By Kevin Burton Smith

It started as a joke. Or a lark. Or maybe just a way to practice how to build a web site, after I impulsively told a client I'd be happy to build a "web page" on this new-fangled "information superhighway."

It was all bullshit. At the time, I'd never even been on the internet. I left the client meeting, and when I got home, I fished through a mail order catalogue and ordered a modem. By telephone.

But that was then. Twenty or so years on, I've been through more modems, routers and computers than I can count. And somehow, this darn web site is still here. It's become my favourite waste of time, but there have also been days when I've felt like I was the only one that gave a damn, and maybe I should just pull the plug.

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I know, I know. It's just another web site devoted to crime fiction. I wasn't the first, and I certainly won't be the last. It's never been the classiest or the sassiest of sites (Who has the time?). I's never won any major awards or even been nominated for any. It's rarely blurbed, although it has been cited over the years in various other places, and it's certainly been ripped off. I've seen stuff from this site cut-and-pasted (without permission or attribution) on other web sites (including Wikipedia) and repeated in printed books, used as intros and advertising spiels and even liner notes.

But I know the site must matter to someone, because the hits keep coming, thousands every week, the counters clicking away, and the email and the tweets and the letters -- oh, the letters -- still come pouring in. Somebody will suggest a new book or film or TV show I should mention, or point out a dead link or a misspelled word, and I'm off again, the shamus game a-foot once more.

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We kick off things with the "cover" to this special issue, which features a great photo by Kamikaze Jersey Style shutterbug Mark Kraznak, who's been doing the noir thang for just about forever, including supplying occassional art for this site (like the banner up above) and for Altus Press' ongoing series of Race Williams collections. The photo I chose is called "Bitter Little Words," and was taken back in 2013, I believe. I just love the whole "tough guy" vibe this photo has, and how it ties in to the whole idea of this site's ongoing celebration of those "tough guys and gals who make trouble their business, not their hobby."

But mostly I just like the vibe. I can just picture this hard-boiled son of a bitch plopping down, smokes and a drink at hand, and pounding out a hard-boiled masterpiece. Typing out "The End," then standing up, putting on his coat, and going out and shooting someone.

Who totally deserves it, of course.

Bill Duncan, the son of W. Glenn Duncan, creator of Texas private eye Rafferty, a cult fave if there ever was one, offers us Resurrecting Rafferty: It's a Family Affair, a great little piece about fathers, sons, publishing and his plans to bring back his father's hero for a whole new generation. This site even gets a bit part in the drama.

This site gets an even bigger role in Dave White's Another One Rides the Bus: Thrilling Detective, Jackson Donne and Me, wherein he blames fiction editors Victoria Esposito, Gerald So and me for ruining his life. You're welcome, Dave.

Not to be outdone, Victoria, our beloved Fiction Editor Emeritus, herself shows up, to put me in my place in Across These Mean Wires: A Twenty-Year Retrospective (Actually, in the hub-bub over this anniversary, Victoria and I got back in touch with each other -- one of the true highlights of the year. She's okay, I'm okay, for those of you keeping score).

We did have our other fiction editor, Gerald So, lined up for a special treat: our first ever nude centrefold, but unfortunately we've only raised $1.39 so far, and Gerald won't do it for less than five bucks.

But don't worry -- that's not all. Over in our Non-Fiction section, where we've been tucking away all sorts of essays, reviews and stuff for years, we've got more goodies. For those of you who find the site way too Kev-O-Centric, I'm pleased to announce we've got another quickie review by Rompin' Ron DeSourdis, who takes a pop at Robert Crais' latest, The Wanted.

We've also got a treat for you forensic fans. Our old pal Steve Gomez has A Full Measure, a great piece on the rise and fall of Alphonse Bertillon, the father of the modern mug shot.

And speaking of mugs, waiting in the wings, not quite ready for prime time, are two more long-time contributors have pieces that are "almost done."

Colleen Collins, a rootin' tootin' real-life private eye AND private eye writer, will be back with a timely update on her popular Props & Peeves! from several years ago, wherein she dissed P.I. writers who just don't do their homework.

And last but not least, Josh Lanyon (aka "Diane Browne," aka "D.L. Browne," aka "Diana Killian," aka "Mrs. Thrilling Detective") will be adding a long-overdue page to our Schmucks With Underwoods section, with a brief biography on a P.I. writer who we both really admire: Joseph Hansen. If you don't know who Hansen is, or why you should care about him, stick around...

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Of course, if anyone wants to contribute something to this site, you don't have to wait for an anniversary. We're always looking for good stuff. Or cold hard cash...

And I'd be some sort of ungrateful cretin if I didn't mention that this site wouldn't have survived without the help of so many people. The people who submitted Fiction and Non-Fiction to this site, the advertisers, and the countless others who offered comments, suggestions or simply encouragement. And there's always going to be a special place in this road-weary heart for Chris Baldemor, our Film and TV Editor, who somehow keeps finding new P.I. shows and films for this site.

But my heart truly goes out to Victoria and Gerald, of course, the long-suffering fiction editors for this site, who waded through the sludge and the slush, and helped shape good stories into even better ones, while I mostly hid behind them and tried to nitpick the writers to death. Thank you guys, forever.

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