Friday, October 15, 2004

Cozies for our times?

Saw an interesting piece of info from Willian Kent Krueger the other day:
I'd like to pass along a bit of insight my agent recently offered me. According to her, traditional mysteries (a term I prefer to “cozy”) are often an easier sell with publishers these days than grittier mystery novels. This is especially true when it comes to sales in foreign markets. In a world as chaotic and violent as ours appears to be right now, a comfortable, traditional mystery seems to be the preferred cup of tea for many readers. So, yeah, I think the softer-boiled books have a great future.

While I don't buy the premise that our world is any more chaotic or violent than at other periods in history (and, if anything, it's much less so), it's still an interesting theory.

If you look at the crime fiction books currently populating the bestseller list, though, it doesn't appear to hold much water.

4. The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson
10. Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell
11. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
13. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
18. Trace by Patricia Cornwell
19. The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner
21. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
27. Sacred Stone by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo
34. Seizure by Robin Cook
35. Split Second by David Baldacci
36. The Hanged Man's Song by John Sandford
40. Deception Point by Dan Brown
50. The Tristan Betrayal by Robert Ludlum
55. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
56. Reckless Abandon by Stuart Woods
67. Double Homicide by Faye and Jonathan Kellerman
71. Stone Cold by Robert Parker
82. Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman
86. Blacklist by Sara Paretsky
96. The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy

Is the Haddon book "traditional" (aka cozy)? Maybe. None of the rest of them are, though.

Part of the appeal of crime fiction, I think, is that it tends to be comforting in terms of good vs. evil, order vs. chaos, justice vs. lawlessness, etc. No matter what happens in the real world, we can still turn to our fiction for a glimpse of a more idealized universe.

If anything, it seems that the darker stuff would have just as much appeal, if not more, in troubled times.