Australian crime novelists and humor
I can't think of any American counterparts off the top of my head, not the excellent and sometimes hysterical Janet Evanovich; her Stephanie Plum novels seem more like picaresque romance novels to me -- comedies that happen to have something to do with crime, as opposed to crime novels written with humor. And not Parnell Hall. I tried one of his novels, but the yuk-yuk, aren't-I-droll? first chapter left me cold.
Among British crime writers, Ian Rankin can write with wit and sly humor in a short story, but he turns grim and weighty when it comes to novels. Bill James can be howlingly funny, but his are not primarily humorous novels. The Long Firm? Well, maybe. And cozies and academic mysteries, with their built-in drolleries, don't count. I'm talking about a full-bore, hard-boiled, action-packed detective story that just happens to be funny from beginning to end.
I'm not the first to speculate about American unease over humorous crime writing. At least one critic wrote that the 1940s writer Norbert Davis was cursed with a sense of humor. That, the critic said, may have accounted for the relative scarcity of his publications in Black Mask, the premier pulp magazine of the time -- just six stories, if I recall correctly.
I'd be especially interested in having Australian readers weigh in on this. I'm not sure Australians are naturally funnier than anyone else. But they certainly seem more willing to stretch that humor out over a few hundred pages. Or maybe Australian readers are responsible for this state of affairs. God bless them for being more willing than readers elsewhere to accept humorous crime novels!
© Peter Rozovsky 2006
humorous crime fiction
Australian crime fiction