Friday, January 27, 2006

THE MYSTERY GENRE . . . GETTING RESPECT

There are some wonderful lists related to the mystery genre. A few include Tony Burton's Crime and Suspense www.crimeandsuspense.com, the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS) list shortmystery@yahoo.com , and of cource, the Dorothy L list at listserv@listserv.kent.edu.
There are many others, but these are a few I enjoy. The point of mentioning these lists is that frequently, there's heated discussion about mysteries and the genre not getting the respect it deserves in the hierarchy of what is considered literature.

Debate swirls around whether it's a matter of semantics, the style and/or quality of the writing, the worthiness or seriousness of the story itself, and even, on which publisher is backing the book. Some of the mystery writers I meet, feel that they are slightly second class, standing at a distance, apart from the literati.

I'm proud of being a mystery writer and I'm doing exactly what I wanted when setting out to write fiction. While I dabble in other genres, I enjoy the mystery. Perhaps that's because I write pretty much a traditional one, where in the end, "justice is served."

I read somewhere that the first mystery story, if you will, was written by Cicero. And on a taped seminar given by P.D. James, she said that a long time ago, mysteries were a kind of morality play. Not preaching, but helping a society to see where boundaries were and what lines should not be crossed or--there was a recompense (justice done).

As my teenage granddaughter might say, with a shrug, "What-ever!"

If the story resonates with one reader. If there is one nod of appreciation or smile when the reader finishes the last page and closes the book--then I'm happy.

My work's done as an author.

Yours in mystery and respect,

Pat Harrington

1 comment:

E.C. Morgan said...

To me, part of the appeal of mystery fiction -- and part of why I write it -- is it reflects real life.

Sure, things are different enough to serve the needs of fiction, but the heroes aren't always perfect -- they have problems like all of us do.

That, at least, is part of the reason I write it and enjoy reading it.