This is from a review that Margaret Atwood wrote of Elmore Leonard's Tishomingo Blues a few years ago:

As to what Leonard is up to beyond the texture of his prose, it’s what he’s been up to for some time. A good deal of any Leonard novel—or those of, say, the last twenty years—consists of deadpan social observation. John le Carré has maintained that, for the late twentieth century at least, the spy novel is the central fictional form, because it alone tackles the implementation of the hidden agendas that—we suspect, and as the evening news tends to confirm—surround us on all sides. Similarly, Elmore Leonard might argue—if he were given to argument, which he is not—that a novel without some sort of crime or scam in it can hardly claim to be an accurate representation of today’s reality. He might add that this is especially true when that reality is situated in America, home of Enron and of the world’s largest privately held arsenal, where casual murders are so common that most aren’t reported, and where the CIA encourages the growing and trading of narcotics to finance its foreign adventures.

So, what do people here think? Does a novel need a crime or scam of some sort to be an accurate representation of today's reality? Is that why crime novels are so popular?

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I enjoy many kinds of crime novels, but I prefer those that have "flawed" heroes/heroines because nobody is perfect. I prefer reading series mysteries rather than a single novel that stands alone. Of course, all series have begun with the first book. Robert B. Parker's Spenser series started with a first novel as have all series that have stood the test of time. Right now I am listening to T IS FOR TRESPASS by Sue Grafton whose Kinsey Millhone is certainly "flawed." In my opinion "human" = "flawed." I gravitate toward strong protagonists with feet of clay. My late husband enjoyed what he termed "Bim-Bam, Thank you, Mam" novels (not sure how to spell the genre) with lots of action, but he never missed reading a new Stephanie Plum novel either. We both enjoyed novels with a bit of humor, and he loved Stephanie's grandmother's antics. He had, in his younger days, been an undercover narcotics agent but that did not keep him from enjoying fictional crime fighters.'
3. assumes that future generations will read our books. Judging from early mysteries that still sell well, this is a very dubious assumption.

There are times when I doubt that future generations will "read."

What constitutes "our world" in most genre novels is not necessarily factual -- or honest.
How wise that writer was! In my mind's eye I see some person on a dig in the future who finds
a CD or DVD that he cannot play because the technology of his time will be so far advanced. Perhaps there will some sort of electronic Rosetta Stone unearthed to help him learn about the 21st Century.
You have some lovely quotes at your fingertips, Angela. I agree with both.

I don't write about my own time. That gives me the freedom to deal with the human condition as another time may have affected it. Human nature does not change, but how we cope has to change with circumstances. I've always been fascinated by how people used to deal with their surroundings. Their courage is inspiring. And their misdeeds were born from the same instincts that inspire modern crime.

The second quote deals with authorial manipulation of material in order the create effects. Reality tends to be boring, except for the occasional shocking event.

That Benazir Bhutto was assassinated was a momentary shock for most Americans. And an opportunity for TV reporters to discuss ad infinitum the political impact with much repetition of previous information.

I wanted to know about her background, her family history, who paid for her father's mausoleum (another Taj Mahal), and what exactly inspired her to take such risks at such a turbulent moment. I'm afraid I have to guess at those, for her own words were those of the politician running for office.

Oh, and I wonder what raised this one Muslim woman to such power in a society that traditionally keeps women as chattel. Her class/wealth?


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