I have only just heard that non-fiction crime books in their true sense – and by that I mean books that deal with aspects of crime writing or biographies of crime writers and not, I am glad to know, that totally different genre more allied to journalism, the recounting of actual, true-life crimes – that there exists an award for this genre in the name of HRF Keating, perhaps to be known as a ‘Harry’.
News has just reached me that this year, the originators of the award the crime-writing convention, Crimefest, in Bristol chose a book that dealt with noir fiction – although on further investigation it turns out that this particular author uses the word ‘noir’ to mean ‘crime’ fiction and not just the category that I always considered verged on the voyeuristic in that it pursues and glorifies violence. Labelling books as ‘noir’ or that other ghastly word ‘cosy’ always seemed to me to do crime writing an injustice – to lower the tone, automatically making the whole genre inferior, perhaps even justifying what can only be described as the disdain of sections of the literary world.
My own feeling, as many of you may remember, is that the very best of crime novels merit the very highest place in the world of fiction. They tell a gripping story while at the same time giving the reader an opportunity to ponder on some aspect of philosophical thought but, and this is essential, the narrative must always be the writer’s primary object, the reader’s attention must be held from start to finish. Conversely, the straight novel may often have a narrative which is only there peripherally as a flimsy excuse for the author to expound their views on how life should be lead.
Is it worth considering if the crime-writing world is doing itself no favours by allowing the marketing world to separate it from any other form of fiction? But if that should prove too hard to achieve at least put its own house in order and stop using demeaning categories?