Saturday, September 23, 2023

Crime writers - trials and tribulations, misnomers and oxymorons

 This week my doctor, trying to find out why I wasn't feeling quite the thing, discovered that my previously normal blood pressure had suddenly gone through the roof. The only other time this had happened wasn't when I was pregnant - four times, you may recall - but when, at the behest of my publisher of the time, I was attempting to write an erotic romance. I told her I couldn't do it, I didn't do romance at all, let alone the erotic stuff, but she was sure I could to enhance her successful erotic imprint. I started getting migraines. Bad ones. And guess what? High blood pressure. I didn't write the book.

This time, doctor and I concluded that the mix of medication I'm on didn't help and I was particularly stressed. More medication promised. Well, I'm not trying to write an erotic romance this time, but I am trying to write Libby Sarjeant Mystery number 26, to which I have previously referred in this blog. So far it has had two completely different incarnations and a third combining the two, and is proving the most difficult I've ever done. So - a lot of stress, especially as the damn thing's due to be delivered in December. 

And then, this morning I read a post on the BBC Culture website talking about - and to - Richard Osman and Cosy crime. I refuse to put the link here, as I am incensed. According to this journalist, Osman has "revived" the genre, which, according to him, had been virtually moribund since Agatha Christie. This shows an appalling lack of research, and I cannot do better then to quote two opinions from readers, one of whom is a journalist himself. 

Suzanne Barton said: I like what some of the people he talks about are saying about ‘cosy’ being a misnomer but he should definitely have spoken to some of the more experienced writers, rather than just the ‘celebrities’. The genre is not experiencing a ‘comeback’, it has always been there. There was a ‘golden age’ but Ngaio Marsh wrote up until the 70’s and was succeeded by the likes of Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, PD James and yourself so crime writing has been around constantly since the 1920’s and even before (Wilkie Collins, GK Chesterton)

In my opinion yours are some of the best of the current detective novels! I hope that people will read this sort of article but perhaps use it as a springboard to investigate what else is out there and realise that there are lots of hardworking, experienced writers who write brilliant novels, mostly far more developed and character driven than the celebrities turned writer!

And Nick Campbell wrote: I’m just amazed that journalists can be so blind to the phenomenon of celebrity writers. Truly this is so patronising toward both authors and readers. And half his article is just regurgitating another journalist’s article from the Torygraph. Lazy nonsense. It’s funny because the celebrity thing has done the rounds in children’s books for years without being properly examined and here we are again. And it’s not about the quality of those specific books, it’s just the laziness and banality when it comes to their being covered by journalists (and I include the BBC).

I don't think I can add anything better, do you? Thank you, Suzanne and Nick, for giving me permission to quote you.

Next - reviews. Now, I've had some lovely reviews, on and off Amazon, for the latest epic, many of which praise me (she said modestly) for my inclusion of current issues plaguing society of today. But one, although saying that she/he likes my books and has all of them, criticises me for the same thing, emphasising the fact that they are - and should remain - "cosy". The review finishes: 'In the next book, please Ms Cookman, no more messages?'

That floored me. The message referred to is, indirectly, the motive for the murder, and murder is not "Cosy". Every murder has a motive, and they are all all deeply unpleasant, whether personal or society-wide. They are certainly not "Cosy". The epithet has a lot to answer for. I started writing my books before the word migrated here from the USA - I just wrote "murder mysteries". A genre which, according to at least two well respected agents at the time, one of whom became a friend much later on, was in complete decline. It wasn't. I was already reading books written in the 80s and 90s, some of whose authors are mentioned by Suzanne, above, and now, of course, there are thousands - and that isn't an exaggeration. This is why reviews and ratings on Amazon are so important, even if we deplore the fact. It all adds to the visibility of the books, which, hopefully means people buy them and I can eat for another few months. Slight deviation from the main theme, here, sorry.

In conclusion, I just wish the term "Cosy" could be banned. Not just as a description of murder mysteries, where it is a complete oxymoron, but from the language. Yes, it is bloody "twee", but our books aren't. Even Osman himself said that in an interview I heard on my favourite radio station - not BBC, incidentally. And Osman hasn't "revived" the genre, it was alive and well before he dived in, with his original seven figure advance. If anything, he has overshadowed us, the rest of those hard working authors who write for a living and for the love of the books.

1 comment:

April Taylor said...

In which universe is any illegal taking of another’s life cosy? Would someone who obviously knows more than I - only a few published books under my belt - explain, please?

Because what they are basically saying is that it can be all snuggly and warm to kill someone. Seriously?

Some people need to get a grip.