I realize this is totally subjective, and no opinion is more valid than another, but here goes:

— I'm sick of Florida.
— I'm sick of New Orleans.
— I'm sick of New York City.
— I'm sick of England.
— I'm sick of Scandinavia, much sooner than I expected.
— I'm not quite burned out on L.A., but I see the day coming.
— I'm sick of quaint villages populated by white people only.

— I like the Pacific Northwest.
— I like the West.
— I like small cities with realistic ethnic diversity and realistic problems.
— I like underused locations. How often do you read about mysteries set in Kansas City? Or Dallas? Or Cleveland? Or the Carolinas?

Sub-questions: Where are you from? What informs your taste in settings? Will you ignore an otherwise recommended book if you don't care for the setting?

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totally subjective,

It occurs to me that weather is as almost as important as setting. Mood. Maybe that's why London has always been such a popular mystery setting---so much fog and rain, perfect for establishing a Mystery Mood. :)
And Patricia Cornwell's novels relied heavily on weather, as I recall---the earlier ones anyway. It was almost always dark, cold and raining. And you couldn't beat her for suspense, in a setting no more exotic than Richmond, VA !

As for other less well known settings----Laura Lippman's complex, gripping mysteries are set in Baltimore---and she uses the milieu, its economic and racial diversities and tensions brilliantly. I don't know if you could consider Baltimore a "small city," but compared to NYC it is.
I've always considered weather to be part of setting. You can't have a monsoon in the Sahara desert.

I guess weather is also part of "atmosphere" and "mood."
I guess weather is also part of "atmosphere" and "mood."

Precisely. And certainly weather is an adjunct of setting, but with a few exceptions (like the Sahara, where there is no weather except sandstorms :) it still has to be evoked. You could set a mystery in New York or anyplace else and never even mention the weather. When I as a reader enter a fictional world, all those details---setting, character, and weather :) ---draw me in and make me believe! Just like Hemingway said. (Of course if the writing is clumsy or labored, the characters stereotyped, etc. etc., I'll be back on dry land doing a reality check in no time).
Hemingway said, “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”
I don't get to travel as much as I used to, so I like to see new places through the eyes of a novelist. My first novel (under submission so you'll have to wait!) is set in Paris and I'm hoping to set a series there. Which will mean lots of business trips. Shame.
Can't ever be sick of Florida, not so long as John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books are available in second-hand stores. They are that rarity - crime fiction gems that can be read and enjoyed over and over again.

I set my book in South Korea - partly because there are very few crime novels set there, but mainly because it is a place where I have spent a lot of time. Exotic, but familiar to me.

The only type of location that immediately turns me off is the quaint English village with the spinsterish detective lady dressed in florals.

ron mcmillan
Even though I'm Scandinavian, Swedish, I was also kind of tired of the Scandinavian setting. Truth to be told it wasn't as much the setting that gets you tired as the prose. Many of the Swedish writers are actually kind of boring, the big one was for a long time Mankell, and for the later years it's been a hype around Stieg Larsson. Truth to be told, none of them compells me that much, but there are other crime writers that are far more interesting, when I read Roslund and Hellström I changed my mind (their fifth book will be released in English soon).

I'm from Piteå, a small industrial working-class town in the north of Sweden and my favorite setting is Boston, or to be more precise I love Lehane's Boston. Most recently I read Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell and realized that I love rural scenery, but if it is to be rural it should either be damn hot och polar cold.
Another interesting setting is the poor Britain, David Peace's Red Riding-books have an amazing Yorkshire setting, as well as the setting in Glasgow if you read Denis Mina's books.
Jim, I live in the middle of a state forest, so I find the idea of isolation from all locations big or small fascinating. I liked the way Jeffrey Deaver handles such an isolated setting in "The Bodies Left Behind." I'm sorry to say, though, that there was little ethnic diversity in that whitebread novel. That's a shame because anyone who lives here knows you can go into that forest and meet just about anyone, from a drug dealer from Tijuana to an ascetic monk from Tibet to a corpse from Wheeling, WVa.

My first suspense novel, which just finaled in the Golden Pen (I've sent revisions to St. Martin's), is set in Cincinnati, Ohio. I made a conscious decision to avoid the quaint villages and the overcooked cities, like New York, and just - as you say - to include an underused location. I also chose Cincinnati for practical reasons: I can get to it to do research, and it's a very interesting little city that sports its regal "Queen City" clothing while hiding beneath some fairly tawdry undies.
My next two fictions are in Alaska And Tennessee. I love the research. And, the travel.
Dennis, you bring up an interesting point; that is, living the setting you're writing about, absorbing its ambience, inhaling its details. I like that. You picked Alaska and Tennessee because you can research setting while you also enjoy the travel to those places. How cool. How deliciously, sweetly rewarding is it to do that? I remember when I used to do days/weeks/months of research about far-away, exotic places (including New York before I had lived there), and it was frustrating to build scenes about the Empire State Building, for example, when I hadn't been there. Everything felt contrived, jumbled, and if I'd had any of that material published I'm sure readers would have picked up on it. Now that I've lived in New York I have that sense of place that just comes naturally to me as I write; W. 85th feels comfortable to me now. From reading all of the posts, I'm getting the feeling that many have lived in the settings of their novels. I wonder how many prefer to write about "what they know" versus doing the research and creating the worlds of their novels?
I have no choice in the matter. I write about 11th century Japan. That is gone. Research, however is possible, both of primary texts and images from the arts. The argument can be made that Imagination is a powerful source in creating setting, since it tends to dwell on the essential and creates mood. As for modern settings, that is easy enough either way. If you live among your scenes, the trick is to be selective and interpret them. Too many books deal in street names.
I.J., I imagine that, in your case, the research that allows you to use your imagination and "interpret" your scenes from texts and images is also highly rewarding. I'm actually pulling details from present-day, existing locations and then interpreting them for settings from the past and future. I think you make the point beautifully, at least for me. It's how you interpret the setting and how you present your interpretation to readers, regardless of where it is. That really works for me. I recall (and will check as soon as I make this post) that you either won an award or were published for your novels set in 11th century Japan, or both. It's one of my pleasures to read and research how others set scenes, so I'll be sure to find you on here and get your novel(s). Also, I'll join you on your blog or Web site, or both.


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