I've never been much for sob stories. Of course, great literature tends to be tragic, and some of those stories are on my list of all-time favorites. I love reading versions of the King Arthur legend, for example, but I know that I'll be sad at the end because that "fleeting wisp of glory" could not sustain itself in the face of Man's corruption.

The best tragedies offer us some kind of hope, but even so, as I've gotten older, I find myself reading fewer books that I know can't end well. I just gave up on both THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and ALICE I HAVE BEEN. It might have been a bad decision, but both books seemed sad on so many levels that I didn't want to read them.

Book buyers today seem to love the oh-my-god-how-tragic thing, but I think it's really hard for the authors of such stories not to descend into the maudlin. And since they tend to make me maudlin as well, I'd just as soon read a good detective novel, where I know that Truth and Justice will triumph in the end.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on May 21, 2010 at 12:49am
I see the point, Peg. I suppose the same is true if the series wallows in blood and guts, though clearly some readers like this. I'm not opposed to violence, but I get a tad disgusted with book after by the same author dealing with dismembered bodies.
Comment by Peg Herring on May 20, 2010 at 8:38am
It's how the tragedy is handled. Of course bad things happen, or we couldn't write mysteries. But if the story dwells on the hopelessness, I'd rather not.
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 20, 2010 at 5:10am
That isn't quite the point, though, when you deal with events happening to characters in a novel. Pessimism and optimism may enter into it as character traits, but the events are merely representations of real events. To clarify, my protagonist's only son dies of a horrible disease. Such things happen to people in the real world all the time.
Comment by John McFetridge on May 20, 2010 at 3:48am
Crime writer Adrian McKinty has some intresting things to say about pessimism and optimism on his blog today. Worth reading:

Comment by I. J. Parker on May 20, 2010 at 1:33am
As I write a series, and as tragedy strikes naturally in people's lives, I have one book that is very tragic. It also happens to be my best so far. True, some readers have balked a little, but I'd rather deal with my characters realistically that to be forever cheerful so that my readers will love me.

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