I first became aware of Dan Malmon when I noticed a number of fellow writers sharing links about their stories included in an anthology called Killing Malmon.
Turned out these were all commissioned hits, and the target himself was in on it.
But it wasn’t an idiosyncratic, artfully executed (cough) death wish. It was actually a life-affirming venture celebrating not only a colorful array of creative voices, but in support of a very worthy cause.
In short, it was about love and survival. And homicide, sure. But all with the best intentions.
As you will derive from this lively conversation, Dan is the least likely person to ever be killed by anyone for any reason. He’s just too nice, smart, talented, and important to his online indie lit community.
Despite rumors of his demise, here is Dan Malmon, folks, alive and well!
Can you explain the genesis and agenda of editing an anthology dedicated to your own violent death?
My life is very surreal.
In 2014 Crimespree Magazine ran an internet based flash fiction contest. The crux of the story was that somewhere in the story, a someone named “Dan Malmon” had to die. Just publisher Jon Jordan’s macabre sense of humor, I guess. The contest had a nice response, with a number of excellent short stories coming out of it.
Flash forward to 2016 and we are at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee. Jon is talking to Down and Out Books publisher Eric Campbell. Jon says how neat it would be to have the stories collected into a volume. And to everyone’s surprise, Eric says, “I’ll do it.”
Kate, my wife and co-editor of the KILLING MALMON anthology, and I have been involved with the Multiple Sclerosis Society for years now. Kate has been battling the disease since 2005. So, with this anthology looking like it was going to be a real live THING, we thought it would be a fun way to draw attention to the disease and hopefully be able to throw some cash at a wonderful organization.
We put the call out for a Phase 2 submission for more stories. The response was heartwarmingly positive. I can only assume that folks were eager to rally behind Kate’s banner, with the more bloodthirsty folks taking their aggressions out on the “Dan Malmons” of their stories. Eric Campbell was all for the idea of a charity anthology. Eric Beetner gave us an amazing story and an eye-catching cover.
And like that, we were in business.
What was it like editing the stories where “Dan Malmon” dies? It’s an immense compliment. We are fans first. Readers. Kate and I have been surrounded by books and comics our whole lives. To think that someone thinks enough of you to put you into a story that they created? Incredible compliment. To have a whole anthology? Mind-blowingly cool.
But we are Midwesterners. We’d rather hang out in the back row than be out in front on the show. So, I really don’t know if this book would have been a thing without the charity aspect.
As a busy book reviewer yourself, can you designate stands out as a trend in contemporary crime fiction?
This is a hard question. I’ve been reviewing books and comics for Crimespree since 2011. In comics, there is a clear movement to get back to basics. To strip away a lot of the barnacles that have been bogging down classic heroes at Marvel and DC the last few years. DC is having a real renaissance right now. We’ll see if Marvel has the same success.
SHE RIDES SHOTGUN by Jordan Harper and THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK by Kristen Lepionka were two of my favorite books of last year. On one hand, Harper blends aspects of YA fiction with a hardcore revenge story to tell the most original story that I’ve ever read. Will this open the gates for more experimental, nontraditional storytelling by other writers? I hope so. On the other hand, Lepionka wrote a very back-to-basics PI story from the perspective of a hard as nails female protagonist. But instead of using the same tropes we’ve seen for years, she puts manages to put fresh, modern takes on everything.
These are two examples of opposite ends of the spectrum. Long story short, I hope the trends are that there is an audience for both traditional and experimental stories. For the genre to continue to thrive, these new voices need to continue to find readers.
What do you think is the seemingly deathless appeal of stories about desperate lawbreakers and fringe-dwellers to the middle class, mainstream reading population?
Hah! How much time do you have? I think it’s voyeurism, plain and simple. If you look at the buttoned-down era of the 1940s and 1950s, propriety was everything. So, getting a pulp magazine filled with sex and violence was a pretty tawdry thing. It’s why the pulps died off in the 60’s and 70’s: why read about it if you could see it on the television or at the movies? Whatever the medium, people will always want to experience the story of person faced with choices that they know are wrong, but make them anyway.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
I picked up my first comic book in 1987, and have been reading them ever since. I picked up my first crime novel, THE BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART by Lawrence Block, in 1996 or so, and Harlan Coben’s DEAL BREAKER at about the same time. Let’s just say I’m a sucker for a good wisecracking lead or a monologuing villain.
What’s next for you?
Reading, man. Reading. I’m looking forward to getting my reviewing output back to a level that makes me happy. I actually get stressed out when I can’t keep up with my TBR pile. I need to control that anxiety and remember that it’s fun to read books! The goal is enjoyment, not just conquering the pile. I’ve also made strides in reading new-to-me authors, and that has been a real joy. I look forward to continuing to keep up with authors that I enjoy, and experiencing new writers as well.
Kate and I also help with organizing the Noir at the Bar: Twin Cities event. After a bit of a hiatus, our next event is coming up in Spring 2018.
I would like to thank you for having me by the blog, Will! It’s been a real pleasure.
Likewise, Dan the Man, cheers!
Dan Malmon is the co-editor of KILLING MALMON, a charity anthology that benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He is also a reviewer for Crimespree Magazine as well as being a regular contributor to the Writer Types podcast.
He gets very cranky when he doesn’t eat lunch at 11:00.
PHOTO: DAN AND KATE MALMON (after lunch…)