John Lawton on being a "crime" writer
“It's flattering to be told `this book transcends genre,' but it's not a phrase that holds up to scrutiny. Five nano-seconds later, you're asking yourself, `What does he/she think is inferior about genre writing?' And when toastmasters at crime gigs harp on about crime being `as good as literature,' you think, `So what?' And when a crime novel is deemed `too literary,' you think, `Ain't no such critter.'
“It's marketing ... whatever gets you on the shelves and then off the shelves and into hands. And marketing is different country to country.
“I first became aware of an `invisible' crime tag only when the CWA called in (so I was told) Riptide for consideration for the Ellis Peters Award. As I said, you don't seek it and you don't resist it. It's only an issue if you win – who in their right mind, after all, would want to sit through an award ceremony they didn't have to?
“Paint and drying come to mind.
“The book after this was Sweet Sunday. Ion and I agreed this wasn't `crime.' Still ... it got reviewed as crime. But a review is a review ... not to be knocked. Better by a yard and a half than being ignored.
“And a few years later I was asked in an interview to categorize myself. I said something like ... `historical, political thrillers with a big splash of romance, wrapped up in a coat of noir.' What they're not is mysteries, and I think there is a tendency to assume that crime and mystery are synonymous. They're not.
“There are crimes in most of my novels. Occasionally unsolved. They aren't there to be `solved;' they're a propellant to drive the book along.
“Pretentious bit coming up ... I don't think I'm doing anything different from my immediate contemporaries. ... McEwan, Faulks, Amis, Hare, Turow (all born within months of me). ... In intent.
“That said, I've never written anything set in the present, and none of them has written a series around a policeman. Scott Turow is regarded as `crime' – he has no problem with this. (I asked him.) And at this point the sensible thing to say is, if Scott has no problem with `crime' neither should I.”
© Peter Rozovsky 2012