Right now, the internet is aflame with discussions regarding the current state of crime fiction. There are side topics of whether crime fiction actually explores current social issues, the genre vs. literary debate, and the publishing industry's gutless encouragement of cookie cutter thrillers.

The part of this discussion that I want to hone in on is this: is anything new being done in crime fiction?

To bring up a music analogy, I’d like to compare crime fiction to electronic music. In the world of literature, crime fiction as a concentrated genre is relatively new (I could easily be wrong here, as I’m not as literate as I’d like to be), just like electronic music is in the world of music.

Forgive me if this doesn't mean much to you, but I think that crime fiction’s done techno, house, maybe even drum and bass, but where is the glitch or the IDM? Where are the Aphex Twins and Squarepushers of crime fiction? Their stuff is still electronic, but far more experimental and boundary pushing, so much so as to almost create new genres of music, if not new sub-genres.

Is it then a case of aesthetics not being pushed, rather than moral issues or messages? Where are the Danielewskis or Steven Halls of crime fiction? Who is pushing the boundaries of presentation and language of story in this genre?

Seriously, I’d like to know. Is there anyone out there writing crime fiction that is truly new? I’m not as well read as I’d like to be and so I’m wondering if this is already happening but we don’t have the hindsight to see it.

Views: 96

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

"Where are the Danielewskis or Steven Halls of crime fiction?"

Daniel your my main mofo for even knowing who they are!! I can't tell you how much I agree and you have already answered one of my basic questions.

Here is the response that I have been posting other places:

By and large the mystery/crime fiction genre is not an "experimental" genre. It just isn’t. Sorry to be the one to say it but there it is.

And let’s just get this out of the way up front. I don't care how many recommendations you make. Whenever this argument on experimentation arises the typical reaction is to point out examples of experimentation within the genre in an attempt to disprove the argument. But these examples are exceptions not the rule. For every one text that is different there are hundreds more that aren’t. It's a reactive gesture pure and simple. An proactive gesture would be to write something different.

Isn’t it true though that if you keep throwing down the gauntlet and no one picks it up then there's just a lot of debris on the ground? Does anyone remember the following three quotes...?

1)"I suppose I feel that, as crime fiction has become more and more a part of the literary mainstream, its popularity has not been matched by a great deal of experimentation. There is, I think, a reluctance to take chances, whether that takes the form of fusing genres to create new hybrids, or experimenting with form or language, or anything that deviates from the rather traditional narrative structures that seem to be the norm in the genre.

I’m not sure who, if anyone, is to blame for this state of affairs, assuming anyone agrees with me. The writers, perhaps, for not pushing themselves? The readers, for favoring sometimes bland mainstream work over more experimental work at the margins, for wanting to be entertained instead of challenged? The publishers, for seeking variations on familiar themes, for favoring the series over the stand-alone, for, to put it simply, giving readers what they want?"

2)"Perhaps I was - and am - playing devil’s advocate to some degree, but there is a part of me that feels crime fiction thrives on a ‘more of the same’ ethos, and that there is a sneaking conservatism at work that is in part a product of the genre’s own ubiquity and success in recent years."

3)"for it’s important that writers with some commercial clout should take the odd chance, that they should try to introduce a little edge to the mainstream and foster an environment conducive to a little experimentation."

These quotes were taken from a blog post that John Connolly wrote on July 30, 2006. Some participants in the current conversation also participated in that one as well.

To be continued since my post is too long...
This type of conversation always runs the risk turning into a massive circle jerk where everyone bemoans the fate of the genre (which is what often happens). or approaching the question from the viewpoint of writers and/or other industry insiders (in other words somebody with something to lose) lets turn this question inward and approach it from a different direction, as readers. Using ourselves as lab rats lets determine if we really want experimentation in our fiction (notice the lack of qualifier).

So publicly, I ask 'What are the most experimental books that you have read in the last 10 years or so'?

Since I like "experimental" fiction, but don't write, I support it in the only way that I can by reading it. So I'll start and put my money where my mouth is. Off the top of my head here are some experimental books that I have read. Some of these I didnt like, some I loved and others have become favorites. But bless em' for trying.

-The Troika by Stepan Chapman
-The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
-The Orphan's Tale by Catheryne Valente
-The People of Paper by Salvador Placencia
-Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff
-The Lew Griffin books by James Sallis (though these exceed the 10 year line I think)
-Laughin' Boy by Bradley Denton
-Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz by David Britton
-Electric Jesus Corpse by Carlton Mellick III
-House of Leaves & Only Revolutions by Mark Danielewski

How about you?
Somehow, I can't see myself walking into Books-a-Million and finding a stack of books titled Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz on one of the co-op tables, LOL.
Mf'ers was a horror book. While I can say that I had never read anything before like it I can't sit here and say that it was particularly enjoyable or that I would want to read it again. But I'm glad I gave it a try. Certainly not for everyone though
What's the problem with giving readers what they want? I mean, that's the basic relationship, right?

We'll have to find some volunteeer geniuses to devote their lives writing "experimental work at the margins." Maybe in fifty years they'll get some posthumous recognition, and their estates will finally get a meager paycheck.


A writer's #1 job is to entertain, IMHO. There's no grand mission here. We're like street performers. We juggle some bottles and tap dance and the people throw us some change. If you want to cure cancer, go study medicine. If you want to be a writer, give the people what they want. Or die in obscurity.

Some choice.
I'm sure you're going for effect here, Jude. There has to be a middle ground between slavish pandering and obscurity.

And while it seems unlikely we'll find Motherfuckers on the co-op tables, there are a lot of things on the shelves of record stores I never thought I'd see (how long ago was NWA?). And there's a lot of stuff on (cable) TV I never tought I'd see. And in the movies - mainstream movies. I'm getting old, it's true, and while I agree with your earlier post about novels being quite different from music and other forms of art, I do worry that if all we're trying to do is give people what they've seen before (because that's all people can say they want, not having imagined the new) and entertain, that difference will disappear.
Slavish pandering ain't as easy as it looks. :)

Ask any bestselling author. Better yet, ask any mid-lister dangling by a thread.

To write something that people actually PAY MONEY to read is a tall order. That's why the vast majority of writers never get published, and the vast majority of those who do get published don't make enough money to feed their cats.
Ha ha, nothing's easy. Now, I can only speak for myself, but I found cliches come true. It was only when I said, fuck it, and threw out everything I'd been told and wrote the book exactly the way I wanted to that I finally sold one. So that got me past the publisher (and enough to feed my dog, at least) but if there'll be enough to live on, I'll have to wait till the book comes out (sneaking in some BSP here, July '08).

But there is something between dog food and bestsellerdom -- and also the idea that we can start small and build up and not have to score really big right out of the gate.

At least I hope so. ;)
What do readers want? If we all want different things then how do you accommodate? Thats why we all argue over definitions and we all have different favorites.
Having just tossed the second John Connolly book (my definition of the pornography of violence), I wouldn't take his word for anything. I grant you he has the commercial clout. Sadly.
it’s important that writers with some commercial clout should take the odd chance, that they should try to introduce a little edge to the mainstream and foster an environment conducive to a little experimentation.

I agree, but more often than not, those experimental ideas will come from outside the mainstream, from the poor suckers that live for their art and not money.

And, yeah, that sounds a little soppy, but that's me. :)
"By and large the mystery/crime fiction genre is not an "experimental" genre."

That can be said for any genre, including literature (which I like to look at as a genre in itself). But just because this is how things are, doesn't mean that there isn't room for experimentation at the fringes or the boundaries between genres, or hell, somewhere outside the whole damned lot. Somewhere at the end of the bell curve. Either end. :)


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service