It's hard to believe that it's been two years since Jeff Cohen reached out to me with an email, inviting me to become the Sunday blogger for Dead Guy. Aside from the fact that this came totally out of the blue, I was kind of surprised because Jeff didn't know me all that well and he was making the assumption that I would be able to produce coherently written posts on a weekly basis. I was also hesitant to get involved because I didn't read very much crime fiction. However, because I was intrigued by the possibilities of becoming a blogger and was more than a little flattered to have been asked , I accepted the assignment with the condition that Jeff would consider my first six weeks to be probationary, after which either of us could decide that it was time for me to move on.
So here it is, two years later, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 posts under my belt – about 94 more than I thought I had in me. Because I took this assignment seriously, I jumped right into the crime fiction genre, devoting the majority of my audiobook listening time and about half of my print reading time to sampling a variety of authors that I had not previously been motivated to try. On the road to discovering what I liked there were some stumbles (Linda Howard, Susan Isaacs, recent Mary Higgins Clark) but also several writers who I was happy to encounter ( Tana French, Gregg Hurwitz, Linda Castillo, Scott O'Connor) as well as one author – Chevy Stevens – who started out in the plus column with her debut novel but who stumbled with her sophomore effort.
But now, I've decided to move on and let someone else have a turn as a Dead Guy. For one thing, the list I keep of recently released books that I would like to read is now well over 5 single spaced pages and I need some time now to catch up on some of the other stuff I've had to put aside (Stephen King, Mary Gordon, Geraldine Brooks, Francine Prose) while I was immersing myself in the reading of mysteries.
So to recap, what have I learned?
1. Good writing always wins out, regardless of the genre.
2. Sympathetic protagonists who struggle to overcome adversity will always have more appeal for me than protagonists who are rich, beautiful and a little snarky.
3. Crime fiction needs good plotting and if the details of the plot rely too heavily on improbable coincidences, I will get ticked off.
4. Crime fiction includes a wide range of types and subcategories and, like ice cream, different flavors are going to appeal to different people without one being intrinsically "better" than the other, as long as the writing is good.
5. In crime fiction, single mothers who work as law enforcement officers never have trouble finding willing babysitters on a moment's notice, even in the middle of the night. (I am especially hung up on this topic because, back in the day when my kids were little, arranging for babysitters was almost always a major tactical effort.) I would love to know if there are any writers out there who have dealt with this aspect of working motherhood with a little more realism than what I have generally encountered. Maybe somebody out there reading this will even take this as a challenge.
Before I sign off, I would like to thank my Dead Guy colleagues for allowing me to be a part of their great virtual community and to those of you out there who took the time to read what I had to say week after week after week.
It really has been fun.