Saturday, January 10, 2009

The New Genre Writers

I've noticed a new-ish trend, whereby a number of fiction writers, who'd probably have been classed as "literary" writers, if they'd been classed as anything have become genre writers - with series of detective or historical novels, rather than the one-offs they'd previously written. It's interesting...since this particular street used to be one-way in the other direction, with, say, a detective fiction writer trying to drum up interest in a novel that was about something else. Kate Atkinson and Sophie Hannah both seem to have had a new lease of (commercial) life by writing detective fiction series, whilst Suzannah Dunn's latest historical fiction is everywhere at the moment. None of these writers, of course, were writing novels beforehand that were overly literary, but they weren't necessary writing work that was overtly commercial - Atkinson was shortlisted for prizes for her debut "Behind the Scenes at the Museum", Hannah remains an award-winning poet, and Dunn was a lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester for a number of years after I studied there. Of their new direction, I've only read one of Atkinson's (excellent) mystery stories, but I think I'd be more interested, in some way, in their genre novels, than the somewhat undefined novels of their past. There might well be some other examples (and some male examples perhaps? Iain M. Banks's sci-fi or John Banville's pseudonym-using Benjamin Black novels). Genre's never an easy thing to do, and reading Atkinson's "One Good Turn", what I found refreshing - its not so much a detective story, as a puzzle that unveils itself - might be frustrating to a genuine mystery fan, however much of the genre paraphernalia remains. Whether, once embarked on a series, with a well-loved character (or a particular time period in the case of Dunn), these writers will find is as easy to break out of it, remains to be seen - but for the moment, it seems a refreshing development, decent writers writing the kind of books that people want to read. Now what was so hard in that?

No comments: