Are writers who write about murder more fun than writers who write about women finding empowerment through quilting?

That's the question of the day.

This came up in a bar, naturally, in a confab of writers - some crime, some literary, and some downright criminal. Ad Hudler, literary novelist, admitted to homicidal ambitions. Why?

Because crime writers, he said, have more fun than literary writers.

I know a few literary writers, like Soren Palmer who's been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (you go, Soren). These are kudos rarely handed out to those of us who dabble in murder but Soren, aside from the dour Scandinavian name his folks hung on him, is an enjoyable guy to hang with, as is Mr. Hudler.

So, if it's true that crime writers have more fun, why is that? Following are three theories, the first of which is my favorite but it is almost assuredly bullshit.

Theory #1: We write away our demons. Yeah, it's all like poetic and all, but as much as I like it I don't buy it.

Theory #2: Crime writers are tap dancers. Elmore Leonard isn't wrestling with any deep philosophical conundrums. He's writing about bad people in bad places. Those of us who write crime are, at bottom, trying to entertain the reader, not enlighten them. So it's no wonder that we're entertaining. As long as our standards are low and the bar is open.

Theory #3: Literary writers come, mostly, from academia and everyone knows that academia is a bog of petty politics, back-stabbing, and professional envy. Someone smarter than I am (and we're talking multitudes here, people) said that the politics in academia are so brutal because the rewards are so small. I know one professor at Duke who cannot stand Reynolds Price, mostly because Price is wildly successful by literary standards. So it stands to reason that if you get a group of literary writers in a room together, the similarity to a snake pit is not coincidental. No wonder so many of those books make me want to take a bath with my toaster.

That's what I think. Anyone else want to weigh in on why we have more fun than literary novelists? I'm open for your theories, the more outrageous the better.

Talk to me.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on May 23, 2007 at 8:32am
I don't know about all that. First of all, I'm incredibly ambitious about my writing when I rarely gave a hang about academic honors. Secondly, not all mysteries are just simple mind-games with short and simple words. I see no reason whatsoever why one shouldn't be as proud of a good mystery novel or story as of a "literary" masterpiece. Neither should literary writing be more fulfilling. I don't see quilting as symbolic of insights into the mysteries of existence.
And I have enormous fun writing mysteries.
Comment by Jochem van der Steen on March 11, 2007 at 1:25am
Of course we have more fun! Don't our characters do what we'd like to do? Be it getting away with robbing a bank or dispensing justice we get to live the ultimate wish fulfilling fantasy behind our keyboards.
Comment by Bill Cameron on March 10, 2007 at 1:27pm
I like a sorta combination of theory one and two. We don't write away our demons, but rather take them and and play Grand Theft Auto with them, share a beer, and then argue over who gets control of the remote.
Comment by Daniel Hatadi on March 9, 2007 at 9:15am
I request, and I receive. Thanks for that, David.

I think it's either sink or swim. We write about heavy issues, and if we allow ourselves to be dragged down by them (ala James Ellroy), perhaps we wouldn't have so much fun.
Comment by Jack Getze on March 9, 2007 at 3:02am
For one thing, we crime types don't have to look up big words in the dictionary and then try to fit them into our stories.

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