Have you noticed that in 2018 the fiction section of your local bookshop is full to bursting with detective novels? Almost every other book is about a P.I Whogivesa or a D.I Whatsit.
I went on holiday last year and thought I’d pick up some reading at the airport. Mistake. It’s a tiny airport bookstore, so I’m not exactly expecting the library of Alexandria. But damn near every fiction book was in the crime genre. If you didn’t want crime you were out of luck. Best accept you’ll be doing Sudoku for the next three hours.
Some of these bloody books are even in disguise. Not content with taking up large section of the shelf, crime-fiction is masquerading as horror-fiction. They have titles like “Pale Ghost” and a book cover featuring an illustration of a demon, then you flip to the blurb and get:
Former homicide detective Quincy Jones has made a lot of mistakes in his career. Now some of these mistakes are coming back to haunt his retirement. Can this disillusioned old cop solve a case that he thought he buried years ago, or will his demons finally destroy him?
Get out of here. That is not cool. You tricked me with your tricky marketing. Bad writer. If crime-fiction is so hot why pretend to be something else?
I’m being sulky. I don’t want to bash the writers knocking these things out. I know they’re not easy to write. Essentially having to work backwards from the end and sprinkle in all sorts of red-herrings along the way. Like baking a cake with only a picture as a frame of reference, and you have to trick people into thinking you made it with a toaster at some point.
People have tried to explain the surge in popularity with everything from the stressful times we live in, to the accessibility of Poirot on Netflix.
I don’t really care how the genre got so popular. The only important thing now is sorting out a plan on how to take it down.
Here’s what I’m thinking: we increase actual crime rates. Murder your neighbours, set fire to your communities, generally just go run amok. Only when the real world starts looking like it does in The Purge will people stop turning to crime-fiction for escapism.
Drastic plan? Maybe—but it’s the best one I’ve got.
While I work on that, I understand the wheel is going to keep turning. So. If you really do feel the need to add another detective book to the pile, please, try and mix it up a bit.
There’s been plenty of material out there about various cliches in this genre that should be avoided, but I’ve gone one step further and offered some creative alternatives:
1.) Instead of having your detective addicted to drugs or booze…make him fat. He’s a heifer that buries his angst in goodies. You’ll get some George R.R. Martin-level food description in and it’ll make the chase scenes way more interesting.
2.) Instead of a retired detective sulking over that one case he just couldn’t solve…make him miss it. What if wife made him retire. Maybe playing charades with the neighbours is driving him mad and he longs for the days of being knee deep in blood.
3.) Instead of having your detective be a genius Sherlock type…make him bad at his job. Maybe his uncle is the Chief of Police and nepotism prevailed. Detecting is hard. Be brave enough to have him rub his temples and admit he is really goddamn confused.
Those are my tips. You have about a month or two to use them before this blog blows-up and there is chaos in the streets and variety in our bookshops.