I'm starting to realize how much I like this designation.
And wish the rest of the world would fall in with it.
I'm sure a lot of people are as fed up as I am with "is it a suspense or a mystery" stuff.
If it's about crime, end of story.
I realize somebody can easily figure out ways to complicate it, but I just wish bookstores and all these writer sites where you have to pigeonhole your book would get with the program.
I think "Crime Fiction" is fine for the general reading public, but for authors and agents and publishers and book sellers--and perhaps avid readers too--it's got to be useful to have a vocabulary of terms for defining the kind of book it is more precisely. The terms help me to pin down what kind of book a book is and whether I want to read it.
For example, there's a web book review site focused on self-pubbed titles written by an avid reader, called Big Al's Books and Pals, and one of my books was reviewed earlier this week in which there is this said:
"Since the main character is a homicide detective, the book has many of the qualities of a police procedural in the beginning and of a murder mystery throughout. However, what elevates the book beyond just another okay murder mystery are the story threads that make the book as a whole more of a psychological thriller."
That's useful info, I think, for those who speak the language.
Yes, booksellers have a specific language to sell our books. It reminds me of the author's note I read in the back of "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. His agent told him if they went with that as his second book he would forever be branded as a "horror writer." King's reply was that he didn't care what they CALLED IT, as long as the checks came in ... he was a new writer and needed to feed his family.
Speaking of crime, I've just begun a blog about serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides. This week's topic: America's Worst Serial Killer?
I don't like genre categories, but I think they're necessary. Lots of writers, myself included, tend to skirt several genres but most can be classified by a preponderance of some particular quality. With crime fiction, it's pretty easy. Just as you say--if it's about crime, end of story.
My frustration as a writer comes in when dealing with genre afficianados. When my first novel came out (a crime novel), I met lots of people who would go on about James Ellroy, Libby Hellman, Dennis Lehane, etc. Truth is, I've read very little of the contemporary stars of the genre. But if I mentioned Alan Furst or John Banville, the person would look at me dumbfounded. There's just so much fiction on the market and so many writers, that it's impossible to read it all. My belief is, rather than read everything on the bestseller list, delve into the classics of any particular genre to get a strong sense of its origins and how it has evolved. Chances are, you write a more refreshing book if you're not cluttered with all the trendy plot conventions and characters of the current market. But in the end, you work will have to fall into some category, if only to direct readers.
Furst and Banville are British? And the other American? Actually that could distinguish their styles and plots. I sample widely, but I tend to reject certain kinds of books after sampling and usually don't go back there.
One has to accept some conventions. I do not, for example, accept the supernatural in crime fiction. There has to be a crime, and there have to be suspects. Crime fiction addresses an audience that likes to be entertained one way or another. I do include a certain amount of violence as appropriate (same for a modest amount of sex), and make sure the pages turn.
Yes, one of the ones that bugs me the most is "sci-fi/fantasy". Talk about a broad sweep. I like sci-fi, but most of the time couldn't care less about fantasy (excluding The Hobbit).
I like your idea of delving into the classics of a particular genre. I think too many writers today spend too much time keeping up on the newest writing. There's nothing wrong with that, but knowledge of roots is important for depth. The internet seems to reinforce this shallow interest in the newest things. Even academic papers these days tend to cite new sources and many fewer of the older sources that used to be the mainstay of citations in academic papers. I feel there should be a balance of both.
-Alan, Noir Nation
Most young people prefer what's new, not always but its common.
I wouldn't worry about it.
A lot of writers now use "Crime Literature" as it is crime fiction that is in many ways driving literary style and social commentary. I just came across a call for academic papers "to investigate the scholarly and pedagogical potential . . . in [the] boom of new German detective fiction" in fields such as history, political science, sociology, anthropology, popular culture studies, and even business and law (http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=180888).
Serious stuff, deserves a serious name.
- Alan, Noir Nation
After what I wrote you yesterday I was left with a nagging need to clarify. I am very interested in right and wrong and it is a high priority to me to be an actually good person. I have not ever been in trouble with the law, and have not ever gone out of my to be immoral or criminal for the purpose of being naughty bad or evil. When hard pressed the wrong ways, I am like many people in that duress is more likely to cause a breach of ethical behavior than most circumstances. It is my intention to abide by the old fashioned 10 Commandments left by Moses thousands of years ago as they provide basic, and very straightforward guidelines for living, with some of the Christian notions of forgiveness, no animal sacrifices or human sacrifices, and show forbearance towards other people's transgressions....Also, do good, and thwart evil as to do nothing is to help evil. That's my honest view. Like most of the other Christians [there are 2 Billion of these on Earth today] I can tell you that "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven". That doesn't mean don't work at being good; but it does mean, don't kill yourself or condemn yourself if you screw up.