Ever fallen out of love? One minute you’re contemplating hours spent cuddled up on the sofa, you’re even coordinating your coffee cup with their jacket, sharing soft-focus shots on Instagram. The next you wonder what you ever saw in them.
I like literary fiction, historical fiction and narrative non-fiction, but I think of myself primarily as a crime fiction fan. I’m drawn to crime for lots of different reasons – the questions it asks about why people transgress, the complex motives of those who choose to investigate them, what crime says about society and morality. I like the narrative drive that propels the novel, above all the need to know.
The best genre fiction both follows the rules and subverts them. You want the comfort of the familiar and to be surprised. Now, though, I find myself weary at having to march through all those obligatory scenes. One person’s command of the genre is another’s tired trope.
Have I left crime or has it left me? I haven’t found much to get excited about recently. Of course, a lot of books have been held back this year. And all genres – all art forms – go stale from time to time. There will be an exciting innovation, and then there will be an avalanche of copycats, following the formula but missing the point.
What makes it more complicated is that I’m writing crime fiction too, which makes me feel like a fraud: I’m trying to write a book which, right now, I wouldn’t necessarily want to read. To be fair, my books have often fallen into the unmarketable chasm between crime and literary fiction, but now I’m flirting with writing a book that isn’t crime fiction at all.
Last time I had a downer on crime fiction, what got me over it was turning my back on ARCs and discovering lots of well-established authors who I’d somehow missed. That’s the thing about being a reader. If you’re a movie buff, there won’t be many mainstream Hollywood names you haven’t heard of, but the world of books is so huge there are always great authors to stumble across.
For now I’m reading other genres and fewer new releases – turning to books that have a made a name by being read and loved, rather than the empty promises of a press release. I’m enjoying literary fiction, classics and a bit more non-fiction. I’m swiping right on the library app on books I wouldn’t normally give a second glance. I’ll probably come home to crime, but if I don’t, who knows? Maybe it’s the beginning of a whole new reading life.