The hotness and notness of the mystery genre

Every year at around this time Library Journal does its version of the “State of the Genre” cover story, and the newest edition, penned by LJ Fiction book review editor Wilda Williams, fulfills that aim on many fronts. It touches on many of my own personal bailiwicks, including the growing number of translated crime novels, how paranormal-tinged mysteries are oh-so-hot at the moment, and the increased appetite for noir (though Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai acknowledges that the pendulum will likely swing towards the traditional at some point, because it was only 20 years ago that noir and hardboiled books couldn’t sell.) There are also brief Q&As with Martyn Waites, Casey Daniels and Louise Penny, and a brief mention of this here blog.

Especially interesting was the brief discussion of the difficulties of translating books properly, to get the original author’s voice down as best they could:

Finding translators can be a stumbling block for American

publishers. Acknowledging her lack of foreign-language skills, Hruska

recalls receiving a proposal about an Icelandic detective. “I was

stumped. I don’t know anyone who reads Icelandic.”

On the other hand, Kodansha America, the U.S. branch of the Japanese

publisher, prides itself on the quality of its translations. “We choose

our translators very carefully,” says marketing and sales director

Laura Shatzkin. In February 2007, Kodansha will launch Asa Nonami’s The Hunter, whose protagonist is a former motorbike patrolwoman–turned–detective. Like other successful Kodansha titles (Natsuo Kirino’s Out, the first Japanese novel to be nominated for an Edgar Award, and Miyuki Miyabi’s Shadow Family), this is a dark, violent crime novel penned by a popular female author.

Why are Japanese women writing noir fiction, the preserve of mainly

male writers? “There is a revolution going on in Japan, and these books

represent that,” says Shatzkin. “These authors write about angry female

characters who act in ways that go against the Madame Butterfly

stereotype of the submissive Japanese woman.”

Bingo. Maybe that’s why I love to read these books so damn much.