Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Crime Beat

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Crime Beat: Is crime fiction redundant?

During a recent email exchange with Gunter Blank, who writes crime fiction reviews for Sonntagzeitung, I mentioned the upsurge in SA krimis and suggested that maybe this showed that we were normalising as a society and allowing ourselves to tell stories that weren’t heavy political numbers. Blank didn’t disagree but he came back with a statement that made perfect sense.

“I would say,” he wrote, “that in a society like Germany, Sweden, the US, crime fiction is becoming more and more redundant.”

Now this remark came hot on the heels of my lament that, despite the torrent of crime novels published annually, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find good crime fiction. The serial killer is still out there, although, why anybody bothers to read them after the Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series (which started with Red Dragon way back in 1981), I don’t know. But thousands and thousands do.

The same goes for the police procedural. Enough already. Please.

To which Blank added: “I agree it has become pretty difficult finding a decent crime novel that’s not chewing up the same ol’, same ol’. I mean how many serial killers, people with troubled childhoods, old Nazi criminals, heists gone awry and adultery turned murder, can you invent to keep the genre fresh? In other words, there is not much a legion of crime writers could add to a simple song like “Knoxville Girl” or “Banks of the Ohio”.’

Gunter Blank is also mad crazy about country rock so we swopped song lists at this point. The man has done some serious listening.

Once we’d returned to our main topic, he wrote, “In turbulent or haunted societies, societies that are trying to find out who they are – there are still hundreds and thousands of lives and experiences to tell.

“This on the one hand.

“On the other, where the genre is still very much alive is when it’s comes to political thrillers, that go beyond the traditional espionage and treason themes.”

I have to agree with him there although my reading has just started venturing down this path.

He has subsequently sent me his thoughts on political thrillers and I’ll post that next week.

In the meantime here are two lists of Gunter Blank’s best krimi reads.

The first list is of crime novelists he believes haven’t had the attention they deserve:

Jim Nisbet (esp. Lethal Injection)
Dan J. Marlowe,
David Peace,
Robert Edmond Alter (esp. Swamp Sister)
Harry Crews (A Feast of Snakes & Celebration)
A.W. Gray (Bino)
Iceberg Slim (Trick Baby and Airtight Willie & Me)

Then he gave an all time Top Twelve, well, Top Thirteen:

James Ellroy: LA Confidential
Dashiel Hammett: Glass Key
Jim Thompson: Pop 1280
Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake (his fav) and Farewell, My Lovely
George V Higgins: The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Richard Stark: The Hunter (Point Blank)
Charles Willeford: Miami Blues
Elmore Leonard: Freaky Deaky
Marcel Montecino: The Crosskiller
Edward Bunker: No Beast so Fierce
Chester Himes: Blind Man With a Pistol
Ted Lewis: GBH

Next week: Gunter Blank on political thrillers and the rise of the cyber-thriller.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    February 22nd, 2012 @07:29 #

    He has no women on his list. curious that. It's a boy's marble-swapping club out there so much of the time, the crime-fiction world. Intriguing the long duree of sexual dimorphism in the popular fiction world, perhaps the necessity of sexual dimorphism or separation to keep the fantasy world of crime or thriller fiction alive. I do it too. women sully the genre - writers and the heroines - because they seem to mess with the writing of wrongs. or they just dont write so good. Will consider this....

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    February 22nd, 2012 @08:08 #

    The upsurge in crime novels shows we are normalising as a society? I see what it means re the rise of a genre and its readership, but when I try to fathom what it implies about society...????

    Mike, I think you may have just produced the most quotable quote of the decade. You have my vote, anyway.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    February 22nd, 2012 @08:14 #

    To roll a new cat's eye into the conversation, I can highly recommend "What it Was" by George Pelecanos (who wrote/produced "The Wire") - a noir detective story that's not quite straight-up, because of the political undertones mixed into the otherwise standard black and white palette. It's set in Washington, DC, in the weeks before the Watergate scandal broke. For mise-en-scene, you'll be hard-pressed to find better.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">peterbeyondborders</a>
    March 27th, 2012 @23:23 #

    Man, this exchange ought to goose a lot of people into thinking about they read. Karin Fossum does nice things with the psychological thriller in "He Who Fears the Wolf," freshening the sub-genre by adding wonderful humor not always present in such books, even in her own.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fifi</a>
    April 5th, 2012 @13:35 #

    Maybe the call is for criminals to get more creative so that writers can have new things to write?

    I agree it is getting tiresome!~


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat