Calling all crime writers, Melbourne based magazine, Crime Factory, will soon be opening its doors to fiction submissions, so if you’ve got a hardboiled story, a noir story, or some dark fiction with a crime edge that needs a home then check out the Crime Factory website for full submission details.

That’s fiction; let’s talk non-fiction. Are you a criminal with a story to tell? Have you had a brush with crime? Do you feel the need to investigate the criminal underworld, to expose the Lynchian dark side of suburban life? Well, Crime Factory are always looking for quality non-fiction crime writing, and actively encourage and promote such writing. But for those looking to document the horrific exploits and grisly details of their favourite serial killer, you’re out of luck. The crew at Crime Factory will emphatically reject any trashy exploitative true crime. So if you’ve got true crime work with substance, with ethics and conscience, then this might be the publication for you.

Speakeasy recently caught up with Crime Factory editor, Cameron Ashley, to talk all things crime writing.

Speakeasy: How did Crime Factory come about and what are some of its goals/aims?

Cameron Ashley (CA): Crime Factory was born in 2000 from the brain of my good friend David Honeybone. It ran, in print and by subscription, until 2003 when Dave decided to shut up shop for personal reasons. I bugged him on and off over the years to bring it back until finally he gave me his blessing to restart, which I did in 2010 with my friend Liam Jose and Arizona-based Keith Rawson. We were very lucky to be supported by some pretty big names who helped us get back on our feet. Keith left in 2011 and we ‘promoted’ from within, bringing Andrew Nette into the fold. We went legit earlier this year and now trade (if it can really be called that) as Crime Factory Publications with an ABN and all. We continue to fumble our way through with enthusiasm and a s**tload of help.

Our goal for the magazine is to put out the most interesting mix of material that we can assemble in any three month period, from fiction to articles to non-fiction and reviews. Although mainly filtered through a noir/hardboiled lens, we really do just try and get the largest, strangest and most interesting batch of material together. As we expand into books like a real publisher, the same thing applies – we’re looking for something a bit different and aim to package and promote the material as best we can for as little as possible for the customer. Hopefully, we can get to a point where we have enough in the coffers to pay everybody for everything, from a short story in the zine to a full length novel. That’s what we’re looking at.

Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about the Australian crime writing scene and how Crime Factory fits into it?

CA: Hmm. I’m not actually sure that we do fit into it. We’re certainly trying! It’s heartening to see some new names pop up on the radar and to meet these names in person and find them as switched on and eager to build a proper community for the genre as their American counterparts are. We’re on the way.

Speakeasy: Are submissions currently open? If not, when do they open?

CA: Fiction submissions are closed until January. Non-fiction, whether that be an interview, an article or our true crime stuff, is and always remains open – it’s tough to find decent non-fiction and we try to encourage these submissions because we think they are important.

Speakeasy: The Crime Factory submission guidelines state generally that you accept crime/dark fiction submissions; can you tell us a little about what kinds of writing you think fits that description?

CA: Anthony Neil Smith once described Noir as ‘characters circling the drain.’ This is the essence, really, of what we’re looking for. Whichever way you want to interpret that – from Bukowksi to Goodis – it’s entirely up to you. Just no hitman stories please. If you send us a hitman story, it better be good.

Speakeasy: Does Crime Factory consider cross-genre work?

CA: Sure, more and more. The genre itself is becoming quite cross-genre, every genre is, so to ignore that would be pretty silly. Don’t send us any hard SF or anything, but yeah, pitch it to us and we’ll most likely take a look. Like I said, the more interesting the better. We love other genres – our Kung Fu Factory and most recent Horror Factory specials attest to that. We have more of this type of thing coming next year.

Speakeasy: On the Crime Factory blog, Ray Banks discusses various clichés of crime writing (pulp, noir, transgression); does the Crime Factory actively look to overturn genre clichés with its submissions?

CA: Not especially… I mean Ray’s a very forthright guy, he has a lot of valid opinions and most of the time I think he’s right. That’s not to say that you can’t have fun and play with the conventions and clichés of the genre. We value playfulness. I just bagged out hitman stuff, but witness what JJ DeCeglie did with both that played-out character and the hardboiled style itself in ‘Death Cannot Be Delegated’ for our Hard Labour anthology. There’s a lot that can be done. So, if you want to overturn them, yeah, great; if you want to play with them, that’s great too – that’s what they are there for. Just don’t treat them like a dog you need to walk on the same route everyday.

Speakeasy: The non-fiction guidelines are clearly against ‘trashy and exploitative’ non-fiction crime writing, stating ‘We hate most true crime over here’; can you elaborate on why this is? What effect do you think this kind of crime writing has on more legitimate or credible crime non-fiction?

CA: Argh. Yeah, see this is a topic that I find both fascinating and quite strange. It seems to me that, in general, Australians don’t read too much crime fiction, but do read huge piles of true crime. And much of that stuff is just horrible to me. I don’t understand why people have this huge desire to read, in a completely gratuitous and non-academic way, the most luridly scripted tales of serial killers and mass murderers. It just seems grossly voyeuristic and perverse and without much in the way of redeeming features.

Now, just like using the conventions of crime fiction in your stories, there is, thankfully, a large amount of really great true crime and I encourage you to read it (Tokyo Vice, The Other Hollywood, Lords of Chaos, and Lacan at the Scene are some that immediately spring to mind). It’s when the graphic and sensitive details of real murders are actually filtered through pacey, action-packed pulp prose that my brain starts to short-circuit a bit (Phillip Carlo’s sensationalistic biography of Richard Ramirez is the most extreme example I can think of here – disgusting).

The challenge for us has been, okay, how can we do true crime? It’s pretty easy for me to sit here and bang on about it on my soapbox, but that’s not really trying to set an example is it? So, after a chat with Duane Swierczynski, Dennis Tafoya and Jed Ayres at Noircon 2010, the answer we came up with was twofold: true crime as memoir (personalising the ‘experience’ of the crime) and true crime as reportage (detailing the crime with a journalistic intent). I’ve been really, really pleased with the results and I’m proud of what we’ve managed to publish so far, from Jed Ayres talking about his experiences as a child stepping over a man at Burger King who’d been stabbed, to Tom Darin Liskey’s report on gold-smuggling prostitutes in South America, we’ve got you covered.

Speakeasy: Following on from the previous question, what then do you look for in quality non-fiction submissions?

CA: That depends. If it’s a feature: knowledge about your chosen subject and an enthusiastic but academic style. If we’re talking about true crime: honesty, a respect for your subject matter, and lucid but punchy writing.

Speakeasy: Are there any exciting upcoming Crime Factory developments or opportunities you might like to mention?

CA: Let’s see… Hard Labour, our all-Australian anthology is out now; we’re currently putting together our next anthology based on the life and career of Lee Marvin (and it’s looking like the best thing we’ve done so far), and we’re opening up (hopefully) a new line of novellas for both print and ebook with Jed Ayres’ Fierce Bitches. We have another special issue for next year as well and CF #12 should be out around the end of the year or early 2013. It’s looking like a great issue too.

Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.

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