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?