Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Crime genre - the new serious literature?

Enjoyed an author event at Waterstones in Nottingham last Thursday.  Great double act of Mark Billingham and Peter Robinson.  As well as readings from their newly published books, they talked about life as writers and something of their practical routines.

What I picked up on though was the comment from both of them about how irritated they become when people tell them they enjoy their books, then add, 'When are you going to write a proper novel'.

It's something that came up when I attended the event with Roger Ellroy in Derby.  People were asking what settings and topics they should use for their books.  He told the story of going into a bookshop in the US, where a whole floor was devoted to crime fiction.  And he said it was subdivided into so many different interests, like gardening, stamp collecting and walking that it didn't matter what interests you.  There are likely to be other people interested too.

In short, the whole of life can be encompassed in a crime novel.  I was walking past a man yesterday on his mobile and the split second excerpt I heard had my mind buzzing.  'You could always bury it in the garden.'

That's what I heard and I was off.  For the rest of my walk home, my mind was spinning with so many ideas about what 'it' was and why burying it in the garden might be the solution.

I get irritated sometimes that the crime fiction section of the Guardian Review is so short when there are so many great writers, and I use that adjective deliberately, at work today. 

Going back to Peter Robinson.  The book I liked best of his work is Friend of the Devil because he draws together threads from two previous books and creates a seamless masterpiece about revenge, penance and absolution.  Masterly.


1 comment:

  1. A lot of people were puzzled when the respected literary novelist William McIlvanney sat down and penned Laidlaw. Some accused him of selling out but the fact is, and this is something Ian Rankin realised a few years later when he decided to go down that route, that the crime novel had a far greater scope than had ever been explored by the likes of Agatha Christie. Rankin chose to have a police detective as his protagonist because he would have unfettered access to all strata of society.

    Until I started getting sent books to review I’d read no crime fiction other than McIlvanney’s three ‘Laidlaw’ novels and I only read them because of his stature. I have been quite impressed with some of the books I’ve been sent especially those that twist the shape of the detective novel to suit their own agendas like Ruth Dugdall. Her The Woman Before Me has a wonderful premise: a woman has been found guilty and sentenced and is now up for parole, she, however, maintains her innocence and as the sole criterion for being granted an early release is genuine remorse it seems like she won’t receive it. What does the probation office recommend?

    What was so different about McIlvanney’s novel is that it wasn’t a whodunit, it was a whydunit and we’re starting to see more of these now and it’s also nice to see books where murder isn’t the sole focus. Dugdall's second book focuses on the issue of assisted suicide; very topical and it raised some important questions, but at its core it was still a piece of detective fiction.