Sunday, 3 May 2015

I woke to the news of a birth and a death

and both of them in far distant Upover.
I am not likely to meet the baby. I am glad she arrived safely and I hope all other babies delivered that day also arrived safely. I also know that is unlikely.
The deceased? Yes, a writer. Ruth Rendell of course. I have read her work. 
She was one of those writers that you would look for each year. The Senior Cat referred to her as a "holiday reading writer". This was in no way meant to be disparaging. It meant that she was a writer he could relax with but still considered wrote well enough that the language was also enjoyable. He preferred her as Barbara Vine I suspect. I haven't asked. 
The problem was that she wrote crime novels. Crime novels? Who takes those seriously? I mean people read those for the story don't they? It isn't serious writing is it? You won't win the Booker or the Miles Franklin for a crime novel.
But, why not? A good crime novel can be every bit as rich and complex as any other novel. 
Rendell's Wexford is a complex character. Of course we can read him as an ordinary policeman leading an ordinary (for his occupation in literature) life. Read the books more carefully though and he is not ordinary. He's a man concerned about human relationships. 
I wonder what the media will have to say about Rendell? I haven't looked yet.
What will they have to say about Ian Rankin and Rebus? Or Elizabeth George and Lynley and Havers? Or... I could go on. 
But Rendell's death raises a serious question. Why is "crime writing" considered to be a less serious occupation than other types of writing?
Of course there are badly written crime novels. There are people who have produced long series of lightweight novels with cardboard characters. People will read them for their predictable, comfortable story lines. 
But there are many other badly written novels too. Walk into any library and there is row upon row of fiction. People read some of it but there are other books which are borrowed and never read - and even some which are never borrowed. There are books which get shelved in the charity shop that have not even been opened until the man who deals with them creaks them open and looks at the contents. He shrugs philosophically and says, "Well someone thought it was good enough to publish."
Really? He shows me and we wonder why the book was written and how anyone else felt it was good enough to publish.
"It's all about marketing," the former owner of our local bookshop told the Senior Cat last week. (She had turned up with a knitting problem and they were discussing the "50 shades of..." over the teapot.) Perhaps it is - but the book has to be written first, an agent has to take it on and then a publisher.
That is, I suspect, not true of most crime novels. They get read. It seems we like murder and mayhem. 

1 comment:

Judy Edmonds said...

Everything that you said!!!!