!


David Cranmer said...

Great interview and superb collection. And the guy that wrote "Politoburg" has some serious writing chops.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Another stellar interview! You have a great feel for the format, I really enjoy reading these. The conversations seem much more natural than most that I read. Keep them coming.

Gordon Harries said...

What Cully said, in the manner he said it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Was there ever a editor who so exemplified the stories he seeks? I gotta little scared reading this. (Well, okay maybe Neil too.) But reading this was as much fun as reading THUGLIT.

Greg Bardsley said...

Gotta love the "I-don't-give-a-shit-what-you-think" attitude that just ooozes from Thuglit, and it's founder. ... Thuglit closes its greasy, blood-stained doors some day, I'm gonna have to find the dirtiest, darkest little shithole of a bar, order a shot,raise it, facing east, down it, and order another.

I can attest to the fact that Todd really is in this for the writers, and makes getting into Thuglit fun as hell.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

You had me at "poop jokes and boobs." I fucking love ThugLit but have been too broke to buy the anthos. Maybe I'll go back to rolling drunks for book money like I did in college.

Nate Flexer said...

ThugLit is the best ezine out there for my money. And yeah, Big Daddy is one tough-looking dude.

Unknown said...

Is it weird that my nipples got a little hard when I saw this interview pop up in my google reader? Robinson is one hard-boiled son of a bitch and it bleeds through with each issue of thuglit he produces. (Same for the Anthologies) And I hope he keeps producing Thuglit for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

Big Daddy gave me my first shot at publication. I had waited 8 months for a reply email that never came from one site, and my hope was in the toilet. Nobody talks about how cold it feels to send a story off to some faceless, nameless e-zine and wait. And wait. But Thuglit had Todd's face and editorial comments, and so I sent him my first story.

When ThugLit accepted Tequila Spike, it was the resurrection of my writing life. I'll always owe ThugLit and Todd for what everybody does over there for writers.

Todd, as far as I'm concerned, you've had some shitty advice when it comes to your novel. You are a good writer. Don't give up hope.

Kieran Shea said...

Mucho respeto.

Paul D Brazill said...

the same, but a little slurred. The new Thuglit is a cracker.

Mystery Dawg said...

I have been a reader since day one. First class is the only way to describe Thuglit. Todd funnel that attitude into that writing.... there are enough of us degenerate readers(I mean this in a good sense) to keep you busy for years to come.