The Genre That Keeps On Living

I take some exception to the BBC’s headline (what, crime fiction is supposed to die? WTF?) but BBC News Magazine’s Megan Lane has a decent piece on new crime fiction trends, including the repackaging of Agatha Christie in paperback and graphic novel format:

“She’s an incredibly important author for us,” says
Julia Wisdom, HarperFiction’s publishing director in charge of crime
titles. “They are still very good stories and very clever. And she
translates beautifully into any language – the stories are just there,
they are not difficult to put across.”

Crime fiction in general is a strong source of sales
– five of the top 10 selling paperbacks are thriller titles; two are
literary chillers on the Richard and Judy reading list, two are by
perennial best-selling authors (Michael Crichton and Ian Rankin) and
The Last Testament is a chase mystery, a genre made popular again by
The da Vinci Code.

“We’ve also got Val McDermid in the hardback chart with
a psychological thriller – quite violent, a lot of forensic detail and
she’s been televised with Wire in the Blood, which always lifts sales,”
says Ms Wisdom. McDermid’s latest, Beneath the Bleeding, is one of six
thrillers in the hardback top 10. “These are very different books, and that’s the key to why
crime has endured – it’s so adaptable, it will never go stale.”

Also getting attention here is crime fiction in exotic locales, and Matt Rees expounds on his choice of a Palestinian protagonist and why he sees parallels between Palestinian society with the

times Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett wrote about in their early

detective stories set in Los Angeles and San Francisco:

“The cops are corrupt and the villains have a great deal
of confidence, which means that the detective has to overcome his own
flaws. That’s what makes detective fiction so attractive – people
always think there are a lot of problems with their society, and
there’s a desire to have a character that can put that right.
Crime fiction can show you something about a society and
a character that’s incredibly deep, whereas so-called literary fiction
is about linguistic pyrotechnics. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of
this type of writing.