HANK: So exciting to have new neighbors! And by neighbors, I mean here on the internet, in mystery blog world.
Dee-lighted to introduce you to THE LIFE SENTENCE, a fabulous new opportunity and meeting place and community and resource for mystery lovers! It’s the brainchild of…well, let Lisa Levy, editor in chief (who, from her editor "photo" keeps a low profile) tell you.
Because she admits:
I Was a Secret Mystery Reader!
Figuring out what to do with your life is a tricky business. After college, I decided to go to grad school in English Literature. It seemed obvious: I was a good student. I liked to read and write. Why not sign myself up for a profession where I got to do both? Spoiler alert: I did not end up becoming a professor, but launching a crime and mystery website called . This story is how I got from there to here.
At the time I was applying, I was obsessed with the literature of Puritans in America. I have always been prone to a kind of literary hyperfocus, where I suddenly have to read everything about a topic or by an author, but my love for the Puritans went beyond my usual dalliances. John Winthrop (he of the “city on a hill” speech), Anne Bradstreet, and his spider dangling over the fire — I devoured all of it. I was especially enthralled with the conversion narratives they wrote, recasting their lives as reckonings with original sin and salvation. And I loved the captivity narratives too, especially Mary Rowlandson’s, in which she wrote of her life among the Native Americans who kidnapped her from her Massachusetts home.
So I went to graduate school, only to find, in the way academic fashions go, that the Puritans were decidedly out. I was pushed into the later works of American literature, and ended up doing a section of my comprehensive exams on Edgar Allan Poe. Now, this would be an obvious segue to me editing a website about , but it wasn’t that simple.
Rather, I started reading a lot of noir in particular and mysteries in general because I missed the Puritans. I missed their questions about how to live in a world where good coincides with evil. I missed their quest to build communities where righteousness is rewarded. I missed the way they framed their lives as a struggle to live morally in an unjust universe. And I found all of that in Chandler, in Cain, in Woolrich, in Willeford, and in Hammett. The noir universe made sense to me; what’s more, it attracted me in a way that the works I was studying in grad school didn’t anymore.
If all of this sounds awfully serious, well, I do take crime fiction rather seriously. I was trained as a literary critic, and even though I left before I got my Ph.D. (“went off to pursue ephemera,” as one of my advisors put it after I turned in my first book review to Entertainment Weekly) I can’t turn that critical faculty off, nor do I want to.
I think crime fiction reflects our concerns about our world and how to live in it, as much as the Puritans’ literature did about theirs. The questions are not all that different, even without God in the equation. We still have to reckon with good and evil, with trying to be righteous, with building our cities on the hill. In fact, I think that crime fiction addresses these issues with a lot of nuance and complexity.
I spent a good many years cranking out ephemera, mainly in the form of book reviews, and have also written a few essays that I daresay will stand up to time and trends. Eventually, though, I started to dream a little bigger: I saw a need for a venue that reflected my thoughts about mystery and crime fiction (as well as true crime, TV, movies, etc.). In looking at the way the genre was covered, I became convinced I could build something better. Maybe it’s my own city on a hill.
Thus with a lot of work and the help of some excellent editors, contributors, and advisors (including a couple of Jungle Reds!) launched in April 2015. We cover as wide a range of crime and mystery-related topics as we can, and we do so with a rigor and enthusiasm which sets us apart from other venues. I do like to think that we are critics first, and fans second, though we don’t let our fandom color what we cover or how we cover it.
|Just a screen shot! But here's how it looks!|
We publish pieces on issues affecting the crime fiction community (and beyond), like Rachel Howzell Hall’s .
We have an amazing of writers (including Hank and Hallie!) who will be keeping us up-to-date about what they are reading, thinking about, and doing.
And we review books (and give you suggestions about whether you might like them by suggesting other authors in the same vein). Recent reviews include books by well-known writers like as well as bright new talents like . We are also committed to reviving the reputations of authors lost to thrift stores and library sales, like and . And we have lots more planned, including giveaways, TV and movie coverage, and a series on cybercrime and Internet hoaxes.
So my secret mystery reading is now integral to my job, though my job is a lot more than just reading and writing. It’s looking at the whole universe of crime and mystery and deciding what’s worth covering, and how to present this material in a way that’s thoughtful and entertaining.
I do hope you agree!
HANK: So Reds, welcome to The Life Sentence! (You can click on any of the links above!) Reds, what would YOU like to see on the site? Who would you like to read about? And what do you think of the site?
And to all at TLS--congratulations!