Let Us Now Praise Famous Fen

by J.D. Rhoades

Fen: The plural of fan. Another word for "fans," as in people who like something, not cooling devices.
                         The Urban Dictionary

One of the greatest parts about the writing life is the
chance it gives me to meet other writers–people whose work I love, and who, as
it turns out, are huge fun to hang out
with. But one of the unexpected bonuses I discovered about going to conferences and such is the chance I
get to hang out with fans, people who
love the same stuff I do, and who love to talk about it. Among the readers that make up such an important
part of this crime fiction community are a select few who go above and beyond
the call of ordinary fandom. You know the ones I mean: the people who love the
community so much that they become part of its infrastructure. So, herein is a
list of a few of my favorite fans. Note: It’s not intended to be an  exhaustive list.
Chime in with your own tributes.    

Jon, his wife Ruth, and Jon’s sister Jennifer. Jon is a man of boundless
energy and good cheer, with an infectious grin, a wealth of sound advice, and an apparently bottomless supply of Red
Bull. And Ruth? Oh. My. God.  If Ruth was
any cooler, the angels would come and bear her bodily up to Heaven to sit at the right hand of James
Dean. And while I haven’t had as much chance to hang out with Jennifer in
real-time, I love her deeply twisted sensibility as expressed on her blog Human Under Construction, a must-read
for those who crave their daily dose of weirdness and/or mullets. And speaking
of must-reads, the Jordans’
labor of love, Crimespree magazine, is one of the essential publications for
the hard-core mystery/thriller buff.

  They blog. They review. They know everybody.
They’ve even been known to put touring writers up for the night. Oh, and they’re organizing a Bouchercon in Baltimore. I love those

ALI KARIM: My friend from across the water. According to his
blogger bio, Ali Karim is the assistant editor of the e-zine Shots, a
contributing editor at January Magazine, writes for The Rap Sheet, Deadly
and Crimespree magazines and an associate member [and literary judge]
for both the British Crime Writers Association as well as The International
Thriller Writers Inc; and also helps judge Deadly Pleasures’ Barry Awards. AND he has a day job as an industrial chemist. I’ve never seen Ali and Jon in the same room together; I’m afraid if they were, the wallpaper would catch fire from all the energy being thrown off.  I met Ali online when we both were hanging
around the USENET newsgroup rec.arts.mystery, and he was always one of the more
witty and well-informed members of an already witty and well-informed group of

And finally, last but not least, my North Carolina homegirl, MOLLY WESTON. I met
Molly when she moderated a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. The
panel was on humorous mysteries. You can tell she’s a hell of a moderator because
she managed to get past the fact that I don’t write humorous mysteries. Not
only that, she also arranged a subsequent whirlwind mini-tour for me and Florida writer Bob
(who does write humorous mysteries, and damn good ones too). Not only
that, she brought lunch. Now when she
said, “oh, I’ll bring you guys something to eat,” I was thinking Subway or Burger King or
something. This is because I didn’t know Molly yet. We’re talking chicken salad
and other goodies, all homemade. And, on top of it all, she insisted on driving all over central North Carolina to get us
to the venues she’d arranged, and we made every one on time. Molly, you rock. Feed me like that and I’ll follow you anywhere.

So, who are YOUR favorite fen?

17 thoughts on “Let Us Now Praise Famous Fen

  1. Jon Jordan

    Dusty,That’s a wonderful thing to see first thing out of bed in the morning. I haven’t even started my coffee yet.You realize of course I’ll be Hell to be around all day…. 🙂

    And when are you coming up to sign and hang out at Casa Jordan? Ruth can make pie.

  2. Louise Ure

    I’ve got three uber-fans in mind:

    * Andi Shechter, whose voluminous data base and informed opinions first welcomed me to the online mystery community,

    * Lesa Holstine, in Arizona. A librarian whose solid blog reviews and hand-selling (recommending) have helped many a new author, and

    * Tom McGinn, who will greet you in a Santa suit then buy twenty copies of your hard cover book to spread the word.

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I don’t know the Jordans but I’d like to!!

    What a great post, Dusty. I don’t think of Ali as a fan so much as a force of nature. Totally agree about Molly, and if you’re talking about forces like that (as in – “But I thought this WAS your profession!”) I have to sing the praises of Barbara Franchi and Shannon Wheeler of Reviewing the Evidence, and Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers’ Journal. And double-second Andi S.

    Totally agree about Tom, too, who does something even better than feeding authors – he gives us wine at our signings! Now THERE’S a man who understands the writing process!

    And speaking of ‘Rati regulars, Rae is a fan who’s so elegant and knowledgeable I just assume she’s a professional everything.

    I of course have to shout out to the marvelous readers and critics on DL. the babelicious Mystery Babes, and the wild and wacky 4MAers (4 Mystery Addicts – whose fearless leader Maddy Van is deservedly up for an Anthony for community service.

    But my favorite (as in heart-in-throat) fen?

    The teenagers who write in to say how much they identified with THE HARROWING.

    Now THAT’S gold.

  4. simon

    I’d have to throw my weight (all 145lbs of it) behind the Jordans too. They’ve been immensely kind and supportive from the moment I met them. They’re special people…

  5. Ali

    Thanks Dusty,


    A secret, I think Jon Jordan is my long lost brother, while his sister Jen4 and his wife Ruth my long lost sisters.

    When we first met in the flesh so to speak, it was like a family re-union back in Vegas in 2003. I can not wait until we meet again in Baltimore 2008. Mark Billingham summed it up aptly saying he was worried when Jon Jordan and I first met, as he felt a nuclear reaction like when matter and anti-matter meet could result…

    Seriously The Jordans are the true forces of nature – as are these wonderful folk who make the genre sing – George Easter, Larry Gandle, Sarah Weinman, Maddy Van Hertbruggen, Andi Shechter, Maggie Mary Mason, Barbara Franchi, Sharon Wheeler, Jim Huang, Mike Stotter, Lynn Kaczmarek, Chris Aldrich, Janet Rudolph, Vicki Ball, Annie Chernow, Ayo Onatade, Lizzie Hayes, Joe Hartlaub, Barry Forshaw, Adrian Muller, Geoff Bradley, Stacy Alesi, Bob Cornwell, John Purcell, Kate Stine, Cherie Jung, Kathryn Kennison, David Montgomery, Russel Mclean, Sarah Owen, Carol Fitgerald, Rick Kleffel, Donna Moore, Jiro Kimura, Andrew Osmond, Karen Meek, Bev Vincent, And the incredibly well-read Jeff Kingston-Peirce of THE RAP SHEET and I probably missed many others out – as this is from the top of my head –

    All wonderful people who populate the genre and who I love meeting at conferences and conventions.


  6. Ali

    The problem with lists is my memory… I know I’ve missed a few names off just as I hit send, and will be missing many more that make this genre sing, but two I omitted are –

    Anthony Rainone and Linda Richards are part of the enthusiastic team, with Linda an exceptional writer and ran my review of MAD MANEY, one of her Carter novels in Crimespree – which brings this reply full circle as Crimespree is a Jordan Publication…..who in my opinion Rock Big in my world


  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Oh, wow – that’s the Olympian list, for sure, Ali. But now I’m completely confused because there are so many reviewers and editors on your list… I know, I know, we’re ALL fans, but a lot of the people you named, and, well, you, are PROS.

    I mean – right?

    Or does no one at all get paid in this business???

    Alex, from Hollywood, where they throw money at people of far less talent for far less work.

  8. Ali

    Hi Alex,

    Book reviewing is very poorly paid – the various webzines, and hard copy magazines make most of their revenue from advertising but that usually only just about covers costs and leaves enough for a burger and fries after….But many of us are Pro’s even if this lark is not our primary way of making a living, and most writers have the same problem.

    I make a little from my freelance-writing, articles, etc – and if I can plug a book I’ve contributed to which might appeal to those who like Amarone and Fava Beans –

    Australian Academic Publisher McFarland will be releasing ‘Dissecting Hannibal Lecter’ this Fall [Autumn] and writes at their website –

    This comprehensive study of author Thomas Harris’ popular works focuses particularly on Harris’s internationally known antihero Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in the classic novels Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal. In 12 scholarly essays, the work examines several themes within Harris’ trilogy, including the author’s artistic exploration of repressed desires, his refinement of neo-noir themes and the serial killer motif, and his developing perceptions of feminine gender roles. Several essays also focus on Harris’ works before and after the popular trilogy, examining themes such as gothic romance in Harris’s first novel Black Sunday and the making of a monster in the trilogy’s 2006 prequel Hannibal Rising.

    Read More here :-


    I wrote Chapter 9 – and the others are by key academics, writers etc – I’ll write more about this book at THE RAP SHEET. It’s the biggest crital look at Thomas Harris’ work ever.

    So despite scribbling along for my supper, it is thanks to my day-job which pays to keep my family fed and the wolves from the door –

    But I guess I just love books


  9. Rae

    Thanks, Alex 😉

    It’s a constant source of happy amazement to me that so many people devote such huge amounts of time and energy to the community, simply for the love of the books.

    And I have to give a shout out to the Jordans, who have been wonderfully kind and welcoming to me.

  10. pari

    I’ll send a huge shout-out to all the incredible people already mentioned and add a couple of my own:

    B.G. Ritts whose enthusiasm has helped many writers.

    Let’s sing the praises of people like Woodstock, who posted the week I was out of town, who may be unknown in larger circles but contribute nonetheless.

    And, finally, I’d like to include every single volunteer who has helped put on a convention (This year I’m awed by Christine Goff and Suzanne Proulx who are the cho-chairs for LCC2008 in Denver) AND every listserv moderator — from Maddie at 4MA to the Kovacs and Kara at DL, from Jeffrey Marks at MMA to the moderators of the lists on SinC, EMWA and others. This is a huge job and they provide an incredible service to all mystery enthusiasts.

    . . . okay, I’ll stop now.

  11. Molly Weston

    Ah, Mr. Rhoades, y’all sho’ do make me blush! If my mama had seen that picnic basket she’d have surely wondered why I didn’t have country ham biscuits too. Maybe next time.

    Now, everybody else who’s readin’ this, it’s a hot day outside in North Carolina. That’s plenty of reason to take off early, grab a cool one, hide away somewhere quiet, and read SAFE AND SOUND. You certainly won’t want to be disturbed.


  12. JDRhoades

    Ah, I’m feeling a lot of love here right now…thanks to all for your contributions. I knew y’all would step up.

    Keep the music coming for those unsung heroes.

  13. Fran

    Speaking as a professional bookseller, I’ve gotta say that you should hide in a corner of the shop sometime and watch the elegant Rae and the wickedly, brightly enthusiastic Janine Wilson sell books! Puts me to shame every time!

  14. Rae

    Fran, you are so sweet…..if you don’t know, Fran is talking about the ever-wonderful Seattle Mystery Bookshop, where they all are very kind and let me hang out from time to time. When asked a question, my typical response is something to the effect of “Ummmmm, ahhhhh…ask Fran! Ask Janine! Ask Bill! They know stuff….I’m just propping up this bookshelf…..” And then I go fetch coffee – that, I do very well 😉

    To the point of knowing stuff, can I just also give a shout out to the booksellers? Hanging out at SMB is such an education…someone will come in and say, “I’m looking for books set in the southern US, and I was told about this cool protagonist who has red hair and his name is Red – maybe, but I’m not sure.” There’ll be a moment of silence. My eyes are twirling, but everyone else is flipping through their mental card file. Then, voila! With one voice, they say “Yes, it’s Al Russet, and he wrote that great series about Red Carver who solves serial murders in Tallahassee.” It’s wonderful…every writer and reader is treated with respect and enthusiasm, and customers are as devoted to the bookshop as they are to their favorite authors. It’s a real joy to watch, and to participate in a small way.

  15. B.G. Ritts

    Thanks, Pari! I’m just having fun putting information together online. I consider Woodstock to be one of the true ‘fen’, along with Kaye Barley, Annie Chernow, Andi Shechter, Doris Ann Norris, Theresa de Valence…

  16. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Oh, now, come ON, totally unfair!!!! If we’re going to get into booksellers and librarians, that’s a whole other post, at least.

    I could write an entire week of blogs on Doris Ann ALONE.

  17. Fran

    Ah, but before she’s a bookseller, Janine’s a fan! That’s why we hired her (part-time, one day a week, we can’t afford her full-time, sadly); we ain’t no stupid chickens! She travels to so many of the conventions, she knows people, and she’s got this phenomenal memory!

    And Rae is being modest – she knows so much, and she shares with all the folks who have questions. And all she gets from us are ARCs and covetous glances at her shoes!


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