Novelist James Reasoner is wondering when did the mystery field become so balkanized?
I read just about everything there was in the mystery field . . . and it seemed perfectly normal to me. Now you got your hardboiled readers laughing at cozies and your cozy readers sneering at the hardboiled stuff, and for all I know people who read cat mysteries can’t understand why anybody would want to read a dog mystery, and vice versa. I don’t understand it. Give me a good story and some reasonably interesting characters, and I’m fine
with it, no matter what the trappings might be.
You notice this a lot on many of the mystery lists (like DorothyL, etc.) and among the writing blogs. What’s interesting to me is that the balkanization doesn’t just exist among mystery fans, but among mystery writers as well with, for example, the hardboiled writers all but sneering at authors who write cozies, as if they aren’t real writers because their heroes don’t fuck, or take a beating, or go to a murder scenes and see the brain matter on the wall and the dead man who has shit himself in his last spasm of life.
Hardboiled detective books and police procedurals have no more literary
merit than any other books in the field because they are grittier. I don’t much like cozies myself, but I certainly respect the writers who write them. It’s just as hard to write a cozy as it is to write a tough noir tale. Who knows, maybe it’s even harder.
A close cousin to balkanization are the insular attitudes of certain cliques of writers… scribes who love everything their group does, good or bad, and sneers at the work of outsiders. You aren’t "in" if you aren’t in their tight little group. These smug back-slappers exist in all the different genres of mystery fiction and, if you go to conventions or hang out in discussions on -line, you know exactly who they are and what writers are on their approved reading lists.
I like to think I’m not in one of those insular groups and that I treat cozy, historical, hard-boiled, whodunit, and all other mystery writers with friendliess and respect, whether I am a fan of their particular genre or not.