Everyone talks about the vampires and paranormal young adult books and whatnot. That's all fine and dandy, but those are trends outside of our favorite genre here on CrimeSpace.
I want to get back to talking about crime. So what are some of the trends going on right now? Not in marketing or formats, but the actual plot lines? What patterns are you seeing in what's new?
From my viewpoint, the leads are becoming more and more stereotypical. It's almost like casting for "The Real World" on MTV. The faces may change, but you know exactly what expressions they'll make.
Maybe that's because there are so many stereotypes built into crime fiction. But can we at least get beyond "the detective with a boatload of personal problems" thing? Or the black sedans following you in the rear view mirror? Or the hit man who just has to do one last job?
The reaction to this is to make something completely absurd out of the stereotype. Throw in a few funky quirks to stir the stereotype pot. Just look at the boatload of eccentric detectives on TV to get a feel for that.
None of these observations are necessarily bad. They're just my thoughts. What are yours?
What I'm surprised at is that with the rapid advance of technology that there aren't more technologically based crime novels coming out (or am I just missing them?) There are many elements of technology in books such as the medical examiner subgenre and so on, but what I mean is books where technology is a driving elemnt either in the crime or in solving the crime. And though computer hackers have made a strong appearance (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), there is still an endless amount of hacker type crime to work with (see the nonfiction true crime book "King Pin" by Kevin Poulson). But given that the online life is such a driving force in many readers and writers lives, and that computer crime and identity theft are ubiquitous, I'm a little surprised there are not more. Bosses spying on workers, or tracking them via their smartphone signals, whatever. Identity theft itself is a very noirish topic.
I touch on this in my essay in Noir Nation issue 1, with mentions of 1980s additions to pop culture, like the film "Robocop" and the book "Neuromancer". Or "Snow Crash". What could be happening is that those get classed as Sci-Fi/Fantasy instead of crime, but they are just as much crime books as Sci-Fi. Which seem like it might half the audience of each.
Alan, I think it's because women (more than half the readers out there) find technology utterly boring. Spare me from whatshisname oh yeah, Tom Clancy, telling me more than I want to know about the inside of an F-16 fighter jet or whatever. Women, and yes some male readers too, care about people. I didn't mind the hacking scenes in Girl w/tattoo, but long explanations about it (like Barry Eisler?) and extended emails between characters bore me to death. It's so cold and clinical. Two characters facing each other at the edge of a cliff and one has a gun ... yeah, that's more like it!
I found Neuromancer interesting and well written, especially the way he created a totally believable world, but, here again, the emotional coldness left me, um, cold.
Check out my DARK DEEDS blog .... all about people and the baaaad things they do. Up this week:
The Murder Checklist. Liz Marinello had a lot on her mind as she left her weekly psychotherapy appointment in Metairie, Louisiana. She was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. Beyond the sunlit parking lot, traffic was heavy on the afternoon of August 31, 2006. When Liz reached her car, a scruffy-looking bearded man walked up to her and shot her twice in the face....
I am so with you on this Susan!
While I don't mind techno-thrillers I do hate boring exposition. I remember in Patriot Games Clancy spent two pages describing Jack Ryan's fancy laptop. It's a laptop for crying out loud!
And there's an interesting whole other topic... I recently started writing a modern day cyberpunk novel which i won't go into detail about here. Suffice to say that i realised that we're living in the future. Came up with the idea when re-reading Neuromancer for the umpteenth time. Made me chuckle when Case had this uber all singing all dancing artificially intelligent deck, but slapped a tape in the side...
So i thought, there's enough tech out there now to make cyberpunk as a genre a reality without the actual implant thing (although we're getting there), so why don't i write one? If i hadn't had to go back and do major edits on the latest crime novel for my agent i'd have finished it by now... Another project shelved :(
Check out a book called "The Technohuman Condition" by Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz.
The implant thing is happening and functional, just not commercial yet.
If you start off with a story before going for the full novel I'd like to see it. That's the kind of think I'm looking for for Noir Nation.
Okay, I'll chime in with another pet peeve about the stereotypes foisted upon series protagonists. I am soooo sick of the "former alcoholic" PI or cop. And then they have to go meet their informants or whoever in a bar. And there's a lotta interior dialogue about how they wish they could have a drink, blah blah blah. Booorrring.
So I made my series protag, New Orleans homicide detective Frank Renzi, a philanderer. He thinks about sex a lot. Way better than pining for a 2 olive martini ...