Essential Hardboiled Reading for Cozy Mystery Authors (And Readers)

I finally got around to starting Stephen King's new novella collection, "Full Dark, No Stars," and was taken with the second tale, "Big Driver."

 

In it, an author of cozy mystery novels is waylaid, beaten, raped and left for dead. She survives ... to carry out a plan for bloody justice and revenge that would shock the fictional little old ladies of her creation, the "Willow Grove Knitting Society."

 

I haven't liked much of King's work in the last 15 years or so, but this is an absolute ripper of a yarn. Great idea, great execution, great female heroine.

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Right.  :)  Or excessive violence.  Bodies are found after the fact, and the crime tends to be fairly clean, i.e. by blunt instrument, gunshot, or poison. No rapes, mutilations, and dismemberments.  And no dead cats.  The last is very important.

I.J., great description of cozies.  So even Sue Grafton's alphabet series falls into this category.

An afterthought:  Once upon a time, I tried to read an Agatha Christie novel in French.  I couldn't.  The vocabulary in English, enjoyable and provocative, but in French, it was far too extensive for my ken. 

 

Surely that may be due to the translator?  I'm assuming that you read other books in French. Kudos!

 

Grafton and others, who started many years ago to take the private eye novel away from hardboiled male detectives, aren't quite cozy, though they do write for women and tend to be less hardboiled.  That could bring me to a whole new subgenre: PIs for women. Part of women's liberation.  Anything youi can do, we can do better.  Because there are more women authors and more women buying books, there tend to be an awful lot of these, but Grafton sort set the tone.

Stephen King's horror fiction is often non-supernatural or lightly so. His horror is often about real-life relationships and situations. Love them or hate them, his characters in those works are real. Some of his short-stories are "slice of life." He explores the human condition in the USA as accurately as any writer alive. His problem with being identified as "great," by many, has to do with his output. There is a lot of it, and too much of a good thing can obscure the fact that it is usually very good.

 

It's my opinion that he and Nora Roberts, whose work I don't read much, will be the two writers who most survive the next few generations and for many of the same reasons. I think they may be the Dickenses of our time.

 

The reason I don't read more of his work, is that the writes more than I can possibly read. It would leave me no time to read other authors and perhaps not even enough time to read the news--and damn sure little or no time to write.

 

It is not that he is a natural. It is that he is persistent, reads a lot, writes a lot, and if I understand correctly, spends a lot of time out of the house with average, below average, and above average people.

 

Absolute "ripper of a yarn" is not a term I would use. For me, his characters carry the story.

 

In "Under the Dome," he takes one far-fetched situation--a small town suddenly cut off from the outside world--and makes it into a microcosim of American life and character.

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