Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, Part 4: Wisconsin cozy

No one knows exactly what noir is, but everyone wants to be it. No one knows exactly what cozies are, but even authors who write them shy away from the term.

One panel at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego comprised writers whose work fits comfortably under the cozy umbrella, yet when the panel's moderator brought the subject up, he asked, "What about the c-word?" The ensuing discussion revealed that matters could be worse. In Canada, someone said, such books, low on graphic violence and usually with female amateur sleuths as the protagonist, are called fluffies.

On a 1-10 scale, cozy to noir, my own crime reading probably falls between 7 and 9. But I spent a good part of Bouchercon 2009 annoying people with my suggestions for clever titles, so I have a soft spot for the author of books such as Hail to the Chef and State of the Onion.

[Click here for one definition of a cozy mystery, here for Ruth Dudley Edwards' discussion of why the term is problematic — and almost uniquely American — and here for my own previous discussions of this question (scroll down).]

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger Maxine said...

There was a hilarious "coxy" panel at Harrogate crime writing festival last year (2008) which featured Colin Cotterill, Jill Paton Walsh, M C Beaton and I am afraid I forget the fourth. None of them were too happy at the term either. Colin Cotterill was so funny - the panel was on the last day so he had plenty of time during the festival to bend everyone's ear about it and work up a brilliant routine, which started out with him making his appearance on the platform with a tea cosy on his head. Although I don't like "cosies" (and would not define Cotterill's series as "cosy" any more than he does), it was a fablulous and very popular panel.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Maxine said...

Sorry, typo in first use of "cozy" in my comment above.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You mean "coxy" was not a compromise between the British and American spellings?

Colin Cotterill is a good example of why the term is so problematic. Hard-boiled, he's not, and his humor is decidedly gentle. But cozy? Nope. I was surprised, too, to find Ruth Dudley Edwards placing her own mysteries, with some bemusement, in "the cosy league," and the one book of L.C. Tyler's that I've read has too angst-ridden a protagonist to be quite the comic cozy tale that Tyler says he writes.

I don't know the history of the term. Perhaps it arose as reaction to one or another harder-edged branch of crime writing. Maybe it had a restricted meaning but then came to be applied to any non-hard-boiled crime fiction. Maybe it's more a marketing term than anything else.

November 18, 2009  
Blogger Maddy said...

Yes, I was flummoxed by the definition - American, but crossing the pond.

July 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Do you mean you're American but crossing the pond, or the term cozy is American but crossing the pond?

I don't like the term (which is not the same as saying I don't like the books to which the term is applied).

July 14, 2012  

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