Saturday, August 25, 2012

Do I really write crime?

I have had cause, recently, to read some of my amazon reviews. This is a strange process, as amazon haven't linked them all up, so instead of seeing all the print reviews on the Kindle site, you know "This review is from a different edition of this book", mine are all separate. Anyway, while checking this, I discovered all these nasty reviews, complaining about how much time Libby and her mates spend eating and drinking. Someone with no life had actually bothered to count how many cups of tea etc had been made/consumed. Now, why? If she was so incensed (I'm assuming it was a she) by this style and the behaviour of my characters, why did she bother a)to read it all and b) to count the things?

I have already commented about the free download system, and the license it gives to the generally miserable to "buy" and comment on books they would normally never read, but this was following on an email from someone who tried my book and "had to get used to the style". She finishes up saying she's now hooked on the series and - ahem - thought she'd got over being hooked on soaps!

I know my style is chatty, but it got me to thinking, perhaps I don't actually write proper crime. Perhaps people buy my books expecting murders and gore and car chases? No, I didn't think so either, and this is why I label my books "Mystery" rather than crime. And do people really mind about Libby's tea and wine consumption? At least I don't talk about her obsession with her weight, or Big Pants.

Anyway, I just wondered if I was misleading readers. Perhaps I should suggest to my publishers that we start renaming the series as "Mystery" rather "Murder". You know, like "Mystery of the Pantomime Cat" and the "Mystery of the Bad Reviewer". Now, I quite like the sound of that...

If you've read this far, here's a little bit of promo for my son Leo, whose first novel Welome the Pigz is now available on amazon, Do give it a try. (Yes, all right, I'm a pushy Mum.)

12 comments:

DW96 said...

My characters are the same, Lesley, (as I'm sure you know). They spend as much time ribbing and arguing with each other, or shopping and disco-dancing, as they do cracking the murder. And you know, they never actually produce proof. Only overwhelming evidence.

For me, it's part of the pleasure of reading cosy mysteries.

Frances said...

Hi Lesley, it's never occurred to me that Libby eats and drinks to excess; perhaps that says something about me - come home, put the kettle on, think about the next meal!

Seriously though, I like the action in books to be contextualised. If the characters in a mystery/murder/crime novel are discussing the investigation, I want to know if they're sitting by the fire, standing in the doorway, drinking tea or whatever - perhaps this is because I think almost entirely in pictures.

My bete noir is inconsistency, and I sometimes think that I'm sick when I turn back 3 chapters to check. I haven't caught Libby out yet, you'll be pleased to know! As you say, someone who counts cups of tea REALLY needs to get a life

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, both. Frances, you're a regular reader, not to mention contributor, so I wouldn't expect it to upset you. David, you and I both write non-gory crime which is as much about the characters as the crime, and I think it's people expecting straightforward action/interrogation that don't like it.

Oh, yes, Frances, I think entirely in pictures, too. Which is probably why I write as I do, describing the scene as I see it. Tea and all.

Jamie said...

Hi Lesley
I am a relative newcomer to Libby & co, having read Steeple Martin and now 6 chapters into Murder at the Laurels.
In the interests of honesty I guess I should say that I did find parts of the first book a bit slow and heavy going. But I have found that with several first books at the start of a series, (Agatha Raisin, Mitchell & Markby and Cotswold mysteries are examples), from which I have gone on and read more. And I saw more than enough promise in MiSM to start book two and am pleased I did.
Regarding the moron that decided to count the cups of tea, he's posted the exact same review for Murder at the Laurels, so either (s)he is reading them or is just an idiot. Yes she does consume a few cups of tea per book, but then that's a very English thing to do and is part of Libby's character.
Regarding the mystery/murder debate, I think you're right in that you don't write crime - I think of 'crime' books as gory, serial killer 'thrillers' where the killer could be anyone in a city, that the reader may not even meet until the end. I think of 'mystery of the...' books being aimed at younger readers (famous five/nancy drew etc). I think you should stick with Murder at... as ultimately there are murders in them.
Sorry for rattling on, I will end with saying that I have enjoyed the 1 and a bit Libby Sarjeant books I have read so far, and am sure I will continue to enjoy the rest of the series.

Clare Holden said...

Hi, Lesley I am a massive fan of your books and I love Libby and Fran. Don't let negative reviews get you down. Your books are a slice of heaven in paperback!!!!

Clare

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you, Jamie and Clare. And Clare - I need to use that line. What a wonderful thing to say! If you would like to go on to my newsletter mailing list, go over to my website and click on the link.

Thank you again.

Melissa Sandoval said...

Hi Lesley,
I think that such a criticism is just silly. I read a large number of books from many genres, including more hardcore "crime" books (for example, I am a big fan of Denise Mina's novels).
It was very obvious to me just by reading the description of the first Libby Serjeant book that it would be less focused on the crimes themselves, and more focused on the lives of the characters and the process of discovery. I find the characters delightful, and the backstories and historical tie-ins fascinating. I have no problem with the eating and drinking--sleuths need sustenance, too! And I enjoy their visits; it's almost as though I'm visiting with them.
My only difficulties have been, as am American Midwesterner, stopping to look what an Aga or a Rayburn or a "jacket potato" (we call them "baked potatoes") are, and various other unfamiliar terms. But those things have only increased my vocabulary. ;) I have loved becoming acquainted with village life by the English seaside. Keep up the good work!

Lesley Cookman said...

I'm so pleased I'm at last reaching the other side of the Atlantic, Melissa! The Libby books are quintessentially English, so no wonder some of the words are unfamiliar. I read some American cosies, so I've got used to different terms, too, and, of course, the different spellings.

Keep reading, and if you'd like to keep up with Libby and what I'm doing there's a newsletter link on my website.

Lesley Cookman said...

Signing in

Helen said...

Hi Lesley

It is exactly the meals and cups of tea I like. I don't want blood and gore. I am almost 70 and have had my years of reading warts and all books. Now i want and enjoy gentle. I also want British. This Aussie has been reading for over 65 years and knows what she likes. You are a recent discovery of mine. I read mostly on my ipad these days as it is not as heavy to carry every where I go. So I have both large books and my light reads on it.

I cannot understand some people who pick a book apart. Fair enough if they are doing a review or studying the book for educational purposes. But otherwise? These people need to learn to read for the pleasure books provide.

And yes. I am reading books to pick apart but that is because I am dong a university degree, Bachelor of Theology, and I don't have to agree with every historian.

Helen said...

Hi Lesley

It is exactly the meals and cups of tea I like. I don't want blood and gore. I am almost 70 and have had my years of reading warts and all books. Now i want and enjoy gentle. I also want British. This Aussie has been reading for over 65 years and knows what she likes. You are a recent discovery of mine. I read mostly on my ipad these days as it is not as heavy to carry every where I go. So I have both large books and my light reads on it.

I cannot understand some people who pick a book apart. Fair enough if they are doing a review or studying the book for educational purposes. But otherwise? These people need to learn to read for the pleasure books provide.

And yes. I am reading books to pick apart but that is because I am dong a university degree, Bachelor of Theology, and I don't have to agree with every historian.

Helen said...

It is exactly the meals and cups of tea I like. I don't want blood and gore. I am almost 70 and have had my years of reading warts and all books. Now i want and enjoy gentle. I also want British. This Aussie has been reading for over 65 years and knows what she likes. You are a recent discovery of mine. I read mostly on my ipad these days as it is not as heavy to carry every where I go. So I have both large books and my light reads on it. I cannot understand some people who pick a book apart. Fair enough if they are doing a review or studying the book for educational purposes. But otherwise? These people need to learn to read for the pleasure books provide. And yes. I am reading books to pick apart but that is because I am dong a university degree, Bachelor of Theology, and I don't have to agree with every historian.