Mystery Writer or Writer of Mysteries
On of the interesting things I noted at the recent 2011 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the best crime novel of the year by a New Zealand author was that none of the nominees, Paddy Richardson, Neil Cross, Greg McGee or the winner, Paul Cleave described themselves as a mystery writer. Although between them they have produced a large body of crime fiction, each of them said they write about crime as part of the human experience.
Paul Cleave, this year’s winner of the Ngaio March Award for the best novel by a New Zealand author, talked about creating a mythical city of Christchurch, unlike the real city that he loves and lives in. He said he was initially interested in horror as a genre, but decided the true horror is what people to do each other. Elements of myth and horror are evident in his writing.
Paddy Richardson is known as a “literary writer” outside her crime fiction. She has been a guest writer at universities and won numerous awards outside mystery and thriller genres. She has also worked on the radio.
Neil Cross may be better know as a writer of television series than a novelist although he has done both with great success. He talked about being more interested in, “the forensics of a society,” than in the forensics of a single victim.
Greg McGee, who won the first Ngaio Marsh Award may be better known as a playwright, television series writer, short story writer and sports columnist than as a mystery novelist.
The authors talked about the English classic mystery by authors such as Agatha Christie whose crime solvers restore order to society, i.e., the butler who outraged convention by committing a crime. They talked about the American classic mystery like those written by Dashiell Hammett whose characters exercise their free will to sin and then face consequences or hope for redemption.
Ngaio Marsh, herself, although best known for her mystery novels, was also a successful painter, actress and theatre person. She wrote non-fiction, short stories and an autobiography. She was one of the four “Queens of Crime” with Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie during the “Golden Age” of crime fiction writing. Her major love was theatre.
Other well-known and skilled authors, such as Nancy Pickard, describe themselves as mystery writers but include broader themes such as family obligation and the discrimination against women in their work.
So, are you a mystery writer or do you write mysteries?