Amazon just sent me a list of the best mysteries and thrillers of the year so far. And I read it with a growing sense of annoyance. They were ALL dark, violent and mostly by men. I.e the typical list of nominees for the Edgar award.
So can somebody tell me why darkness and violence is somehow equated with higher quality? And why the traditional mystery is now called cozy and we less violent mystery writers are given a condescending pat on the head? After all the most successful writer of all times--Dame Agatha herself--wrote exactly what I write: a good story, among ordinary people, with no excessive guts or gore. And there are plenty of terrific writers still following in Agatha Christie's footsteps: Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron, Nancy Picard, Carolyn Hart, Deborah Crombie to name a few. (and you'll notice they are all women).
These writers show us the human condition at its frailest--when relationships and communities are shattered by a murder. They explore the depths of character. They take us somewhere with vividness of setting. Who has not shivered when reading Louise Penny's novels set in wintertime Quebec? Or smelled the fresh scent of the great plains in Nancy Pickard's Kansas?
These writers create a world, people it with real people and make us care about them. We so called cozy writers write about people you know, people who could be your next door neighbor, and thus when murder strikes on an ordinary street it is all the more shocking. If we wrote about loners and alcoholics, drug runners and CIA operatives then murder would be commonplace. Life would be cheap.
For us life is precious and it is devastating when it is wasted.
It seems that too many people think that what is wanted today is fast pace, lots of explosions, people dying on every page in horrid ways--in other words A VIDEO GAME!
But I can tell from the number of people who check out my books from libraries, who write me lovely fan letters and who put me on the New York Times bestseller list this year that many people long for well crafted books, decent people, interesting settings and a good chuckle sometimes too.
I'd love to hear your comments on the cozy versus noir debate. Please chime in.