Crime books easier to write than 'serious' novels?
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.
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