Thursday, April 23, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--Them's Fightin' Words

Today my guest is Agatha-nominated mystery author Sheila Connolly (who also writes as Sarah Atwell).

In the April 12th New York Times Magazine, Joyce Carol Oates said, Whale "If you're going to spend the next year of your life writing, you would probably rather write 'Moby Dick' than a little household mystery with cat detectives."

Uh, no? I admire Joyce Carol Oates. She's incredibly prolific; she's been publishing since 1963 and has over fifty novels out there (I think everyone has given up counting). And they're not slight tomes, either–-and have enjoyed them.

But what a snob! Okay, maybe she isn't comparing herself to Melville–maybe she's saying she'd rather try to emulate Melville than, say, Janet Evanovich. But how dare she diss mysteries? My kind of mysteries? It's dueling pistols at forty paces, lady!

That same week, in the New York Times Book Review, Michael Meyers gives the statistic, "Seven out of ten titles do not earn back their advance." So let's take a look at the Best Seller lists for that week (which presumably did earn out). Jonathan Kellerman, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, James Patterson, Walter Mosley, J. D. Robb, Robert Parker in hardcover; Mary Higgins Clark, David Baldacci, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Jonathan Kellerman, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, Lisa Jackson in mass market. Mysteries and thrillers. Where are the sensitive, insightful, classic works of Literature?

Not that I'm maligning literature. I read it, I respect it, I learn from it. But guess what? People want escapism. They want things to blow up, and people who flee from evildoers or turn and confront them–and win. They want to be entertained. Maybe they should seek to be enlightened and uplifted by what they read–-but they don't have the time or the patience. Most people are working, commuting, keeping a household going. If they're lucky they get a few minutes to read before they go to bed. That's not the best time to enrich one's soul and mind.

I'm tired of genre writers being considered second-class citizens while the "real" writers sell a thousand books total and are the darlings of the critics. We genre writers give people what they want; we make them happy. What's wrong with that?

And what's bugging YOU today?
Sheila Connolly's first published novel (written under the name Sarah Atwell),TAGD THROUGH A GLASS, DEADLY, first in the Glassblowing Mystery series, has been nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award. Sheila also writes the Orchard Mystery series under her own name. The first title is ONE BAD APPLE. Check out Sheila's web sites ( and or her posts every Monday on the Writers Plot blog.