Sunday, May 1, 2016

My Thug Life

Founding editor and publisher Todd Robinson just announced the end of Thuglit for the second time. The first was a year after the release of the third Thuglit print anthology from Kensington Books, Blood, Guts & Whiskey. Before that trio of books the magazine had been 100% digital and equally free of charge, publishing monthly issues of the hardest, nastiest, tastiest tasteless crime fiction I'd ever seen. I discovered TL at the same time as Anthony Neil Smith's (at that point no-longer-publishing, but still web-archived) Plots With Guns, Bryon Querteromous's Demolition and Matthew Louis's Out of the Gutter through the guidance of Michael Langnas at Murdaland magazine as a potential home for the first short story I wrote (as I'd obnoxiously continued to re-submit it to his journal after initial rejections - yeah, plural).

Man oh man oh man did I find some hot new heats. I selected Thuglit as the publication to pursue because of the announcement of the print anthologies coming up. I desperately wanted to be in print and it seemed like my best shot at getting there as PWG had no plans to follow up their print anthology (one of most gorgeous books I've ever held, mind you, impeccably published by Dennis McMillan) with a second.

When my story Politoburg was accepted for the webzine it was a huge boost and when it was selected for the print antho Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll I felt a stupid level of personal validation.

I don't know where I'd be without Todd and Thuglit. Honestly, no idea if I'd be writing today without the validation he gave me first. Thanks for all that, brother.

Here's a quick overview of my history with Thuglit.

Politoburg was published in issue 17 (July 2007) alongside Hilary Davidson (also making her crime fiction debut in that issue), Nathan Cain, Hugh Lessig, Lyman Feero and fucking William Boyle.

Hilary's story Anniversary was selected for A Prisoner of Memory and 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, Boyle's story, Death Don't Have No Mercy is the titular tale of his collected stories and his first novel Gravesend was published on the same damn day by the same damn publisher as my first novel Peckerwood. Huh.

My story caught the eye of a weirdo named Greg Bardsley who was about to have his first fiction publication in Thuglit's next issue. Greg wrote an enthusiastic blog piece about that and mentioned Politoburg - the first time I'd heard anybody make an unsolicited comment about my work. I reached out to Greg to thank him and ended up making my first internet friend. A few years later Greg's debut novel Cash Out contains a conversation betwixt us chums at the back of the book. Greg's one of my favorite people and also happens to be one of my favorite writers. Look for his new novel The Bob Watson later this year.

After that first appearance in Thuglit, I had a story in the recently re-birthed Plots With Guns and another titled A Fuckload of Scotch Tape was forthcoming in an issue of Out of the Gutter.

My story Mahogany & Monogamy appeared in Thuglit issue 25 (April/May 2008) alongside Randy Chandler, Nolan Knight, Ben Nadler, Brian Murphy, Leslie Budewitz, Michael Colangelo and a certain motherfucker named Kieran Shea who teamed up with me and Bardsley to publish the Dick Cheney-inspired short fiction anthology D*CKED and who went on to name a character after me in his debut novel Koko Takes a Holiday (of which I am a huge and humbled fan).

Mahogany & Monogamy is the flipside of my story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape. Folks who've got nothing better to do may have picked up on the thread that both stories are tied through a character referred to as 'Metcalf' in M&M and 'Benji' in FLOST and as 'Benji Metcalf' in Politoburg. Director Julian Grant drew from all three stories when writing his musical feature film adaptation A F**kload of Scotch Tape. It's wild.

Julian read FLOST in Out of the Gutter number 5 which was my first print publication (fall 2008), but the first I'd had accepted was the Politoburg in Thuglit's second print anthology Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll. If OOTG's inclusion of my stuff with folks like Charlie Stella, Vicky Hendricks and Sophie Littlefield swole my head a bit ST&R&R damn near made it burst. Joe R. Lansdale, Scott Wolven, Allan Guthrie, Anthony Neil Smith, Jason Starr, Marcus Sakey plus Bardsley, Jordan Harper, Mike Sheeter and my very issue17 compatriots Feero and Lessig. If I'm being honest I'd probably have to say it was ego-stroking on this level that prompted me to continue writing more than any insatiable drive to create stories.

Politoburg now exists as the first chapter of my book Fierce Bitches.

My story 1998 Was a Bad Year appeared in TL issue 30 (March/April 2009) where I was honored to be seen again with Davidson and Littlefield as well as Eric Beetner, Jason Duke, Robert Spotted Pony Lee, Myra Sherman and Patrick Cobbs.

1998 was the second story published featuring a character named Terry Hickerson. The first, titled The Morning After, had appeared in PWG and was set in 1985. 1998 is from a chapter in my novel, Peckerwood.

M&M appeared in print in my final Thuglit appearance, the third print anthology Blood, Guts & Whiskey with yet more heroes and pals like Tom Piccirilli, Sean Doolittle, Dave Zeltserman, Derek Nikitas, Stuart Neville, Craig McDonald, Pearce Hanson, John Kenyon, Dana King, Justin Porter and getting to be a habit folk like Harper, Shea, Gray, Davidson and Murphy, plus no-holy-shit - Eddie Bunker.

Todd shuttered Thuglit a while after that third book, but restarted the magazine as a Kindle-only and later (and retro-actively available) in a print option for another 22 issues (the forthcoming issue 23 will be the final one) continuing to publish only the best of the worst of my favorite kind of contemporary crime fiction.

Thuglit will be missed, but its impact is still only beginning to be felt. It was a vital part of the indy-crime scene which has given a platform to some dangerous motherfuckers whose voices will be heard and feared for many years.

Thanks for everything, Todd. And huge thanks to the TL crew including Allison Glasgow, Rob Hart and Justin Porter. Y'all made something special. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

Now... who's gonna do the next thing?

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