Interrogation—Kate & Dan Malmon

Who: Kate and Dan Malmon

What: Kate Malmon is the author of numerous documents that were written for the Minnesota Judicial Branch, and you’ve probably never read any of them. She is also a book reviewer for Crimespree Magazine. You’ve probably read some of those reviews.

Dan Malmon is an avid reader of crime fiction, mystery fiction, comic books, science fiction and fantasy. If your parents were afraid it would rot your brain, he’s read it. Or it’s on his TBR pile, waiting to be read, stressing him out.

Kate and Dan are also the resident reviewers for the Writer Types podcast.

Where: Minnesota

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

You two are among the most recognizable reviewers on the Indie crime/mystery scene and conference circuit. How did you fall into reviewing?

Kate: We’re “the most recognizable reviewers”? Really? That’s not false modesty; we thought just my mom read our reviews.

Dan: I think he’s saying he saw our picture on that milk carton.

Kate: Dan has always been a comic book reader. He picked up his first book in 1987: West Coast Avengers #1. I hung out in a comic book shop in high school. I didn’t necessarily read any comics, but I was aware of the X-Men, Batman, and other titles. Dan always tried to get me to read different comics, but I wasn’t interested. Why would I want to read about spandex-clad, anatomically-incorrect people? (I was exposed to a lot of Jim Lee & Rob Lefield books in high school.) He finally won me over when he suggested I do a “live reading” of a comic book on Twitter. So I would read old Dr. Strange and Batman books and post my comments about it under #KateReads on Twitter. I thought it was entertaining and it made the comics a little more fun to read.

At the 2011 Bouchercon in St. Louis, Crimespree Magazine’s Jeremy Lynch approached us about doing book reviews for their website saying, “You know that funny stuff you write when you read comic books? Yeah, we want you to do that for the blog.” We said yes and our reviewing careers were born.

Are “reviewing couples” a thing?

Kate: Good question about “reviewing couples” being a thing. I have no idea. Crime fiction is something that we both enjoy, so why not do it together? We didn’t set out to make this a shtick; it just kind of happened. It’s just the two of us at the Asylum in St. Paul so it’s very easy to get sucked into what the other one is working on. We review and edit each other’s writing. Sometimes the copyeditor catches all of the spelling and grammatical errors, and other times she’s kinda sleepy and misses a couple of things.

Dan: We do joint projects when we are doing a “Kate (and Dan) Reads [comic book title]”. Those are fun and lighthearted and silly. We will also do joint interviews, but not because it’s a routine; those interviews are legit with folks we both are interested in and we both want to talk to!

How did you begin working with Crimespree magazine? What is the single favorite review you’ve written?

Kate: Duane Swierczynski was our gateway into Crimespree. Dan tweeted at Duane to say that he was part way through WHEELMAN and was really enjoying it. Duane responded quickly to say he hoped Dan still liked the book after reading the rest, and it blew Dan’s mind. Dan continued to tweet at Duane and this guy “Crimespree Jon” (Jon Jordan) kept inserting himself into conversations. We found that Crimespree Magazine was based in Milwaukee, an hour away from my hometown of Sheboygan. Dan reached out to Crimespree Jon to see if the magazine had a storefront and we’d swing down to Milwaukee to say hello. The response was “We don’t have a storefront, but we do like dinner”. It was at this point that our Stranger Danger alarms went off. We couldn’t drive to Milwaukee to meet some random people that we met online. That’s how crime novels and comic books start. A lunch date was set, we gave my parents the details about the lunch, and met Jon and Ruth. We’ve been lucky to be a part of the Crimespree family ever since.

My favorite review is our review of GLORY AVENGELYNE by Rob Liefield. We were both incredibly sick with terrible colds and I think the cold pills affected our writing.

Dan: The internet is a weird place. Stranger Danger is a real thing. But sometimes? Sometimes it’s really cool and things really do happen for a reason.

I think my favorite piece of writing for Crimespree has to be my recounting of my getting Stan Lee’s autograph at C2E2 in Chicago. The piece I did when Prince passed away is a close second. **Is told that neither of these are reviews, doesn’t care**

When did the reading bug bite you? Is there a single book that led you down this glamorous path?

Kate: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THE BOOK featuring Grover. My uncle Dave would read it to me and he would have me on the floor crying I was laughing so hard. I learned very early that reading could be fun.

Dan: I grew up in a house that read; my mom is a voracious reader. I was reading comics in the ‘80’s, and then later on I picked up a copy of Lawrence Block’s THE BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART. I ended up tossing that one to my mom, and that made it more fun. Harlan Coben’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series came along just after that. I’m pretty sure that this is where my love of the wise-cracking protagonist came from.

What are your type five crime/mystery books of all time?

Kate: Screw you for asking this question. I need to consult our stacks.

  1. HARD BOUNCE by Todd Robinson
  2. THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz
  3. GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE by Victor Gischler
  4. BIG MARIA by Johnny Shaw
  5. FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER by Matthew McBride

Dan: Oy vey, with this question. I’ve been obsessing over it since I got your email earlier this week. But here’s the best I could come up with. If you ask me this question next week, it will probably look completely different.

  1. BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler
  2. MISERY by Stephen King
  3. SEVERANCE PACKAGE by Duane Swierczynski
  4. SHOTGUN OPERA by Victor Gischler
  5. A DANGEROUS MAN by Charlie Huston

Kate: Sorry we went from 1 to 5. We’re terrible with directions.

You are also avid consumers of comic book, movies and television. Do you have a favorite medium?

Kate: Is the question do I prefer my capes and tights on the page, silver screen, or boob tube? If so, then I prefer the 6-13 episode television series. On shows like LUKE CAGE, JESSICA JONES, and LEGION, the writers can take their time to deep dive into a plot point. However you don’t end up the villain monster of the week episodes like you do in shows with longer runs like THE FLASH, which I am totally fine missing.

Dan: I think it’s how you prefer to consume the content. Do you want to come home after work, flop on the couch, and watch superheroes before bed? Not me. That’s what baseball is for. I still prefer my capes and tights in the comics. Wednesday is New Comic Book Day. You can find me at the Source Comics and Games in St. Paul, browsing the stacks for my regular books and anything new that catches my eye. I love that movies and TV are mining the rich history of comics, but the novelty aspect has worn off. Quality needs to be maintained, or it will start to fall into parody. Remember George Clooney as Batman. I DO. That being said, when movies and TV get it right? Like with the Donner Superman, Captain America Winter Soldier, and Jessica Jones? Wooo boy, that’s good entertainment.

We work together on the Writer Types podcast (along with Eric Beetner). Is it harder to write a review for a magazine or blog, or present your reviews verbally on a podcast?

Kate: I think it’s more difficult to do reviews for the podcast. Please don’t fire me! Here’s my introvertedness for you: I can be more thoughtful when writing a review for Crimespree. I can take my time and choose my words more carefully when writing. I feel like when doing verbal reviews I blurt out “I liked this book because it was good” and then think of 100 better things after you and Eric have hung up. I do try to make notes before we record, but I don’t want to read my review like I’m reading a book report. 5th grade was a long time ago and I don’t need to relive it.

Dan: These are all really good questions. Did someone write these for you? Written reviews are more thoughtful and concise. You can cut it and paste it and mold it and shape it until you come off as the SMARTEST MAN ALIVE. But podcasts are more engaging because of the conversational nature. There’s such pressure to be brilliant when you’re on the mic. I always fight the urge to start spitting rhymes. (See? I’m funnier in print.)

If you two could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there? If each of you could invite one author along (living, you sickos), who would it be and why?

Kate: If you asked me this question 3 months ago when we were in the midst of winter in Minnesota, I would choose anyplace warm with palm trees and a beach and fruity drinks. Jamaica? Costa Rica?

Now that the weather is starting to get warmer, I’d like to go to Europe, probably Germany and Holland. I’d sightsee and take in as much as I could. My family came to the US from there and Russia, and I’d like to trace my roots.

I would invite Johnny Shaw to travel with us. No one can tell a story like Johnny and we could all use some levity while traveling.

Dan: I’m a city guy. I love the energy and excitement of urban areas. I tend to get nervous and uneasy in rural places. That being said, I would love to go to London. History, soccer, drinks with Doctor Who and James Bond… How cool would that be? Traveling companion? Gotta be Dave White. Dave is the Master of Puns, and what could be better than puns in pubs?

Find Kate MalmonTwitterCrimespree

Find Dan MalmonTwitterCrimespree

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

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