I went to a Harry Potter pre-release party last night at my local bookstore (one of the largest independents in the west) and was struck by the amazing energy there--kids, teenagers, middle-aged folks, many in costume and face makeup, anticipating the next and final book in a series. A youth rock 'n roll band performed; children filled the book aisles.

I know the HP phenomenon is exceptional, yet I couldn't help to wonder if we as mystery writers were failing to create storylines and characters to intrigue the masses, especially young people. Is it the genre that limits interest or attracts only a certain kind of reader?

What do you think?

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Well, off the bat, I decided that adult book buyers are more likely to part with a buck when it's for a child. It gives them that warm fuzzy feeling of unselfish love and care for the youngster's education. For themselves, they rely on libraries and used book stores. If they read.

Yes, if you want to start on children's mysteries, you'll probably make more money. ( Sorry. I feel a bit disillusioned of late.) Pay no attention and don't change! I like your books.
HP is its own phenomenon. Kids like it, parents support it and (dang it) the author's product stands up to the adoration. Doncha hate when that happens? I keep wanting to be jealous and wait for Rowling to fall on her face, but she hasn't and I can't help thinking she deserves every dang dime she's gotten from those books because of the joy and entertainment she's given me when I read and re-read them. (The cynic in me is spinning.)

I grow orchids, and when the movie 'American Beauty' came out we kept wondering why they couldn't have written it about orchids and 'product placed' orchids instead of rose petals. That beautiful blonde nubile girl falling backawrds into a bed of orchid petals instead of rose petals, what a visual that would have been! Whata shot in the arm to orchid growing that would have been.... but I guess orchids just don't have the same cache. They are a dang sexy flower, but they ain't roses.

*Everyone* is in the same boat when it comes to something like HP.

I think mystery writers can pat themselves on the back for keeping the majority (is that stated too strongly?) of TV programming and a decent number of movies made.
I think part of it is the fact that the books have a hero that is a kid. I started out reading the Three Investigators and Encyclopedia Brown. What I loved about those books is that it was kids solving the mysteries-reading the books I could see myself in them, get caught up in what a character my age was doing.

I'm not familiar with what everyone on here writes, but how many have someone under the age of eighteen as their protagonist? I don't think it's the genre that limits interest so much as it is the fact that there has to be something there for a child to relate to. After all, not many children are going to find much in common, or even understand the attraction, of a disaffected, rebellious cop, or PI, or whatever.
Bombay or Gordon's, Jon? I'm with you. What a thought!
Here you go guys ...


Have one on me and enjoy the overhang. That's Chicago down there.
I write young adult books, if the young adult is also a Nogales street whore with a taste for brown tar heroin.

Needless to say, that market's rather limited.
I think the big difference between a phenomenon like Harry Potter and the average mystery is that Harry Potter is an entire world that people can get into and stay in. There is resonance there. While the average mystery is a one-time deal. You read it and then you go on to the next book.

On the other hand, I went to my local Barnes and Noble the other day and almost every spot on the bestseller shelf was a crime novel. So I think crime fiction is holding its own as far as sales go, but "create storylines and characters to intrigue the masses"?--well, maybe for a short time, but the satisfaction doesn't last, so another must be found.
I think the mystery genre is still pretty vibrant. I mean, Robert Parker still appears on the New York times bestseller list and for better or worse James Patterson and Lisa Scottoline are pretty popular. Harry Potter is an anamoloy -- something that happens every 20 years or so.
Well, I'm a librarian, not a writer. Last night we had 1,000 people of all ages at our three libraries for Harry Potter night. But, I don't think that's a phenomenon that happens every 20 years. I read one of the articles that said the last time something happened like this, Dickens was serializing The Old Curiosity Shop, and people met the ships at the docks to call and ask if Little Nell died.

I don't think too many mystery writers can top Harry Potter or Dickens. But, you're doing a darned good job. I've seen bookstores packed for Lee Child. Rooms that hold 300 packed for other mystery writers. And, Rick Riordan's latest mystery/fantasy in his Percy Jackson & The Olympians series attracted 1,600 parents and kids in Austin. What's he doing? He's featuring a kid with ADHD who has powers, and lives away from his mom. How many kids relate to the outsider (like Harry Potter), and have the wish to live away from their parents?

I think all of you are right. Those young people aren't your target audience. Keep writing for those of us who are, please!

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