Coming out of the Crime Closet
I have recently had to defend the genre of crime writing as being important enough to be taken seriously in the world of literature. I find the idea absurd that as a genre, it has been sidelined as disposable fiction that is rated by ‘serious readers’ as formulaic and slightly seedy. In general I am uncomfortable with any kind of elitism and sadly; literary pretentiousness has just been added to my list.
Crime deals with every strata of society, it’s the punk of modern writing where there are no rules except that the product be tight and well crafted. A crime writer cannot get away with self indulgent commentary on the state of the human condition – we dissect, analyse and present it in its glorious and terrifying totality. I am an avid crime reader and can tell you that its writers are as diverse in their styles, themes and protagonists as any literary author.
I am coming out of the literary closet and proclaiming that crime writers take our writing and our readers seriously; we look for issues to explore as the backdrop to our criminal investigation and comment on the nuances of society deliberately as well as effectively. We work on our prose and characters diligently and are proud of the writing we produce. Is the violence sometimes gratuitous or titillating? Well, perhaps sometimes. In that case put down the book and find a novel more suited to your literary tastes but the world is a dark place and crime authors are not afraid of exploring its shadows.
Crime is harder than you think to write; it is not simply a plot device for a tortured detective and depraved villain to pin a puzzle upon; instead you delve into the origin and structure of evil and try to navigate it, just a little, for your readers. Does it glamourise or perpetuate violence in a world that is already shuddering under the weight of the fractured state of humankind? I doubt it, instead I think like all fiction it allows us to engage with the topics that terrify or interest us the most.
Is it great literature, probably not. But then I think people have the right to read Mills and Boons without the snickers and raised eyebrows. Crime at its best is great reading and often great writing and that’s good enough for me.