Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Robust Rise of the “Regionals”

Today marks my long-overdue return to CrimeReads, after a few months of being distracted by other editorial projects and helping to open a new Seattle bookshop. My subject under consideration this time is the forgotten rise of regional American detective fiction during the 1970s and ’80s. As I recall in the piece:
That’s when a restless new generation of detective-fictionists decided the field—grown stale after a mid-century deluge of male-oriented works formulated around cynical peepers, amorous female clients, and epidemic gunplay—needed a serious shaking-up in order to maintain relevance and readership. One result of that effort was a broader, updated perspective on what sorts of offenses could and should be addressed in these books: not just larceny, abductions, and choreographed slayings anymore, but also environmental injustices, endemic racism, human trafficking, right-wing extremism, domestic abuse, and child-custody disputes. Another way the genre diversified was by expanding its storytelling stage beyond familiar urban hubs, to rediscover the value of literary regionalism.
Included among the people responsible for that era’s crime-fiction expansion were authors ranging from Robert B. Parker and Tony Hillerman to K.C. Constantine, James Crumley, Karen Kijewski, Jonathan Valin, Richard Hoyt, Linda Barnes, and William J. Reynolds.

Again, click here to find that whole CrimeReads piece.


Max Allan Collins said...

A little disappointed my Iowa-based crime novels (Mallory, Nolan, Quarry) did not make the cut. My U of I thesis at the Writers Workshop was a trio of crime novels (BAIT MONEY, NO CURE FOR DEATH, and the in-progress QUARRY) designed to demonstrate a small Iowa town could be the setting in a genre dominated by NYC and LA.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Yes, Max, sorry about leaving out your books. But rest assured, they weren’t the only ones that had to go unmentioned if I was to keep that CrimeReads piece to something approaching manageable length. Had I had unlimited room, I would also have liked to remarked on such series titles as 1974’s Atlanta Deathwatch, by Ralph Dennis (introducing Atlanta P.I. Jim Hardman); 1976’s Buyer Beware, by John Lutz (with St. Louis peeper Alo Nudger); 1978’s Death and the Maiden, by James K. MacDougall (with Cincinnati gumshoe David Stuart); and 1980’s Texas Wind, by James M. Reasoner (starring a Fort Worth detective named Cody).

I’ll just have to leave it up to readers to search out the full breadth of regional crime/detective tales from the 1970s and ’80s.


Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Interesting piece, Jeff! Thanks for including me.