28/04/2018

Time for Questions

While the current GAD revival undoubtedly rejoices me, I think some questions about it need to be raised if we want it to last and be viable.
First is, why is it occurring NOW? Contemporary crime fiction, at least the one that we're supposed to take seriously, is going noir full speed and the other subgenres are increasingly marginalized. So why are century-old, definitely non-edgy and non-gritty mysteries popular again?
Second, will it last? Is it a brief fashion craze like rockabilly was in the early 80s (remember the Stray Cats) or is GAD back to stay? I certainly hope for the latter but cannot exclude the former.
Third, can it spread? As one of this blog's faithful commenters pointed out, the revival is as of now largely a British affair thanks to the efforts of Martin Edwards and Tony Medawar and some courageous independent publishers like Dean Street Press or Blackheath. America is way behind and France, well, is France. I understand that Britain is closely associated with the Golden Age in most people's minds, but we all know that it is a cliché and one that had, and still has, nefarious editorial consequences.
Fourth and final, can it influence modern crime fiction? Unlike what most people think I don't particularly "dig" reading old books from the time before I was born; it's just that they're the only ones satisfying my needs as a reader. I'd just as much like to read more contemporary fare; the problem is, most of what is published these days is the kind of crime fiction that I don't like and critics and awards make repeatedly clear that they don't give a fig what I'm thinking and the few writers I like are not worthy. I'd be glad thus if the current GAD revival could bring out a new generation of mystery writers who really care about the mystery element of their work. We have seen some encouraging signs with the runaway successes of Magpie Murders and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle but we're still a long way from a traditionalist mystery winning the Edgar.
These are for now the lines I'm thinking along. Your own answers are welcome.

4 commentaires:

TomCat a dit…

I rambled about this GAD revival back in late 2014, "The Renaissance Era of Detective Fiction," and I believe this has been snowballing since the late 1990s when the internet opened up a brand new market place for second-hand book sellers and smaller, independent publishers – like Crippen & Landru, Rue Morgue Press and House of Stratus. I believe there always has been an audience for more traditionally-styled, plot-driven detective fiction. Just look at the popularity of such TV shows as Columbo, Murder, She Wrote, Jonathan Creek and Murder, She Wrote.

So the internet helped in reintroducing a large number of obscure, long-forgotten writers and their work, reprints and second-hand, were, generally speaking, easier to track down online. Anthony Berkeley and Gladys Mitchell were completely unknowns and forgotten in early 2000s. And look at them now.

A second reason is that reprinting them now makes sense from a business perspective. The window on the copyright is slowly closing and the public domain is expending again next year and will include everything published in 1923, which means that the 1930s are looming on the horizon. So why not make buck out of them now they still can?

Finally, I think readers, or a portion of them, are burned out on the gritty realism of the modern, character heavy crime novels.

In my opinion, this revival has building for a while, but rapidly began to snowball around 2013 and 2014.

noah-stewart.com a dit…

I agree with you that "critics and awards make repeatedly clear that they don't give a fig what I'm thinking". Perhaps it's time for a different set of awards, awarded so that people who enjoy GAD will know what the best new books are, maybe even what the best republished novels are. If the awards begin, the critics will follow.

As far as its being a brief fashion craze -- I think that depends upon if the economic circumstances that make it very inexpensive to publish your own mystery backlist from 100 years ago continue to be so favourable.

Christophe a dit…

As to the first question, "why now?, a popular explanation is that, in times of great economic/political/societal uncertainty, people seek refuge in the certainties of GAD offering a crime devoid of gore, a clean puzzle in a clean and othwerise orderly setting which is all followed by clean resolution. Order is restored. I believe that the same explanation is popular to explain why GAD thrived in the 1930s, and it may also partly explain the GAD revival or at the least the wave of re-issues in the 1980s.

As to the third and fourth questions, maybe East Asian countries like Japan will contribute to a revitalization of locked room mysteries and the GAD style more broadly.

Your line "France, well, is France" made me chuckle!

livius1 a dit…

I also think the politically and economically uncertain times we live in are playing a part, as has been said as a kind of reflection of the turbulent era much of this material was originally produced in.
Mind you, I think all the previous comments make valid points too - the copyright situation is probably in the minds of publishers and rights holders and of course the fat that the popularity of this kind of writing has never really disappeared, merely ebbed and flowed.
Colin

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