Otto Penzler is at it again — trashing women who write "cozy" mysteries.
A lot of people got really
angry with me when I wrote a harsh criticism of the books nominated for
Agatha awards at the Malice Domestic convention, which is devoted to
"traditional" (i.e. cozy) mysteries. I was so upset I had offended
anyone that, gee, I couldn’t sleep for I don’t know how long.
When it came time to review the six nominees for the 2006 awards
banquet, I kept looking at them but just didn’t have the stomach for
it. In, how can I say it, "conversations" with two of the women I wrote
about last time, their position is that their books should be taken
[…] I missed the part
where anyone said she wanted to create original and believable
characters, give them words to say in a manner that a reader will
encounter for the first time, provide a rich emotional framework in
which they can deal with their passions and seek redemption, all in a
carefully plotted story that will clutch a reader by the lapels and not
let go until the denouement.
Seeing what apparently motivates so many writers of cozy mysteries,
I guess I’ll skip the Malice Domestic nominees this year. Maybe I’m
So, basically, what he’s saying is that, in his narrow view, "cozy" writers have no desire to create rich, interesting characters or tell compelling, thoughtful entertaining stories. And he knows this because a) the stories are non-violent and b) let’s face it, they are mostly written by women. No wonder they’re shit, right? Everybody knows that the only good mystery is a violent, blood-soaked epic written by a man, preferably one who smokes, drinks, and farts a lot in public.
Basically, Otto seems to believe that if a mystery isn’t written by a rugged man in a 12-step program (and his protagonist isn’t in one, too) then the novel is cozy garbage that’s not worth any attention or respect. It’s certainly not worth an Edgar.
I’ve got news for Otto — I’ve read many "hardboiled" and "gritty" mysteries where the characters were one-note cliches, the plots were dull, and the pacing was listless (some of those have even been Edgar nominees). On the other hand, I’ve also read "cozies" that were filled with rich characters, clever plots, and genuine momentum.
I love hard-boiled fiction — but for him to shrug off an entire, hugely popular genre of mystery fiction (one that’s predominently written by women) simply because the stories aren’t blood-soaked, relentlessly bleak and filled with morose, self-loathing characters is ridiculous, narrow-minded and, let’s be honest here, embarrassingly ignorant.
Otto isn’t doing himself, or the mystery field, any favors when he comes out of his cave to trash "cozies" and the women who write them. We get the point, Otto. There is only one kind of mystery novel that’s worth a damn, and unless women are willing to get tough, they should stay in the kitchen and leave the writing to us menfolk.
Let’s repeal their right to vote, too.
5 thoughts on “Otto Hates Cozies…Again”
I first came into view of Otto Penzler’s take on what constitutes the “mystery” genre in Best American Mystery Stories 2005 and realized that while the stories were good, they were far from what I remembered as crime/mystery types. It’s simply his viewpoint, but he is trying to singlehandedly reorganize a genre that’s dear to many readers, and it has confused them. What bothered me was that I think four of the twenty stories included were also in the Best American Short Stories Collection 2005. I mean, what are the odds?
I read the piece. I couldn’t help “hearing” it in the voice of Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” character from SNL.
I think Otto needs more fiber in his diet.
I listened to one of the Otto mystery collections (best of some year or other) on CD. Or I should say tried to listen to. The two stories I did hear were depressing. One was a decent enough mystery, but the ending was rather horrid.
The other was long. Drawn out. Depressing and frankly boring. But there was violence and death and in the end, that appeared to be the entire point of the story.
I think Otto is secretly in love with Elaine Viets and is trying to get her attention.
A good point, Elaine, but I think it’s more likely he’s in love with cool sexy he-men of ITW and wants their attention. 🙂 He wants to prove he’s one of them in spite of numerous obvious ..hmmm.. deficiencies. Jump higher, Beelzebub, maybe they’ll see you down there.
Sweetly, cozily –