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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Happy Anniversary to The Rap Sheet 

Oh, who am I kidding. I don't do the whole nap thing and I had a pile of emails to catch up on. And, as Ali pointed out in the comments to the previous post, January Magazine posted the fifth anniversary edition of its monthly crime fiction newsletter, the Rap Sheet (and for all those souls checking out this blog for the first time because you saw the link there, welcome.) Editor J.Kingston Pierce opens with a stirring column about how much the Rap Sheet means to the crime fiction community in terms of its thoughtful, insightful reviews:

The most interesting thing I've learned in writing and editing this newsletter is that readers -- and authors, too -- prefer thoughtful criticism over glib, blurb-worthy remarks. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that people are too busy with their children and their underpaying jobs and their teetering relationships to sit down before a review of more than 200 words. But such "wisdom" isn't borne out in the notes I receive. More often than not, subscribers applaud January's willingness to be thorough and thoughtful in its criticism, and while I do receive the occasional disapproving missive (usually from someone who doesn't understand that reviews are supposed to be opinionated as well as informative), not a single person has complained to me that we talk too much about the books under review. If anything, readers seem to want more, not less -- perhaps because so many other publications, especially those on the Web, underestimate the attention spans of book enthusiasts. (And do editors really think we're too stupid to judge a work without its also being star-rated?)

Pierce's mission was why I wanted to join up with January over a year ago, and the experience has been utterly rewarding, both in learning how to evaluate books in a critical fashion and in getting the kind of editorial help that Pierce provides each and every time. It was also a pleasant surprise to learn that I'm now a Contributing Editor to the magazine, and hope to keep on being an asset for a long while to come.

So the BSP part is that I have four reviews in this edition of the Rap Sheet, all of which are, to varying degrees, quite positive, and all of which are quite different from one another: Olen Steinhauer's THE CONFESSION (full disclosure: the review was written and in the can about a month and a half ago, a ways before Steinhauer started hanging around the backblogs here); Bill Fitzhugh's RADIO ACTIVITY; Anna Blundy's Jerusalem-based THE BAD NEWS BIBLE, a book I enjoyed for many reasons but most of all because its main character had the kind of adventures I pictured had Eurotrash been a foreign correspondent; and in a most pleasant surprise, Mark Sinnett's THE BORDER GUARDS, a Canadian-only novel which educated me about US-Canada border politics and featured quite the espionage plot.

Otherwise, there's the usual chock of reviews, news and sundry from valued contributors like Kevin Burton Smith, Ali Karim (whose review of THE INTELLIGENCER is absolutely spot-on), Cindy Chow, and Jennifer Jordan, who offers a surprisingly downbeat review of John Baker's WHITE SKIN MAN, among other critiques.

Though the next Rap Sheet won't be out till June, no doubt it will be overstuffed with goodness--just like it usually is.

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