I was going to write about a really great documentary I saw but, with the untimely passing of Cort McMeel, I decided to write this instead.
One of my earliest exposures to Cort and the Murdaland gang was this Sarah Weinman blog post from 2006 in which bold statements were made and the gauntlet was thrown. You can tell by the comments section that an impact was made.
And Murdaland did make an impact. Anthony Neil Smith declared that Murdaland was "the rightful heir to PLOTS WITH GUNS."
Murdaland blazed hard and bright, left a trail, and burned out, leaving an image in the retinas of the crime fiction landscape still felt today. Little did we know that the rise, fall, and influence of Murdaland would foreshadow its founder.
I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Cort in person but I exchanged emails with him and spoke to him a couple of times. I regret that I won't have that opportunity to meet him.
The Cort that I will remember was a fierce book enthusiast. The kind of person that gives you a reading list just by virtue of having a conversation with him. The kind of person who advocated for great books that deserved more recognition. The kind of person I strive to be.
Murdaland mission statement:
Murdaland: Crime Fiction for the New Century will feature the best and most derelict, deranged, bareknuckled honest voices to bring about a renaissance of crime fiction. Currently, the predominant “mystery” magazines are two lame, staid, old fogey establishment publications: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Both are put out by the same publisher and stuck in a timewarp of 1950's schlock. They even have mystery crossword puzzles catering to nuns living sober lives in the cornbelt.
Murdaland will not be kin to this kind of writing or experience. More risk taking in nature, possessing the kind of vision and rebellious attitude as such rogue presses as Olympia (Naked Lunch, Burroughs), our mission will be to free American crime fiction from the cage of civility where it now rots. Murdaland is a beast of three parts: part literature, part rabid dog, part sad whiskey shot spilled on the barroom floor. The final result will be in the tradition of crime writer David Goodis (Shoot the Piano Player), as he was once described by Kerouac: “the poet of the losers.”
We are calling for stories that will help redefine the Noir/Hardboiled genre and take it to new literary heights. Stories don’t have to be about boxers, PIs, pimps, hookers, bank robbers and drug dealers, as much as they should be about exploring characters in a violent modern world existing on the margins of society. Above all, it’s about the writing. The prose must be high and tight.
Links of interest:
Tribe's Murdaland interview
Baltimore City Paper about Murdaland featuring Cort
Cort writing about Simenon
Cort writing about B Traven
Ben Whitmer's remembrance
Les Edgerton's remembrance
Mario Acevedo's remembrance
Kevin Hardcastle's remembrance
Cort's novel, Short, and a novel that apparently he wrote under a pen name, Blue Bloodbath.