As I mentioned in my last post, 280 Steps was one of the first small presses of crime fiction I came across. I like their books. I guess now I should say that I liked their books as they are closing up shop. Of the 59 reviews I have written over the past year, nine of them were published by 280 Steps. The only publisher that I have reviewed more books from is All Due Respect Books. Yeah, you could say I have a crime fiction type.
The first thing that strikes anyone with 280 Steps is the covers. They were bold with hard-edges that bring back the spirit of Saul Bass’ movie posters such as Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder. These 50s/60s designs hint at noir, outlaws, and femme fatales. Digging through the internet I found two graphic designers (there are probably more) that worked on 280 Steps covers, Risa Rodill and Eder Rengifo. Rengifo designed my favorite cover for Andrew Nette’s Gunshine State.
After getting past the striking artwork, the reader is left with only the words and 280 Steps had all the words, all the fantastic words. I read Jake Hinkson’s Hell on Church Street when it was in between publishers. Hinkson was my introduction to 280 Steps and then 280 Steps introduced me to Eric Beetner, Andrew Nette, and others. And these authors introduced me to works by Angel Luis Colón, Marietta Miles, Rob Pierce, Paul D. Brazil, Paul Heatley, Iain Ryan and more. There was talent everywhere! I was not going to be held hostage to the mystery novels of the big publishers.
As a reader, my immediate reaction when I heard 280 Steps was disappearing was a sadness that this friend would no longer be recommending me books. But as the day wore on, I realized that some of my favorite authors were losing a part of their voice, their books were disappearing. I hope all find a home for their books soon. Given the ending of 280 Steps and Blasted Heathens closing their doors recently, I hope a new crime fiction publisher will emerge soon.
I will still go through the unread 280 Steps books on my Kindle. I was planning on reading Eric Beetner’s Devil series in preparation for the third and final volume to be released this Spring. I think I will read these anyway as Beetner’s prose is crisp and quick and he tells a damn good story. There are other 280 Steps authors that come to mind I have to get to like Ro Cuzon, Eryk Pruitt, and Christopher Irvin.
280 Steps was an important independent voice in crime fiction, but I will remember 280 Steps my gateway to some wonderful crime fiction voices.