Is The Great Gatsby a crime novel? (There’s a murder.) Crime and Punishment? (It’s in the title.) Moby Dick? (Oh the whales!) People like to make distinctions between mystery, crime, and detective fiction. But what’s the essence of a good mystery? What are the boundaries of what constitutes a crime? How narrowly professional or intentional does a character have to be to be considered a detective? And how do any of the novels in this loose genre relate to literary fiction?
I ask these questions because I have published a novel this year (Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Slant) that finds itself located in a genre that I do not myself read or know much about. It makes me a bit uneasy.
I spent much of my life reading and teaching literary fiction. My most significant exposure to genre fiction was traipsing around small English bookshops with John Wilson (Books and Culture) many years ago looking for used copies of Georges Simenon novels.
Have I written a mystery/crime/detective novel? Can it make any claims to being literary? Does it matter? [Read more...]