At the recent mystery conference, Left Coast Crime, I moderated a panel entitled, “What’s My Niche? Cozies With a Theme.” As the author of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries, that topic is right up my alley.
My panel was intended to include four authors of themed-cozy mysteries, but one fell ill, and one had a day job, business emergency, so I was left with only two authors: Rosemary Harris and Cricket McRae. Don’t get me wrong—these two are fabulous—they’re terrific writers, engaging speakers, and all around nice gals... but two participants does not a panel make.
Enter Edgar nominee, Reed Farrel Coleman, who writes gritty New York noir sorts of mysteries. I told him about the situation and he jumped in, offering to be a panelist. I eagerly accepted. I know Reed to have keen insight into the overall world of mysteries—he was the former executive vice president (EVP)—read chief operating officer—of the Mystery Writers of America, and a couple of years ago, before be became EVP and before I became the president of Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter (MWA/NY), I’d worked with him for several months—we were both on the MWA/NY board of directors.
From my perspective, I pounced on the opportunity because I knew Reed would do a great job, and I thought that he would lend us cozy gals gravitas. More on that in a moment.
I hadn’t known that Reed has another qualification: he teaches a short summer course at Hofstra University on mystery writing. As he put it, he needs to know how to guide his students in all sub-genres, including cozies.
A podcast of the panel is available on my website, ready for you to download. (As an aside, I audio record all of these blogs , and they’re available as podcasts, too. So are all of the other panels I participated in and on at LCC. Various audio and video interviews are posted online, too.)
Back to Reed adding gravitas: Cozies get little to no respect in the mystery community. Many of us who write in this sub-genre prefer the descriptor traditional—to some people the term “cozy” connotes poorly plotted books in which a cat solves the crime. That’s not true of course, or at least it’s not always true, but it’s a stigma that has stuck. Cozies are, in fact, among the fastest growing sub-genres in the mystery world. Readers like them. They like series where they get to know the town and its characters, where order is made out of chaos, and where good trumps evil every time.
My books, the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries, do just that—but they’re also serious and literary. Kirkus Reviews, one of the most prestigious reviewing entities, has a reputation for not liking most books. So far, I’m thrilled to report that they’ve liked mine. They’ve called the series “erudite.” As you might imagine, I was over the moon when I read that! I ran around the house calling, “I got the ‘E’ word! I got the ‘E’ word!” They also wrote: “Antiques Roadshow fans and mystery lovers will delight!” I love Kirkus Reviews.
Sometimes, looking at my book covers, you’ve got to wonder, though. We’re morphed from serious (the Consigned to Death hardcover) to playful (the about-to-be-released Antiques to Die For). My style of writing hasn’t changed—the stories are still fair-play traditional mysteries with a literary ethos—but more books sell with lighter-hearted covers. Fine by me.
But because the books look un-serious, and because I’m a niche writer of a themed cozy series—I was delighted that Reed joined us. His literary muscle; multiple awards and award nominations; his stellar reputation in the field; and the sheer beauty of his prose added gravitas to us cozy gals. Thanks, Reed.
I welcome your comments.