Criminal Associations: Forget the Mafia, these are organizations with real criminal expertise!
by Kate Stine
The father of the mystery story, Edgar Allan Poe, was pretty much on his own and, as any mystery fan can tell you, isolation didn’t do much for him. So once there were finally enough mystery writers around to throw a good party, it was inevitable that they would do just that. Thus began the popular pastime in the mystery world of identifying shared motives — be they professional, social, or recreational — and inviting coconspirators to join the gang. Today there are organizations for writers, booksellers, general readers, and fans of specific types of mysteries, particular characters, and authors.
London’s prestigious invitation-only Detection Club is the oldest of all the mystery writers’ organizations. Founded in 1928, the Detection Club’s oath makes members promise that their detectives will “well and truly detect the crimes presented to them” without reliance on “divine revelation, feminine intuition, mumbo-jumbo, jiggery-pokery, coincidence, or act of God.”
While the Detection Club functions basically as a dinner club for its members, there are other writers’ organizations with professional as well as social concerns. The Mystery Writers of America’s motto is the unabashedly mercenary: “Crime Doesn’t Pay — Enough!” Since its inception in 1945, MWA has educated its members about the publishing business, in addition to providing a social network for working writers. The organization is best known for its annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards announced each spring. The British Crime Writers Association, founded in 1952, has a similar agenda. They give Gold Daggers and Silver Daggers for best novels and nonfiction works as well as an annual prize for best first novels. Canada, Australia and the Scandinavian countries all sport their own writers organizations; the International Association of Crime Writers takes a more global approach.
And what about the fans? The first fan groups were devoted to particular writers and their characters, most notably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and Sherlock Holmes. The following list features the largest of these author fan clubs, but bear in mind that there are literally hundreds newsletters and web sites devoted to mystery writers. There are also more broadly focused organizations for fans, such as Mystery Readers International, France’s 813 and the charmingly eccentric Arsenic and Oolong Society.
In fact, no matter what your angle is there’s a group of criminal confederates just waiting to implicate you in their schemes!
List of Mystery Organizations
For more information, click on the name of an organization. To add your organization or update the information, send email to organizations@MysteryNet.com
- American Crime Writers League
- The Arsenic and Oolong Society
- The Baker Street Irregulars
- Baker Street Journal
- Crime Writers’ Association (Britain)
- Crime Writers Association of Australia
- Crime Writers of Canada
- Crime Writers of Scandanavia
- The Danish Academy of Crime Fiction/Det Danske Kriminalakedemi
- The Detection Club
- Dorothy L. Sayers Society
- 813: The Friends of Mystery Literature Association
- The Historical Mystery Appreciation Society
- Friends of Mystery
- The Hounds of the Internet
- Independent Mystery Booksellers Association
- International Association of Crime Writers
- International Association of Crime Writers (North American Branch)
- Mystery Readers International
- Mystery Writers of America
- The Ngaio Marsh Society International
- Private Eye Writers of America
- The Saint Club
- Sherlockian Holmepage
- Short Mystery Fiction Society
- Sisters in Crime
- The Wolfe Pack
American Crime Writers League
This professional writers organization was formed in the late 1980s to address the needs and concerns of mystery writers. To be eligible for membership in ACWL you must have published a minimum of one full-length work of fiction, or three short stories, or three nonfiction crime articles. Meetings held at various mystery conferences. Bimonthly newsletter, The Bulletin, offers articles on pertinent subjects by reliable experts, news, forum for discussions of writing techniques, the publishing process, markets, etc.
Contact: Dick Lochte,
President, American Crime Writers League, 455 Crescent,
Buffalo, NY 14214
The Arsenic and Oolong Society
Founded in Indianapolis in 1989, the society’s title harkens back to the Golden Age of mysteries when so many murder victims were administered poison in their tea. Over the years the group has grown to 300 members from all over the world and from all walks of life. In addition to monthly meetings, the club holds one special event each year. These have included a Lizzie Borden Centenary Family Picnic (featuring cold cuts, of course), a Murder Hunt to commemorate Agatha Christie’s 100th birthday, a catered high tea for the Dorothy L. Sayers Centenary, and a John Dillinger Mystery Tour. In 1997, the Society will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Al Capone with a trip to Chicago. The Arsenic and Oolong Society is well-known to mystery fans for the hospitality suites they operate each year at the Malice Domestic mystery convention in Washington D.C. and the Magna Cum Murder convention. The club also has an occasional newsletter, the Tea Times, which is edited by Brian Foust.
Contact: Brian Foust, 2442 Galaxy Ln., Indianapolis, IN 46229 – 1176
The Baker Street Irregulars
The most famous Sherlockian society is the Baker Street Irregulars, founded in 1934. BSI sponsors an annual January dinner in New York. Membership is by invitation only, however, it is open to the dozens of local chapters called Scion Societies across the United States, and
kindred societies in other countries.
Contact: Michael Whelan "Wiggins", 414 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46202 – 3642
Baker Street Journal
The quarterly Baker Street Journal was founded more than 50 years ago as “a current and continuing medium for preserving to posterity the writings in the Holmesian lore.”
Subscriptions: $18.95 (United States), $21.50 (elsewhere).
Contact: The Baker Street Journal, P.O. Box 465, Hanover, PA 17331
Crime Writers’ Association (Britain)
Britain’s national organization for crime writers was founded in 1953. Membership is open to published writers of crime fiction and nonfiction. Application for associate membership may be made by publisher, agents, producers, or reviewers associated with crime fiction. Publishes a newsletter, Red Herrings. Annual awards, the Daggers, are given in several categories.
London-area dues: £40. Non-London and overseas
dues: £35. Associate members (publishers, agents, booksellers —
UK only) dues: £50.
Information: Judith Cutler, Hon. Sec., P.O.Box 6939, Birmingham B14 7LT, England
Crime Writers Association of Australia
The Association’s objective is to promote Australian crime fiction. Members will receive a variety of benefits including a quarterly newsletter and a discount on Mean Streets magazine. It is also envisaged that get-togethers/readings, special CWAA offers, invitations to book signings and launches will be organized. Presents the Ned Kelly Awards, named after a notorious bushranger in Victoria during the late nineteenth century. (Depending on who you ask, Kelly was a criminal or a Robin Hood-type character. He was hanged in Melbourne on November 11, 1880.) “The annual membership is equivalent to a cheap bottle of bourbon (30 bucks).” Information (Please indicate if you are a published crime writer or otherwise in the industry.): CWAA, c/o John Dale, 24 Bennett Rd, Granville, NSW 2142.
Crime Writers of Canada
Canada’s national association of authors and industry professionals active in the field of crime writing. CWC bestows the Arthur Ellis Awards annually and publishes a bimonthly national newsletter, Fingerprints. CWC’s web site offers interviews from past Fingerprints as well as additional information and news.
Contact: Crime Writers of Canada, c/o Eddy Barber, Secretary/Treasurer, 3007
Kingston Road, Box 113, Scarborough, Ontario M1M 1P1, CANADA
Crime Writers of Scandanavia
CWS was founded in Krogerup, Denmark, in 1991. Most of the membership resides in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but a growing number come from Finland and Iceland. Holds yearly seminars on Scandinavian crime fiction. Awards The Glass Key (a actual glass key) for the best Scandinavian mystery. CWS issues a newsletter (with Web edition), Graensfallet, in Swedish/Norwegian/Danish to the members. It is edited by Johan Wopenka and Jan B. Steffensen.
Fee: 200 Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish kroners.
Information: Crime Writers of Scandinavia (CWS)/Skandinavisk Kriminalselskab (SKS), President Kirsten Holst, Stouby Skovvej 7, DK-7140 Stouby, Denmark
The Danish Academy of Crime Fiction/Det Danske Kriminalakedemi
This society devoted to Danish crime fiction. Membership is by invitation only. Fee: 300 Danish kroners.
Information: The Danish Academy of Crime Fiction / Det Danske Kriminalakedemi, Secretary Jan B. Steffensen, Sdr. Tranders Bygade 23, DK-9220 Aalborg yst, Denmark
The Detection Club
Founded in 1928, The membership of this prestigious writers’ club is relatively small, but includes the most distinguished names in British detective fiction. Election to membership is a highly coveted professional honor.
Dorothy L. Sayers Society
The Society was founded in 1976 to promote the study of the life, works and thoughts of Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957), a noted scholar and the creator of the ineffable Lord Peter Wimsey. It acts as a forum and central resource, putting members in touch with other workers and sources of information, and providing for study purposes material not otherwise available. It sponsors an annual seminar convention, publishes the proceedings, and commemorates Sayers with plaques and notices as the opportunity offers.
Information: Christopher Dean, Chairman, The Dorothy L Sayers Society, Rose Cottage, Malthouse Lane, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, BN6 9JY England, +44 (1273) 833444
813: The Friends of Mystery Literature Association
Founded in 1979, this French organization aims to promote mystery literature both in and outside of France. The name 813 comes from one of Maurice Leblanc’s charming Arsene Lupin adventures. There are over 800 members worldwide. The association publishes a quarterly journal which includes interviews, information and special reports on the mystery genre. Every year, all the members of the association vote to designate the 813 Trophies in various categories.
813 Magazine subscription: 150 francs/yr.
Membership (including magazine): 200 francs/yr.
Contact: 813, c/o Jean Louis Touchant, 22 boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 75011 PARIS-France
web: www.mygale.org/00/polar/813hpa.htm#what (English language)
The Historical Mystery Appreciation Society
HMAS publishes a quarterly journal, Murder: Past Tense, with reviews, artwork, puzzles, articles on writers, books, settings, etc. HMAS also bestows the annual Herodotus Award for excellence in historical mysteries. The Society is run by the noted historical mystery enthusiast and writer Sue Feder.
Dues are $20. Add $5 for international surface mail and $10 for international air mail.
Mail check made out to SUE FEDER to Sue Feder, 3 Goucher Woods Court, Townson, MD 21286.
UK Residents: Please contact Sue Feder, who can put you in contact with the UK HMAS Secretary to pay in UK funds.
Friends of Mystery
Friends of Mystery is a nonprofit literary/educational organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and dedicated to promoting the study and understanding of mystery fiction. For the past 15 years it has presented lectures, organized conferences, and sponsored reading groups. Friends of Mystery awards The Spotted Owl for the best mystery book written by a writer in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington). Membership is open to all. Members receive a 10% discount on purchases from several Portland-area bookstores and a newsletter, The Blood-Letter.
Dues: $20/yr (fully tax deductible).
Information: Jay Margulies, Friends of Mystery, P.O. Box 8251, Portland, OR 97207, 503-241-0759; Fax: 503-241-5621
The Hounds of the Internet
This free Internet mailing list offers daily discussion of Sherlock Holmes and related subjects, and is some 500 subscribers strong. To subscribe: send e-mail to email: email@example.com with the subject line of the message blank, and the text reading “subscribe hounds-l Your Name” (Note: the -l is a lower-case L, not a number 1.)
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association
IMBA is a trade association of independent bookstores or related businesses having a strong interest in mystery. Its purpose is to serve as a forum for ideas, a channel for communications, and an effective force for change. IMBA publishes an intermittent newsletter for members edited by its president, Jim Huang.
Information: Robin Agnew, Administrator, 213 S 4th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2134
International Association of Crime Writers
Organization of professional writers whose primary goals are to promote communication among writers of all nationalities, to encourage translation of crime fiction and nonfiction into other languages, and to speak out against censorship and other forms of tyranny. Branches throughout Europe and Latin America with other branches currently being organized in Asia and Africa. Sponsors the popular Semana Negra Conference in Spain and the annual Four Frontiers (Canada/U.S./Mexico/Cuba) Conference.
Contact: K. Arne Blom, President, Smaskolevagen 22, S-224-67 Lund, Sweden
International Association of Crime Writers, North American Branch
This U.S. and Canadian branch organization is open to published writers only. Publishing professionals and booksellers may join by invitation. The North American Branch sponsors the annual North American Hammett Prize for a work of literary excellence in the crime writing field by a United States or Canadian author. North American members received a quarterly newletter and invitations to regional and international conferences.
Contact: Mary A. Frisque, Executive Director, IACW/NA, PO Box 8674, New York, NY 10116-8674
Mystery Readers International
Publishes the quarterly Mystery Readers Journal and organizes activities for mystery readers. Open to all readers, fans, critics, publishing professionals, and writers. The annual Macavity Awards are determined by a general vote of the membership.
Contact: Janet A. Rudolph, Director, Mystery Readers International, Box 8116, Berkeley, CA 94707 – 8116
Mystery Writers of America
The major organization for American mystery writers. Founded in 1945, this group bestows the coveted Edgar Allan Poe Awards at an annual banquet in New York City. Members receive a monthly national newsletter, The Third Degree. Local chapters organize workshops, lectures, etc. in addition to publishing their own newsletters. Membership limited to published writers and publishing professionals.
Contact: Mary Beth Becker, Administrative Director, Mystery Writers of America, 17 E. 47th Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017, 212-888-8171, Fax: 212-888-8107
The Ngaio Marsh Society International
Mystery novelist and dramatist Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982) was one of the grandest of the Golden Age grandes dames. Her detective, Inspector Roderick Alleyn, has never lost his ability to charm and there’s been a recent resurgence of interest in Marsh’s work.
Dues: $20/yr. Contact: Nicole St. John, 103 Godwin Ave., Midland Park, NJ 07432 – 1864
Private Eye Writers of America
An organization devoted to private-eye detective fiction. Membership open to fans, writers, and publishing professionals. Gives the annual Shamus Awards and The Eye Lifetime Achievement Award, publishes a quarterly newsletter, Reflections in a Private Eye, and sponsors the EyeCon convention. Dues: Active & International: $30. Associate: $24. Information: Robert J. Randisi, President, Private Eye Writers of America, 4342H Forest DeVille Dr., St. Louis, MO 63129-1833
The Saint Club
This group was formed in 1936 by author Leslie Charteris (1907-1993) with the aim of providing a constructive fan base for Saint devotees. Profits are donated to the Arbour Youth Centre in Stepney, east London. Club membership ensures that you receive the annual Christmas letters as well as the Club’s newsletter, The Epistle. The club also offers its own range of merchandise which includes ties, mugs, photographs and notepaper.
Membership: £3.50/yr (US $7). £30.00 (US $60) for life.
Contact: Ian Dickerson, The Honorary Secretary, The Saint Club, Shandy Street, Stepney, London E1 4ST England
The greatest single source for electronic information on Sherlock Holmes this entertaining site is maintained by Chris Redmond, a noted Sherlockian scholar. Contents include: the original Sherlock Holmes stories; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle biography; Sherlockian resources on the Web; stage, screen, and television information; a list of Sherlock Holmes societies; home pages of individual Sherlockians; Sherlockian things for sale; and pastiches, parodies, new novels, and more.
(European Mirror: web: http://www.mygale.org/06/sherlock/car/sh.htm )
Short Mystery Fiction Society
The Short Mystery Fiction Society seeks to actively recognize writers and readers who promote and support the creative artform of short mysteries in the press, in other mystery organizations, and through awards. Sponsors the short-l-digest and the quarterly electronic newsletter, The Short Order. Membership: free.
Contact: G. Miki Hayden, President, 1351 Sea Hawk Ln., Vero Beach, FL 32963-2522
Sisters in Crime
A group of writers, booksellers, editors, critics, agents, librarians and readers dedicated to the promotion of mysteries by women and men. SinC publishes a useful quarterly newsletter, a bibliography of books by members and booklets such as Shameless Promotion for Brazen Hussies, and Breaking and Entering: A Guide to Finding an Agent, Selling a Manuscript and Other Mysteries of Publishing. SinC also sponsors booths at trade conferences such as the annual American Library Association convention. Local chapters throughout the country offer many services including speakers’ bureaus.
Dues are $35.00 for US and Canada. Add $5.00 postage for all other countries. Contact: Beth Wasson, Executive Secretary, Sisters in Crime, Box 442124, Lawrence, KS 66044-8933,
The Wolfe Pack
A group devoted to Rex Stout’s (1886-1975) Nero Wolfe, one seventh of a ton of eccentric genius who loves fine cuisine, orchids, beer and books, and roundly dislikes women, work, and travel. This group organizes the annual Black Orchid Banquet in October and Shad Roe Banquet each spring, both held in New York City. It also bestows the Nero Wolfe Awards.
Membership: $25 (includes four issues of The Gazette)
Contact: Mary Glasscock, Membership Chair, The Wolfe Pack, P.O. Box 822, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023
Compiled by Kate Stine
Before establishing her editing and consulting business, Kate Stine worked for many years in mystery publishing, most recently as editor-in-chief of Otto Penzler Books. She also served as editor-in-chief of The Armchair Detective Magazine from 1992 to 1997. Both the magazine and her mystery reference book, The Armchair Detective Book of Lists, won Anthony Awards at the 1996 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. She currently serves as a senior editor at The Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine.
Compiled by MysteryNet.com. Portions compiled by Kate Stine