Crime fiction as literature.
I offer two books categorized as crime fiction, yet undeniably literary in the quality of their composition, depth of character development and lyrical prose: “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow and “Mystic River” by Dennis Lehane. I’m sure there are others, since as a reader I’ve barely scratched the surface of the mystery and thriller genres.
There are other books classified as literary fiction that are plodding, self-referential and clumsy, and yet the judges for the National Book Award may be forced to read them as legitimate contestants for the prize. It is this flagrantly obvious discrepancy that Marty (my publisher) has shown a light on, that I think (I’m an optimist, God help me) the future will do away with.
Remember that the Impressionists weren’t allowed in the Louvre, and even well into the 20th century were exiled in the Musée du Jeu de Paume, and only now luxuriate in the inestimable Musée d'Orsay. Radical innovators like Stravinsky, Picasso and James Joyce were all thought charlatans by the critical establishments of the their time, and we know how that turned out. It may take a hundred years, but eventually these silly academic prejudices evolve from imperium to ridicule.
The definitive essay on this subject was written by Raymond Chandler in 1950, titled “The Simple Art of Murder.” Anyone wanting a copy in the form of a Word document, email me and I’ll send it to you.