Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Joy of Dead Authors

by Catriona.

Classics or contemporaries?

There's a huge difference between the two when you're a crimewriter yourself. A contemporary novel might be by a friend, in which case you open it, pre-emptively squirming in case you don't like it and it shows on your face on next meeting.

Or maybe you've said you'll blurb it and then you're really stuck if you don't like it. What do you do? Lie? Say something ambiguous and lukewarm -"fans will be delighted ..."? Pretend some calamity befell you and prevented you from reading it at all? But then what if some calamity really did?

Me, earlier this year, when I had promised to read a book
and couldn't. Because of the Vicodin.
Really all I ever want to say when a pal writes a book I love is "Phew!"

But, even though the mystery community is a warm one, we don't all know each other. Sometimes you pick up a new crime novel by an author you've never heard of. And it's great. And so you go to see if there are any more. And there are twenty five and you want to die. While you're recovering, Stephen King, Harlan Coben, Lisa Scottoline and Ann Cleeves all publish a new one and they're great too and you wonder what the point of your own wretched scribbling is. To take your mind off your woes, you read an article about the rich seam of crimewriting in some faraway land, that's just about to be translated into English for the first time, and then a reliably wonderful series writer produces a standalone that blows your socks off coughKentKruegercough and you ask yourself why you even bother then woops! Another Stephen King. (And guess who my favourite contemporary non-crime fiction author is? Joyce Carol Oates. Big help.)

But with the classics, you know where you are. Dorothy L Sayers wrote twelve. Raymond Chandler wrote seven. Agatha Christie wrote well yes sixty six, but the thing is she won't write another sixty six while you're reading. It's just so much more restful to read books by authors at rest.

In conclusion, here is an entirely gratuitous picture of the new bookshelves my father has just made for my office (because Cathy started it yesterday). Note the extra capacity. It won't last long but it won't be Sayers, Christie or Chandler who wreck it.
Thanks, Dad.


Kristopher said...

There is something to be said for having a finite number of books by an author - even one you love. It's nice to know there is an end and it doesn't mean you love said author any less, it just means that it can be over-whelming to see new books coming out from your favorites.

Part of the problem with contemporary series is that it really can dominate your reading. Let's say on a conservative end, you typically read 24 books a year, if you follow and enjoy 10 series where new books appear every year, you have already allocated almost half of your reading allotment before the year has even begun.

Thankfully, I read a whole lot more than that, but I also follow a whole lot more series. Yes, there are worse problems to have, but I do love it when a stand-alone comes along coughAsSheLeftItcough - until said author follows it up with more and more stand-alones that get better and better. Will the madness ever end? I certainly hope not!

Catriona McPherson said...

Ha! Yes indeed - there are many worse problems to have but if you're a talented panicker . . .

Cathy Ace said...
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Cathy Ace said...
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Cathy Ace said...

Just wanted to drop by and say I love the bookshelves. This simple intention led to three comments, two of which had to be deleted. It would appear that I am incapable of forming cogent sentences today. Ack!