Rhys from sunny Arizona where it looks as if we'll be spending our winters from now on. About to purchase a condo here.
Anyway, today I'm going to write about one of my pet peeves: it started when one of my friends, Laura Lippman won a Quill award for fiction. The write up in the paper listed other writers as "novelists" and Laura as a "mystery writer."
The same distinction in Barnes and Nobel always makes me grit my teeth. There is fiction and literature along the wall, and then Mystery on a separate shelf. i don't mind the mystery novels being separated, because obviously it makes it easier for fans to buy the books, but the terminology makes it clear we are not, and never will be, literature.
I've been at too many parties at which people ask ,"So are you still writing those little books?" or even worse, "This is Rhys. She writes charming little books."
The word little is supposed to put me in my place.
Why should a book be less because it involves a crime? A murder and its subsequent disruption of a community is surely one of the great stories of a society. Think Cain and Abel, or Oedipus. Obviously within the genre there are light and slight books meant to be read for entertainment only and not really delving into the human condition. But on the other hand there are so called mystery novels being written that deserve the label of great literature. I thought Denis Lehane's Mystic River fitted that category. Also one of my all time favorite books, Reginald Hill's On Beulah Height. Both were deep, multi layered novels with characters that will stay with me forever.
I don't claim to be writing the next War and Peace, but I do strive to write good, seamless prose and real characters. Because I have a body among them does not make me less than a so-called literary novel in which there is precious little plot and characters waffle on about their aspirations and disappointments for 500 pags on a beach in Maine.
I think if snobby readers of literary fiction gave more mysteries a chance, they'd be pleasantly surprised.