by Matt Lynn
There's an interesting debate going on over at The Bookseller. The reviewer Jessica Mann was reported as saying she was giving up reviewing the genre because she was fed up with "outpourings of sadistic misogyny" that now characterises so many crime thrillers - although, in fairness, Jessica points out out later on that she is only giving up on those kinds of books, not the entire category.
Still, it's a debate worth having, and one that authors should take seriously. At some point in the last decade, the crime genre seems to have transformed itself into a 'serial killer' genre. A lot of the poster campaigns you see for books these days appear to be designed to be as gruesome as possible, and may well be putting off as many people from the genre as they attract.
I don't have anything against violence in books myself - and I don't suppose that someone who has written a book called 'Death Force' is in any position to complain about it. It has always been a big part of the crime and thriller genre, and there are good reasons for that. We are all fascinated by death. And, of course, it is only life and death situations that really create the necessary drama and tension that writers are seeking to create.
There are two problems, however.
Much of the crime genre appears to have slipped into a kind of torture porn. The crimes get more and more horrific, much of it dircted against women and children. I'm not convinced that is either healthy or wise.
Next, it isn't really very realistic either. Unless I've missed something, this country has hardly any serial killlers. The US has a few more, but not that many. At yet the bookshelves are groaning with serial killer stories. They aren't reflecting the world around them.
I wouldn't want to dictate what people should write about. But I can't help feeling that Mann is onto something when she complains that the genre is disappearing into a ghetto which, while it may do something for a minority of readres, alienates the mainstream audience.