In making a half hearted attempt to get my Good Reads lists in order, it became stark how important crime writing was in my fiction interests. I still read science fiction and fantasy, but – perhaps because of too many disappointments in those fields – in recent years, crime is king.
Part of this approach may be the continuing and disproportionate response to the way I was taught English literature in school. I was forced to read the classics. I was banned from reading anything (as part of the formal English curriculum) that was not on an approved list. And, take it from me, that was a safe (and boring) approved list. Especially as Dickens doesn’t do it for me. I can appreciate the writer’s outstanding craft, but I neither enjoyed nor was stimulated by his books. (I could fall asleep reading them.) The same applies to all the usual suspects: Austen, Bronte, Eliot, James, Trollope, Waugh, Wilde. Only Conrad and Stevenson had a half decent appeal for me.
In fairness, it may be that in addition to being forced to read these damn classics, I was taught them in a soul sucking manner. It was not read, enjoy, and retell. Instead, it was read, analyze, analyze, analyze, analyze, and analyze. Find the message. See the symbology. OMG! All I wanted to do was read and be entertained. What was wrong with that?
The combined effect? If it’s a classic, I am not interested. I am not going back there.
Which brings me to the following quote that I only recently came across. It’s from Reginald Hill, one of my favorite authors. A crime writer. He said in 1986:
I still recall with delight as a teenager making the earth-shaking discovery that many of the great “serious novelists,” classical and modern, were as entertaining and interesting as the crime-writers I already loved. But it took another decade of maturation to reverse the equation and understand that many of the crime writers I had decided to grow out of were still as interesting and entertaining as the “serious novelists” I now revered.
I don’t agree with the quote because I think the good crime writers (like him) were far more interesting and entertaining than so called serious novelists. (I grew out of the serious novelists.) But his perspective on the true quality of crime fiction is oh so welcome. Probably understated, but very welcome.
I miss Reginald Hill.