Saturday, November 17, 2012

Polar Opposites No Longer

British crime reporter-turned-author David Mark took a stab yesterday at sussing out the differences between American and British crime fiction for The Huffington Post.

Mark points out, first, that the lines have blurred considerably in recent years and the “best of British crime writers can do brash, ultra-violent and cool as well as anyone. The Scandinavians are producing noir so hard-boiled that you can use it to bend horseshoes.” But, he notes, this wasn’t always the case:
The American and British schools used to be poles apart. Both were entertaining, but in markedly different ways. In British novels, a crime was an aberration. It was something that upset the balance of things, and tended to happen to bad people. It involved complicated poisons, ingenious alibis and an uncanny number of twins. It happened in stately homes in pretty rural villages and tended to be solved by a middle-class outsider who could figure everything out while doing a crossword and making scones.

In American novels, crime was a part of life. People were crooked, decent folk could get a hole blown in their guts as easily as somebody rotten to the core, and the kind of hero who put the pieces together usually had a taste for whisky, a soft spot for the ladies, and a never-ending supply of witty rejoinders.
“These days,” Mark points out, “the differences are far fewer.”
British crime writing has moved away from cozy fireside tales and locked-room mysteries. They’re brutal. They’re hard. They’re set in the real world and there are no black and whites. The hero and the villain both recognise something of themselves in the other, and good people die in horrible ways.

There has been a change in America too. Sometimes, only one or two people will die in a novel, rather than the dozen or so disposable characters that seemed to be consistently bumped off in days gone by.
Mark’s debut novel, The Dark Winter, is newly out from Blue Rider Press. Publishers Weekly liked the book well enough to give it a starred review, part of which reads: “British crime reporter Mark’s outstanding first novel, a suspenseful whodunit, introduces Det. Sgt. Aector McAvoy ... Readers will want to see more of the complicated McAvoy, who well deserves a sophisticated and disturbing plot.”

This recommendation comes as no surprise, actually. It sounds like Mark has done his homework.

The Huffington Post piece is here.

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