Plot Your Heists: June Is International Crime Month

Not crime per se, mind you. June will see a month-long celebration of crime fiction, as well as its notable authors, editors, critics, and whatnot. Crime novels and stories are a big enough business that they get their own section in the New York Times Book Review, and universal enough that people who never ordinarily read will lug around giant hardcovers by someone named “Stieg Larsson.” So how are we marking the occasion?

Well, officially there are a great many readings and events around New York, thanks to some outstanding independent publishers and bookstores: the kick-off is today at Book Expo America, where editors from Grove Atlantic, Europa Editions, Melville House, and Akashic Books will lead a panel discussion. Throughout the next weeks, there’s plenty to be excited about—a reading by awesomely-named author Wolf Haas sounds cool, you definitely want to hear about the adventures of Detective Brenner in Austria. Then there’s Jessica Hagedorn, whose work tackles the dark side of the Philippines. So much seamy filth to learn about!

But your observance of International Crime Month really shouldn’t end there. This is your chance to go around talking like the private eye in a classic noir film, calling ladies “dames” and such. It’s also an excellent occasion to start plotting that insanely overcomplicated burglary you’ve been keen to get going on. Or just spend a day trying to think like a psychopathic killer. Soothing, isn’t it.

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Melville House Stands Up to Amazon

Melville House is a Brooklyn-based indie press best known for publishing the much-fussed-over books of Tao Lin. But they publish other stuff, too, including the fantastic Art of the Novella series, comprised of neatly packaged practitioners of this lost genre. Many of the books published by Melville House are works in translation, and one such book, The Confessions of Noa Weber by Gail Hareven, just won the 2010 Best Translated Book Prize for fiction. No small potatoes for a press like Melville House. But this morning an announcement from MH HQ stated that they’re withdrawing from any future BTB awards due to its involvement with the “predatory” and “thuggish” Amazon.com.

A skeptic might point out that for all their outraged bravado, Melville House are only boycotting “future” BTB awards, keeping themselves open to this year’s prize – and Amazon-funded prize money. Plus, denouncing the award will probably stir up more press for Melville House than the actual award will. I mean, any publisher associated with the self-promo wizard Tao Lin must know a thing or two about branding.

That said, I’m really glad Melville House are standing up to Amazon, and I hope this encourages other houses to do the same. Amazon are enmeshed in all sorts of sketchy practices, and their growing monopoly on the book biz is killing many of the great independent book stores, making for less ports of calm for bibliophiles in the ignorance storm that is America. So three cheers for Melville House. Here’s hoping other indie presses will get on board against Amazon.