Thursday, October 3rd 2013 : "That's not what I said..."
Recently a headline accused me of criticising Scandinavian crime-fiction for its excessive violence. I've loved Nordic crime since I first came across it many years ago. When I was asked to choose a writer for the reference text Books to Die For I picked Henning Mankell. As a reader development officer in public libraries I ran the Inter-Crime project which aimed to find a wider audience for translated fiction. And for three years I was chair of judges of the CWA International Dagger. This is my reading passion; I believe that another culture's popular fiction helps us to understand its preoccupations. It's vicarious travel.
Most of my comments in the piece were made months ago, before the Nordicana Festival in London - that was why the focus was Scandinavia. And they were made as a reader. The blanket nature of the headline was ridiculous of course. Nordic crime-writing is as diverse as any other. My taste is for the gentler end of the genre and that won't come as any surprise to anyone who’s read my work. We write the books that we'd enjoy reading.
It seems to me that UK and US violence is as extreme as anything that's come out of Scandinavia. As a reader I'm made uncomfortable by the detailed description of the mutilation and torture of women, especially when the (usually male) central character is sympathetic, is championing the rights of women and protecting the victims. It's as if having an honourable context makes pornography OK. And I dislike books in which a woman is being hurt in the first chapter, like a loss leader in a supermarket, tempting the reader in.
But this is subjective and my arguments are irrational. Lemaitre's ALEX, which I admire immensely, is horribly gruesome at the beginning of the book, and I've blurbed a novel with a first chapter that made me wince, because the writing was so good. Discussions about violence in crime-fiction are taking place in reading groups throughout the country. Perhaps it's a good thing that they're being held in the national press. I just wish that I wasn’t at the centre of the controversy.
Posted by Ann at 10:33 AM GMT