Monday, January 28, 2008

Populist prejudice
Crime books easier to write than 'serious' novels?
That attitude is, frankly, cobblers

Mark Lawson writing in The Guardian.

Seriously underrated ... John Banville (top) and Michael Dibdin

Ian Rankin, Britain's best-selling mystery writer, often quotes a review suggesting that the latest DI Rebus story "almost transcends the genre of crime fiction". This rudely qualified compliment rankles with Rankin because it typifies the refusal of review pages to break down the wall of condescension which separates the kind of fiction that is set for exams and given prizes from the kind that sells in supermarkets and has clues and a solution.
But, depressingly for Rankin and other practitioners of the genre that he almost
managed to transcend, there now seems to be documented case law for the view
that crime books are easier to write than so-called serious novels.
This week, Joan Brady - a talented American novelist living in Devon, who won the Whitbread prize in 1993 - received £115,000 in an out-of-court settlement from a cobbler close to
her Totnes home. The novelist alleged that fumes from solvents used at the
plant had caused her physical distress and mental distraction.

One example given of her problems - and here we come to the reason that Brady should probably not walk down any dark alleys filled with crime writers - was that she had become so
confused by the fumes that she was forced to abandon a serious novel, Cool
Wind from the Future, and turn instead to mystery fiction, with Bleedout.
So, in the course of a compensation dispute, we have medical and legal support for the traditional
libel against crime writing: that it is done by authors whose brains aren't
fully working. Perhaps, in the way that the dim in showbusiness became known
as airheads, leading crime and thriller writers should in future be designated
fumeheads.

1 comment:

Vanda said...

Thanks for posting this article, it's very entertaining, and the comments even more so! Crime writing is perpetually seen as literature's poor and slightly embarrasing cousin who does questionable things to earn a crust, yet there is some fabulous writing out there. And, have you noticed, crime writing sells. Hmmm, the punters must appreciate it.