Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bouchercon, Day 3: Things that drive them nuts

Yesterday's Bouchercon 2010 panel sub-titled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" asked writers about hellish experiences they'd had on book tours and pet peeves in their own reading.

Martyn Waites' bête noire is the "the jazz detective," but only the one who listens to "real cool jazz" — Miles Davis or John Coltrane. "It's become such a bad cliché," Waites said. "`This makes them wounded but somehow interesting people.' No, it doesn't."

Karin Slaughter demurred thus when moderator Mark Billingham pleaded for a happy story: "All of my nice stories are tinged with personal horror."

And John Connolly bemoaned sneering in the crime-fiction community at literary fiction: "There's a kind of reverse snobbery coming into the discourse," he said, "and that's really stupid. That's going to set crime fiction back two decades."

What does that tell me about John Connolly? That the man probably tries to work hard to avoid formula in his writing.
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What are your pet peeves in crime fiction? What do you think of the panelists' pet peeves?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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21 Comments:

Blogger Kiwicraig said...

Interesting comment about the reverse snobbery re: literary fiction. I've been a little concerned about this sometimes myself - in that I don't want some of my pro-crime fiction comments to come across as anti-literary fiction, which I certainly don't intend them to be.

I have a bit of an issue with some people in the 'literary fiction community', for their attitude towards popular fiction, but not the literary fiction books or authors themselves.

It's a very slippery slope sometimes though, like when you support a sport or sports team etc (or other endeavours or interests), and you think it deserves more credit/attention, and aren't really deriding the other sport or team or artist or film or interest etc, but it can come across that way. It's a fine line to tread.

October 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Connolly's comments on their own could form the basis for a panel. I'd like to ask him in what ways he thinks reverse snobbery could hold crime fiction back. I'd like to ask him for examples of reverse snobbery. And I'd be curious about whether he catches flak in the crime fiction world for veering from conventional crime writing in some of his work.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I wouldn't have thought of Connolly as a particularly literary writer, but I like his attitude. Reflexive distaste for an entire genre is unhelpful no matter what you write.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And the question is complicated by the fact that no one can define literary fiction adequately.

Connolly did imply a negative definition when he said that crime writers or genre writers (I forget which term he used) have formulas to fall back on.

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Pet peeves in crime fiction:

Too much gratuitous violence, rather than good writing
Coincidences or sudden appearance of someone who can save a life out of the blue, or earthquakes right on time to save lives, claim the villain or his/her weapon
Loose ends that aren't explained
A conclusion as to whodunnit which the reader can't figure out, because the writer and protagonist have information the reader doesn't have

Yes, snobbery about "crime or genre fiction," over "literary fiction," is annoying.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

My own pet peeves are: hard drinking - the drunk private eye. No thanks. I also am not fond of stories featuring drugs or gangs.
I also do NOT read 'happy hitman' books.

As far as genre making faces at the literary contingent and vice versa. I have always been of the opinion that there are only two types of books: good books or bad books.

I know it's simplistic, but it works for me - most of the time.

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

The Good, Bad and the Ugly was one of the most entertaining panel discussions I went to.

Mark Billingham is a riot, Denise Mina was very funny too, they all are.

They all seem to share a great attitude when it comes to no shows at a book signing or being mistaken for another author.

Susie

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Agree with all of Yvette's pet peeves, too. Don't like alcoholism, drugs, gangs, either and don't read "happy hitman" books.

I also don't like books written from the viewpoint of the psychopath, sociopath or other murderer, but I think that's a matter of taste, rather than a pet peeve.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, any particular examples that get on your nerves?

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, I wonder if Martyn Waites would agree with you about the drunken private eye. Drinking and music seem part of same private-eye cliche -- or at least they did until Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder, who suffers for his drinking and fights against it. More recently, Kern Bruen's Jack Taylor does something similar, as does Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole. Hole is a police officer rather than a PI, but he acts like a PI. (One panelist at Bouchercon said that the renegade-cop character is a PI for all practical purposes.)

Connolly might agree with you about good books and bad books. He was differentiating not between good and bad, but rather between books that adhere to conventions or formulas and those that don't. One can still write a fine crime book while adhering to (and playing with) conventions.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Susie, I agree with you about "The Good, the Bad and Ugly." The organizers chose just the right people for that panel. I knew Billingham was entertaining, but the others were pleasant surprises (well, I'd known Denise Mina was funny ever since I saw and heard her being interviewed by Val McDermid immediately before this panel.)

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I also don't like books written from the viewpoint of the psychopath, sociopath or other murderer.

Kathy, a lot of readers seem to be turning against those kinds of books. They were the objects of a humorously derogatory comment or two from the stages of Bouchercon.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

I'm with Kathy. I NEVER want to know what a psychopath is thinking. (I mean, HE'S A PSYCHOPATH!) This is one of the things that turned me off Thomas Perry's stand-alones, though I still love his Jane Whitefield books. I can count on one hand the books I've finished and enjoyed where I was made privy to a psycho's ramblings.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, an author who puts us in a psychopath's head is probably taking a chance, since quite a number of people have turned against that particular device. Perhaps the device has run its brief course, and will now serve only as satire and the object of eye-rolling and mockery. But I leave open the possibility that some writer could come up with a psycho whose inner voice is compelling and original.

Declan Hughes gives a few chapters to the killer's thoughts in City of Lost Girls. They were not my favorite parts of this superb book.

The killer in Ken Bruen's Calibre gets a few chapters, too, but the chapters are so funny and so original that he's an exception to the rule that says a "Keep Out" sign ought to be posted on the minds of serial killers. How original is Brien's killer? He murders people who show bad manners.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

Well, there are ALWAYS exceptions.
Robert Parker did a book in his Spenser series a few years ago, the title was something or other about, I think, a rose. He had a few chapters from the pyscho killer's point of view that turned out, in the end - because of the specific end, to be quite moving.

Michael Connelly's best book, (to my mind) is THE POET (second best: TRUNK MUSIC, third best: ECHO PARK) and if I'm remembering correctly, the thoughts of the killer were well enough done in THE POET. The story didn't suffer from this device.

Another prime example where this worked brilliantly is Robert Crais' under-appreciated classic, L.A. REQUIEM. Wow, did it work well in Crais' hands.

But generally I'm not one for multiple viewpoints anyway. When viewpoints change, my eyes role to heaven. I mean, it's got to be well done. That's ALL I ask.

Thanks for the correction on the Linda Barnes book. I ALWAYS think Carlotta lives in Chicago. Can't disabuse myself of the notion. Brain lock. ;)

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Multiple points of view can build suspense in crime stories meant to have thriller elements. Roger Smith did this (and many other things) well in Wake Up Dead.

October 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I agree with Yvette again wholeheartedly on this "No psychopath, no sociopath" point of view reading.

I read one book by Tess Gerritsen which alternated point of view with a psychopath and a woman doctor/survivor and I finished it and never picked up one of her books again.

I read one book by Ruth Rendell which also had a psychopath as one character but I never read any of hers again, except Inspector Wexford books. It wasn't bad but I'm not interested.

And I read another by a Dutch woman writer which alternated points of view and I skipped the psychopath's entirely and still didn't like it.

Interesting these are women writers, although I usually find women writers are okay on this score.

If I'm in a bookstore, I'll bypass books like this altogether, no matter who writes them.

I like Michael Connelly, but have not read those suggested. I read "The Scarecrow," which is good but speed-read my way through the killer's chapters, even skipping a bit.

I'm reading "Dog Tags," by David Rosenfelt, which is hilarious, and even he has a bit written from the killer's point of view, but it's very little relative to the whole book, and it doesn't cast a pall over the story. It's minimal. The wit outweighs the
evil by 10 to one.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

Wit, Kathy. How important is 'wit' in a mystery and/or thriller? To my mind it is enormously important. I will forgive a multitude of sins if there is WIT!
There MUST BE WIT!

I'm reading the latest Bryant and May offering from Christopher Fowler (BRYANT AND MAY OFF THE RAILS), one of my favorite series.
Fowler is using the sociopath p.o.v. but I am tolerating it because the rest of the book is so delightful. This is such an unique series, but it must be read in order in my view. Yeah, Kathy I'm familiar with 'skimming' HA! But you know, a writer should not MAKE ME HAVE TO SKIM. You know what Elmore Leonard says: a good writer leaves out the stuff people don't want to read. Or words to that effect.

October 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes. I agree with Yvette yet again.

Wit is very important and I also forgive a lot if there is wit. But I do like to laugh out loud while I'm reading or at least smile.

Try David Rosenfelt's "Dog Tags," which is so hilarious.

There are many series which I read for the wit, but it has to be good, not ridiculous.

I don't know Fowler's series but I will try it.

Skimming...hmmm...I do sometimes do it, even with Stieg Larsson's TGWTDT as I had to skip some of the worst violence (and in the movie, too, which is even more graphic).

And I speed-read (my phrase) where I race through pages and don't concentrate. Yes, a good writer should not have long, boring descriptions or other writing which make the reader yawn, skip or speed read.

On the other hand, what would insomniacs do without it? It helps put people to sleep.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wit can cover up just about any literary sin, or at least make it easier to take, Yvette. It's especially enjoyable when unexpected, and wit, or at least humor, in a serial-killer story is certainly unexpected.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie and Bill James are three authors whose wit and humor can be all the more effective because deployed when unexpected -- before or after moments of violence, for instance.

October 20, 2010  

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