On the group blog I am part of, Type M for Murder, we often discuss the rather poor reputation mystery or crime writing has in comparison to so-called literary novels. The Americans use the label mystery books, sometimes even, shudder, murder mystery, and in Britain they say crime fiction. I vastly prefer the word crime, because I believe that a good crime novel need not be about a murder, and often not even a mystery. It is, in my definition, a book about a crime, or the threat of a crime, and the consequences thereof.
Anyway, in Canada in particular crime novels are seen as second rate. The wonderful writer William Deverell recently wrote in the National Post about our National Snobbishness Disorder, which Rick Blechta linked to at Type M. My friend and blog-mate Charles Benoit replied that he didn’t care what anyone called his books as long as they call them ‘bestselling’.
It’s a matter of respect I believe. In Canada, because of this ‘disorder’ it is hard for crime writers to get things such as writer-in-residence positions or grants. We’re not seen as writers of serious fiction.
Last week on the CBC radio programme, the Sunday Edition, I heard a writer and teacher by the name of Lorna Crozier confess that on Sundays she indulges in books that are “not good for her”. Mystery novels in general and the works of Peter Robinson in particular. Michael Enright, the host, appeared to agree, calling them “bad books”. Presumably bad, in the sense of a naughty indulgence.
I took offense and wrote a strongly-worded letter to the programme. I won’t reproduce the letter here, sufficient to see we’ve discussed these points at Type M many times. (Look under the tag Genre Fiction) This week they read my letter on the air and Michael even said, “I apologize to Vicki Delany”.
Yeah, I felt as if I’d scored one for the good guys.