GUEST POST: What is Crime Fiction by LEIGH RUSSELL

leigh_russell Name: LEIGH RUSSELL

Author of: COLD SACRIFICE (2013)
                 RACE TO DEATH (2014)

On the web:

On Twitter: @LeighRussell

Readers in the UK know me as an author of crime fiction, while for readers in the US I write murder mysteries. All the labels, classifications, categories and subcategories, are very confusing. Should I introduce myself as an author of murder mysteries or crime thrillers? detective novels or whodunnits? Do I write police procedurals or psychological thrillers? Like most crime novels, my books are a combination of all the subdivisions of the crime genre, all thrown into the melting pot: take one dark psyche, mix with a generous dollop of suspense, lace with mystery, throw in a detective, season with thrills, add a dash of police procedure, and leave to marinate.

RACE TO DEATH - Leigh RussellWhat interests me is the wider question that lies beyond these specific categories. Why are some books classified as crime, when so many others are not identified with the genre. The division between crime writing and literary writing is so arbitrary. This was highlighted for me during the course of this blog tour, when I was asked to describe my ten favourite books.

‘Funny that none of these are crime fiction,’ my publicist responded.

At first I agreed, but looking at my list again, I wasn’t so sure. From Hamlet, with its eight murders including fratricide, and Macbeth with at least ten murders including regicide and infanticide, right up to The Kite Runner with its murder, paedophilia and genocide, almost all of the ten books on my list revolve around, or at least include, one or more serious crimes.

‘Funny that none of these are considered crime fiction,’ I replied.

This arbitrary division between the detective novel and literature is by no means peculiar to the crime genre. Other genres, like romance and sci-fi, are similarly regarded as somehow less worthy than literary novels like Wuthering Heights – no, sorry, that’s a romance, or Frankenstein – oh no, that’s sci-fi.

So should I introduce myself as a genre author at all? Perhaps I should just say that I make a living from killing people. I might be mistaken for a hitman, or a modern day James Bond! That could work – if you ignore the fact that I’m well past my prime, have never held a real gun, and would prefer to miss a bus rather have to run for it (I can’t remember the last time I actually ran… ) Admittedly it’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but I do write fiction. So there you have it, what I do for a living. I write fiction. Or is it literature? or novels? or books?

Perhaps I should stick with telling people I write crime fiction… or murder mysteries…

3 thoughts on “GUEST POST: What is Crime Fiction by LEIGH RUSSELL

  1. This reminds me of something that I have heard David Annandale talk about recently, and that is using something that would be defining something relating to genre as a tactic, rather than by stamping it with a generalised genre label. He was referring to using Horror as a tactic in this instance.

  2. Thanks for commenting, romeorites. I suspect the genre labels are used like this – I know bookshops like them as they make it easier to know where to place books on their shelves, and easier for readers as well to find books they are going to like.

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