Friday, September 30, 2016

To Cozy? Or Too Cozy?


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Okay, I’m just gonna step back and let LeslieBudewitz talk. She’s hilarious, brilliant, and a dear pal. She’s the immediate past president of Sisters in Crime—and did an absolutely stellar job. She's a nationally best-selling author who lives in the wilds of Montana, and she’s fearless.

As she proves in this essay.

TO COZY, OR NOT TO COZY?
            By Leslie Budewitz

Ah, the poor cozy. In some circles—and I know you’ll be shocked—it’s fashionable to denigrate the cozy. To dismiss the amateur sleuth as a busy-body who should stick to running her book shop, her catering business, or her spice shop, and leave the down-and-dirty world of investigating murder to the cynical and jaded private investigator or his cousin, the cynical and jaded police detective.

I’m not buying it.

There is a reason we love the amateur sleuths of cozy world, and I’ve got a theory.

It’s not because we love the food they cook or the sweaters they knit. Well, not just because of the food and sweaters.

I’m not going to define the cozy—I could, but that would be another post! Suffice to say, as the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, we know it when we see it.

But here’s the key, for me. Whether the cozy is set in a small town or a community within a larger city, in the past or the present, whether the amateur sleuth is single or widowed, young or old, whether we like the victim or think she needed killing, the murder is a shock that disrupts the norm. It must be solved—and this is key—to restore a sense of order. Of course, there’s one in every book, so the reader isn’t shocked, but the residents are. They share an underlying belief is that people are basically good, and natural order can be restored.  

Some writers don’t like the term cozy. The great Carolyn Hart, whom I adore, says what’s more uncomfortable than murder in a small town where everyone is affected? I live in a small town, and she’s right. I never want to forget that murder is not just a means to tell a story—it’s real, and it hurts everyone.

But I like the term, because ultimately any book with an amateur sleuth is about community. Our intrepid sleuth steps away from her busy life to investigate because it’s necessary. The job of the professional investigators is to restore external order by making an arrest and bringing the killer into the justice system. But the job of the amateur sleuth is to restore internal order within the community. To restore the social order.

How does she do that? She’s part of the community—sometimes new to it, sometimes a local girl who returns home. Her occupation—running a coffeehouse or a pet-friendly hotel, catering, or midwifery—puts her at the heart of the community. She knows everyone. She understands the dynamics. She can see things the professionals can’t see and ask questions they can’t ask, because she knows what goes on. Often, her expertise gives her an advantage—because she knows the true value of the stolen rare book, beyond its price, she can understand the motivation to take it and identify the killer the police never suspected.

Ultimately, the cozy is about community. The characters and their relationships drive the plot, and the entire novel. And so I find the label “cozy” a positive choice. A hopeful choice.

As I often tell readers, cozies are the comfort food of the mystery world. And don’t we all crave a little mac and cheese now and then?

HANK: That’s such a great way of putting it.  What do you think, Reds and lovely readers? Have you had the “cozy” battle, er, discussion with anyone? Who's your favorite cozy author?

 

In Seattle's Pike Place Market, Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer in the latest from the national bestselling author of Guilty as Cinnamon.

Pepper Reece's to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she's got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun.

While browsing in the artists' stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper's surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family's past. After Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

ABOUT LESLIE:
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series. KILLING THYME, her third Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is due on October 4. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.

Find Leslie and excerpts from her books on her website, and chat with her on Facebook.


85 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Leslie, your thoughts about cozy books ring true for me.
I must admit, though, that I fail to understand why cozy books are the focus of derision. A good mystery is a good mystery. I’ve read cozy books and enjoyed them just as much as every other mystery book . . . .

Kathy Reel said...

Leslie, what a perfect description of cozy mysteries. The community focus is what hooks me on a cozy series. I especially like the small towns and villages, where as the "Cheers" songs goes, "everybody knows your name." Having grown up in a small town and experienced the feeling of extended family, I enjoy revisiting that warm feeling in reading. It's nice to get to know the characters that make up a cozy community, and their predictability is reassuring, not boring. Goodness knows we need some things we can count on these days.

You touched upon something that I'm never quite sure about, how different authors feel about the term "cozy." Your explanation of why cozy is a good term is great, and what draws so many readers. Restoring that internal order is important to us all.

Grace Koshida said...

Leslie, that was an excellent description of cozy mysteries! Having grown up in a large city, it was nice to read about smaller town/village settings where a unique community was affected by (murder) and mystery. My reading tastes for mysteries have changed over the decades. I used to read a lot of PIs, espionage and thrillers. But these days, I read about 70% cozies, and 30% other/darker mysteries.

And yes, I have heard some authors say they do not like being labelled as writing "cozies". Some prefer the term "traditional mysteries" which indicates they are writing in the sty;e/tradition of the Golden Age authors such as Christie, Allingham, Sayers, Tey, Marsh. Either one works for me.

And as for naming my favourite cozy writer? Forget it! There are so many cozy series that I love to read so I can't single one out!

Edith Maxwell said...

Lovely thoughts about my favorite genre! So well put, Leslie. I agree that, much more than definitions that include "crafty" or "foodie," cozies are about restoring balance to the community. As you pointed out it, the community can be a small town - or a niche in a bigger city, as in your Spice Shop series. Restoring balance is why I write cozies and am proud to use the label.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Completely agree that cozies are about community and restoring a sense of order. It is ironic that they get such a bad rap - in real life, it is the murder down the street or in the community that attracts our attention - the fear it could happen here or the ghoulish feeling produced because it happened near by - the disruption of our normal community that attracts us to the headlines.

Hallie Ephron said...

Leslie, I do think there's nothing more fun than a really well done cozy. And yes, order is restored at the end. And can I say I really don't much like the term "traditional" mystery. We were talking about branding yesterday and "traditional" is a wishy washy brand. It says nothing. "Cozy" nails it.

Joyce Tremel said...

Perfect description! Cozy mysteries have been my favorite genre for a long time. I'm always surprised when someone asks me what I write and they don't know what a cozy is. I've been using the standard description--ie, the murder occurs off the page, amateur sleuth, etc., but your description of community and restoring order is so much better.

Grace Koshida said...

Hallie: Interesting comment about not liking "traditional mystery".

I met 2 authors at the NOLA Bouchercon who labelled themselves as writing traditional mysteries. One author definitely did not like being labelled as a cozy author, and was not on a cozy panel.

I was informed by them that Malice's tagline is "If traditional mysteries are your cup of tea". The Malice website further defines traditional mystery as "books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie. The traditional mystery genre is loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence".

So I see some criteria above that applies to cozy mysteries, but are there unique differences between traditional and cozy mysteries?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Do you think there should be another name for cozy? Do you think that's the "problem "? If you call it a traditional Mystery, is that the same thing?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh , Grace, that's exactly what you were thinking, too!

Grace Koshida said...

Hank: I personally don't have a problem with "cozy" but it does cover a broad range of sub-types within the genre. So I do like it when a sub-type/adjective is added in the name For example, you know I like food (!), so I do notice more when a blog or FB post talks about "culinary cozies" or "foodie mysteries" as a type of cozy mystery that I would probably like to read. The branding issue discussed yesterday is relevant here.

Gerald Lenaz said...

Cozy mystery tagline sells especially @canddmystery bookshop. Please do not change name it's a recognized brand.Long live cozies and all you wonderful mystery authors who write them.

FChurch said...

My two-cents' worth on the genre is that it has been perceived (by critics?) as a genre filled with not-so-great-writers who churn out endless drivel in copycat series (i.e., substitute 'knitter' for 'baker' for 'shop owner', etc.). And maybe that was true of some writers or still is. But, for me, there are some very successful cozy writers out there today, who have compelling characters, plots, and weave new settings/communities so seamlessly into the stories that setting almost becomes another character. Maybe they lack the gore/serial killers of thrillers, but that's fine with me. There's enough of that in the news!

Mary Sutton said...

Leslie, this is a great description of the cozy. Maybe the best one I've ever seen.

I think part of the problem may be that "cozy" may mean "kitschy" or "insubstantial" in some people's minds. Which is SO not the case if one - you know - actually reads the books.

I've read a lot of cozies that are just as substantial as anything out there. But please don't ask me to nail down my favorite to just one!

Ann in Rochester said...

And this is why there are menus in restaurants, right?

I pretty much avoid anything even slightly reminiscent of "cozy." I also avoid cilantro and avocado and red meat, most of the time, very dry wine and any form of sparkling water.

There are always exceptions, and I enjoy reading many of the books of the Reds that fall into this definition. However, I am not drawn to the genre.

Once in a while I go on a rant about genre in genre-al. That's a bad pun, not a typo. I recently finished NUTSHELL by Ian McEwan. He kept me turning pages right up to the end. Amazon classes it under Literary Fiction, Literature and Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, and Family Life Fiction. The latter made me giggle, by the way. Since the protagonist is in utero for most of the book, I think one might classify it as "cozy" also!

Anyway, my point is this. Write a good book and let the reader decide what it is. Genre is so unimportant for me except to distinguish various types of non-fiction. I like cook books and travel books and art books where I can find them. Fiction, on the other hand, can be all of the above and so much more. Classifying it could mean I never discover a great read because I tend to avoid cozy and anything related to sci-fi.

Stepping off soap box and tucking myself back under the lurking rock.

Rhys said...

Leslie, it makes me see red when cozy writers get a pat on the head and not taken seriously. Of course we expect to see murder in the mean streets of the city. But if my neighbor was murdered it would disrupt the fabric of the whole community. How often is a cozier murder shortlisted for the Edgar?

Sheila Connolly said...

You've nailed it. It is all about community, and people read cozies whether or not they live in just such a small town, but also because they would like to. It's an ideal little universe, and people need to see justice served. I think we cozy writers provide an important service to our readers, by letting them believe that justice survives in our increasingly violent world, if only for 300 pages.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Westerner getting to the computer late, but thrilled to be here! I'm not as fearless as Hank claims, but I'll borrow a line from Fresca, the mother of the main character in my Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, and "act as if," diving in and responding without having read all the comments!

Joan, there's a certain type of reader who, when a cozy is mentioned, sniffs and says "I prefer my mysteries darker and more realistic." Well, yes, real life does include graphic sex, blood, swearing, and other NC-17 situations. It also includes puppies, kittens, cupcakes and librarians. Jack Reacher is every bit the fantasy figure Jessica Fletcher is. Opposite sides of the wish fulfillment spectrum. Or a matter of taste.

It's perfectly fine to have a preference, but not to dismiss all other choices!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ah, Kathy, thanks! The small town setting makes creating that community easy -- if anything in writing is easy -- but I've also had a great time writing urban cozies in my Spice Shop mysteries. The darker side tends to intrude a little more in urban settings, but some of my favorite cozy writers manage to create that sense of community--within-a-community in the Big City -- Sheila Connolly in the Museum series, Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse series, Laura Childs' Scrapbooking series, to name a few.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Grace, so good to see you in NOLA! I used the term "traditional mystery" to an editor once, and he said, with a smart-aleck grin, "what tradition?" But yes, cozies fall under that umbrella, fer shur!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Edith, you are indeed "Wicked Cozy and Proud!"

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Ann, that is hilarious! You are so funny… I am so eager to read Nutshell, and I am pleased that you liked it.
Have any of you read the Maggie dove books? I just read the second one, and it is completely charming. I usually lean a little bit away from ultra ultra ultra cozy, but this one was 100% terrific

But traditional mysteries, without graphic sex or viiolence, are such a pillar of the mystery culture.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Debra, good point. It's much easier to feel disconnected from violence or murder in a big city, if it's not in your neighborhood. But in a small town or a defined community, we're all affected, making the cozy a terrific vehicle for exploring the social impact of crime.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Leslie, I think "what tradition? "Is really an interesting question! Was he kidding?

Leslie Budewitz said...

Hallie, yes! Like the editor said, "What tradition?"

I do get that for some authors, who've been dismissed as "cozy" too often, as if it were nothing but food, fashion, and fluff, using the term "traditional mystery" is a way to reclaim some dignity, and say "but my books are so much more substantive than you think they are, if you're calling them cozy." There's a wide range within the genre, thank goodness!

Miranda James said...

The dismissal of cozy/traditional mysteries as not worth respect goes way back, to the critic Edmund Wilson ("Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?") and Raymond Chandler, who had little good to say about English women detective story writers. The perception has long been that hard-boiled (private eyes, cops) = realistic, where as cozy/traditional (soft-boiled amateurs) = unrealistic. And of course to be taken seriously as writers one has to write "serious" fiction. What I often say to people is that I personally don't walk the mean streets, I'm not a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, any one of the category of professionals who deal with the seamier side of life on a daily basis. I'm a librarian, and I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. The world of Harry Bosch and Kinsey Millhone isn't the world I live in. I live in the world I write about as Miranda James. I have yet to find a dead body (other than finding my mother when she passed away of natural causes), but that doesn't mean I can't write about a character who does.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Oh, Gerald! You know we HEART booksellers! What do your readers say about cozies and why they love them?

Ramona said...

I think cozies suffer the same bias as romance novels do, or literary novels. It is all very silly, if you ask me, and some of this is for marketing anyway.

I like the "what tradition" comment, too.

Leslie, this is a nice overview of a fine and popular genre. People are buying, reading, and enjoying cozy mysteries. That's all that matters.

Leslie Budewitz said...

FChurch, exactly. That's a reminder to all of us who write to dig a little deeper into ourselves, our characters, and our stories with each book. They can still be light and fun, but *about* something.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Mary, yes! And ah, that evil Hank, sneaking in the question of our favorite cozy author!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the cozy...only recently discovered loads...always thought Agatha Christie one of the best authors ever...and as a child loved Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. ..I think cozy's like any vary in how much you love them but some are BRILLIANT. . I love the whodunit as long as it's fiction and cozy brings us that. I have a new lifestyle blog and have blogged about cozy's twice already ��
https://whimsyandcosy.wordpress.com

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ann in Rochester, long live the voracious, wide-reaching reader! And I suspect we could have an entire blog on the problem, and necessity, of categories, for librarians, booksellers, and publishers.

A woman at a book club I visited last weekend told me about Nutshell -- it's the retelling of Lear, right? She loved it. And then I saw a review in a major newspaper slamming the whole concept. So, thank goodness there are lots of books on the shelves!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ah, Rhys, yes. I have to wonder if the submissions even get read, or if the judges -- facing impossible piles of books -- just put anything smelling of roses aside...

Leslie Budewitz said...

Sheila, yes. Justice is served, and dinner is on time.

Barb Ross said...

Let's just say it. Cozys get no respect because they are perceived as being by women for women, and thus cannot be considered a serious literary effort in any way. I find it hilarious thrillers are considered "realistic" and cozys "unrealistic." When's the last time you jumped on top of a train and fought with a bad guy to save the world from nuclear annihilation? Please. That's why I'm, "cozy and proud."

Lesa said...

"Miranda" James hit it on the head. There's a reason Carolyn Hart objects to the word cozy. When she appeared at my library, she explained exactly what Miranda said. "Asked what they thought of the term "cozy" mysteries, Hart responded saying cozy originally was a pejorative term. Raymond Chandler coined it in an essay in which he sneered at Agatha Christie." If you've been sneered at and seen your work ridiculed by an author respected in the mystery community, you might hate the word cozy as well. And, Malice does call it "in the tradition of Agatha Christie". In fact, I had that discussion with an author whose book was a little more violent than I expected, but she had won an Agatha. I was thinking it should be cozier. She said, no, "in the tradition".

Leslie Budewitz said...

Hank, yes, he was kidding -- in a way. Mostly, he wanted me to tell him more about my ms. :) But I take his point to mean that the mystery genre is amazingingly wide, deep, and rich. Even under the traditional umbrella, we've got puzzles, we've got police officers like Louise Penny's marvelous Armand Gamache, we've got semi-pros like your brilliant Jane and the other journalist and lawyer sleuths, and we've got the true amateurs -- ranging from characters like the lead in Hallie's Night Night Sleep Tight who get drawn in to a single investigation, to series sleuths, themselves a huge range. We've even got PIs who are not cynical and jaded, like Precious Ramotswe and Jess Lourey's Mira.

What's not to love? (Besides this Captcha thing that thinks I'm talking too much.)

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ah, Miranda aka Dean -- so beautifully put. Thank you! I wonder whether you also get raised eyebrows as a man writing this subgenre.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ramona, I am still glowing from NOLA and the chance to meet online friends like you for the first time!

I certainly understand the need for categories -- esp as a former Teenage Bookseller! -- and I love crossing them. Sometimes we want mac and cheese, sometimes an apple, and sometimes a steak. Or a muffaletta.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Anonymous "whimsy and cozy," how could we not love a blog with a hedgehog garden statue on the front page?

Miranda James said...

Leslie, I do occasionally get the raised eyebrow because I'm a man writing "women's fiction." Which I think is irritating. Most of my favorite writers are women, actually. To me a good book is a good book, no matter the gender of the author.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Barb Ross, you rock. You absolutely rock.

(And if anyone gets the Captcha that asks you to click on all the pictures with street signs in them, yes, it means the posts, too!)

Leslie Budewitz said...

Lesa, thank goodness terms evolve, and we can reclaim them.

Leslie Budewitz said...

And sadly, Miranda aka Dean, some people are more likely to accept that comment coming from a man than from a woman.

Prompted in part by Sisters in Crime's recent Report for Change, on diversity in publishing and within SinC (have you read it? It's brilliant! http://www.sistersincrime.org/page/ReportforChange),
I've been trying to read a broader range of authors. Which in my case means reading more male authors. You know, some of them are pretty good!

Kait said...

So true! Well done, Leslie.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Ashley, you are fabulous! And try skipping the captcha thing altogether. See if that works. Unless you love choosing sandwiches. I did it once by mistake, and I thought wow, it's not really making me do it!
And I agree Lesa, it is pejorative, no matter how we try to backfill and undo it.
And yes, Barb, it is definitely a gender thing. So unfair, I would happily read a Tom Clancy type military spy thriller , and never think of it as a "boy book. "

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OK, hank dictating again… The software decided Leslie was Ashley.

Denise Ann said...

Love Cozies. They are comfort food, semi-challenging puzzles, visits with friends, an insight into a time and place, and they provide a hero we can identify with. I was introduced to reading mysteries years after I put Nancy Drew aside -- when my sister gave me for Christmas a dozen Agatha Christies. And I have not stopped. While I dabble in stronger stuff (Tana French, Harlen Coben, Michael Connolly), I return over and over to the cozy genre.

Thank you, Lesley.

Anne said...

It's probably a tie between Dean James and his many pen names and the (late) Lavenes and their many pen names as favorite cozy author for me.

I first read James' gay vampire romance writer cozies and I had forgotten who wrote them. I have to say I was mildly embarrassed to describe the series to a librarian who was able to help me figure out the series and author. I "cozy shamed" myself.

Deborah Romano said...

My favorite cozy author is the one I'm reading right this minute. Oh, wait: I'm reading more than one cozy author right this minute! Asking me to pick my favorite is like asking a mother which child is her favorite!

I read cozy, traditional, suspense, thrillers, espionage, etc. One of the many reasons I prefer mysteries of any kind to "ordinary" fiction is that I like to see justice done and order restored . It doesn't always happen in real life.

Oh, one more thing: someone recently told me I read too many mysteries. I was startled. There's no such thing as too many! There wasn't enough time to tell her how much I've learned from reading mysteries, and I'm not talking about finding new recipes, although I have certainly found some great ones in cozy mysteries. I think many people are still inclined to believe that readers of mysteries do not read "real" books.

Deb Romano

Deborah Crombie said...

Hi Leslie!! I think your definition of cozies restoring "internal" or "social" order is the best I've read. But that doesn't make me like the whole genre categorizing thing. I realize it helps publishers and booksellers market the books, but it also keeps readers from reading books they would enjoy. I read everything. A good book is a good book!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Hank, Captcha is being very insistent today and rarely lets me skip. Maybe if I signed in as Ashley? :)

Denise Ann, isn't it wonderful to have so many worlds to visit? I just recently started reading John Hart -- gritty, though not overly bloody, male protagonist but not a "boy book," psych suspense set in NC. And I love it. And then, off to England between the wars with Jacqueline Winspear. Richness all around.

Anne, great choices all!

Deborah, LOL about your favorite cozy author the one you're reading at the moment -- me, too! Happily I've been spared the question "when are you going to write a real book?" but it's probably coming! And yes, that sense of order restored -- so reassuring, so satisfying.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Debs, hear, hear! I asked a bookseller once how cozy authors could reach readers who dismiss the genre, and she said sometimes she offers a book with the back up, holding on to it while the customer reads the back copy so the customer can't flip it over and be put off by a cute cover. Love our clever booksellers!

Amy Mata said...

I'm one of those people who has to be reading something all the time, from a cereal box to the latest biography or history tome. I also work several so-called literary fiction books into my schedule every year. A cozy mystery promises and delivers smiles and laughter. There's a real need in life for levity, and if it's coupled with the bad guy getting what's coming to him, that's lagniappe.

I don't know that cozy is a perfect term, but I can hardly call the books I write "happy murders." Cozy will have to do.

Amy Mata

Leslie Budewitz said...

Amy, "a cozy mystery promises and delivers smiles and laughter." I LOVE that! Some are more humorous than others, of course, but you don't smile much at a Jack Reacher book, do you? (Oh, dear, this is NOT "Pick on Jack Reacher Day," I promise. Pretty sure that's NEXT week. :) )

I often say "a light-hearted mystery," and that makes the point well, I think.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yeah, you are right Ashley :-) we would never make fun of Jack Reacher. I fear that would not end well :-)
I am boarding a plane to Bar Harbor for the murder by the Park festival… Giving the keynote!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

See you soon!

Tina Debellegarde said...

Thank you for this discussion! I am working on my first manuscript and have been given the sound advice by many lovely published authors to make sure I know my sub-genre so I can make a clear pitch but I have not been able to decide if I fall under cozy or other. This is complicated by the impression I have gotten that the label of cozy is undesirable. My small town story with an amateur sleuth has no gore, explicit sex or swearing. The murder takes place off stage. It can be light hearted and yet it contains a certain amount of pathos. I have started calling my book a traditional village mystery. Any thoughts on this label?

Leslie Budewitz said...

Hank, you will be fabulous, always! And Murder by the Park -- sounds mysteriously fun!

Tina, I like "traditional village mystery." It doesn't ultimately solve the agents' and publishers' needs, though, and it will require them to decide. B&N, for ex., now puts cozies on a separate set of shelves from other mysteries -- so the readers who love them can find them, I think, not to keep other mystery readers from finding us, but it can have that effect. But I think you can try that in your first few queries when you're ready, and gauge the reaction. Good luck! (We met at Malice this year, right?)

Ann said...

Exactly Deb

Tina deBellegarde said...

Leslie, thanks for the input. Yes, we met at Malice and you were wonderfully encouraging! Thank you again! I will be at Crime Bake this year. I can't wait! Hope to see you there.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Oh, Tina, you will have a most marvelous time at Crime Bake! I won't be there this year, alas, but Diane Vallere, the current SinC pres, will be, and you will love her! And the whole weekend. Do everything, talk with everyone, rest later!

Anonymous said...

Cozy, schmozy. A good read is what I'm after, and I don't care what the "genre" is, as long as there are compelling characters doing interesting things. Bright, witty, snappy conversation is a bonus.

Really, putting novels in these categories is a disservice to the intelligence of potential readers, and in a way it is a form of censorship. These categories predetermine, in a largely artificial way, the type of reader, too. My mother is 86, and she loves a good read, and she's almost as voracious as I am. She's more likely to read a thriller than a book about a sweet little teashop, and she's way more likely to read something with a racy relationship than none at all. And why ever not?

Ebooks go a long way to helping this situation, don't you think? Especially if a reader finds a title/series via Goodreads or Book Bub, where all the books get jumbled together, without a category assignment.

Ann said...

Really? It's nothing at all like Lear unless I missed something along the way. Which I often do. ��

Leslie Budewitz said...

Anon, love your passion!

Ann, sorry -- wrong play! Hamlet, in utero, hearing his mother plot, etc.

kellye said...

Love this! I have been reading mysteries since middle school and (shockingly!) my mother wasn't really into letting me read the graphic police procedurals and hard boiled PI novels, so cozies are indeed my first love. It started with Joan Hess and Jill Churchill and hasn't let up since.

Ann said...

Whew. Was wondering what I missed

Kay Bennett said...

Even in writing this blog, your words are as always insightful, intelligent and ring true. I say cozies saved me and they truly did. I thought I had lost the one thing that had been a constant in my life reading. Thankfully a friend suggested baking mysteries. I had no idea what she spoke of, so she gave me titles. I found that yes again I could read and actually understand. Those cozies spoke to me, thru a fog I had due to cognitive issues. They still speak to me and I relish their gentle yet intelligent words. Thank you for your comments and your books.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Kellye, you make a good point about another reason why we love cozies: Even as adults, we don't always want to be assaulted on the page, and we certainly don't want to expose children to unnecessary violence -- they'll get it soon enough. Cozies are popular reads in MT's Hutterite community -- much like the Amish and Mennonite communities -- and I suspect the community aspect is as much a part of the appeal as the clean language and lack of sex.

Gigi Pandian said...

What a great discussion! I do appreciate some form of categories so I know what I'm getting with a book, since sometimes I'm in the mood for a cozier book and sometimes I want a thriller.

It's always interesting to hear whether readers consider my books cozy or not. My voice, characters, and happy endings are cozy, but my plots take my characters all over the world. There are a lot of us who write "not quite cozy" books, and I'm a huge fan of many of them, though alas I don't have a better term for them!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Gigi, the same questions sometimes arise with historicals, though I'm delighted that Rhys, Catriona McPherson, and Victoria Thompson happily embrace the cozy world. One of your terrific capers is going on vacation with me in 10 days!

Leslie Karst said...

I think the anti-cozy sentiment often derives from thoughtless snobbery, but sometimes (alas) also from sexism, as there are many who believe that "real" mysteries are those written by men, and cozies are most often penned by women. Sad.

That said, I do understand that there can be problems with the term "cozy," as it encompasses SO many subgenres: culinary, quilting, historical, caper, music, fashion; and within those, the styles run the gamut from serious, to hilarious, to (what I call my series) "snarky cozy." But they are all terrific!

Elisabeth said...

Leslie, thank you for your thoughts that cozys are about community and restoring internal order to that community. Those thoughts make me see how one critic (whose opinion made me ask "are we reading the same books?") could describe Louise Penny's Gamache/Three Pines mystery novels as cozy. Even though Armand Gamache and his cohorts are professionals, they restore both external and internal order in solving and resolving the crimes and the puzzles of life. With a good seasoning of baking, antique dealing, poetry, and portraits.

Clea Simon said...

Leslie, thank you. Did you read Laura Miller's piece on Tana French in the New Yorker? I love French, but Miller seems to think she has to denigrate cozies just to praise her - the usual putdowns about them being all about comfort and about how the characters don't change/develop. Which, of course, is bull. Oh, but instead of saying French "transcends" the genre, she says she "transgresses" it. Hmmm...

Pat D said...

Leslie, I think your definition of cozies nailed it. That said, I do believe the description "cozy" scares off the male readers. If the protagonist is a guy is it a cozy? I was thinking of Hamish MacBeth and how he would be classified.

Vickie Browning said...

First of all, I love your Spice Shop books. Looking forward to Tuesday! Thank you for the bookmarks too! They may have found a spot near your books at the two B&N stores I meander each weekend.
I love cozies, I read many types of books, depending on my mood. Cozies are my 'comfort' like a fleece blanket or really good meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Cozies/amateur sleuth make fab purse books as they fit nicely and are light. I can happily wait in line at the store since I have my book.
I love how the main character gets involved in the investigation. At least in the well written cozy/amateur sleuth books. I don't like it when it feels forced, but when it's done right...excellent. Makes me happy.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

This is such a wonderful day! I am so thrilled to hear from all of you, and what a marvelous conversation! Leslie, congratulations on your mad success!

LynDee Walker said...

Fantastic post, Leslie! I agree a hundred percent about the restoration of order being attractive to readers. I know it's one of the things I love about my favorite books, whether they're classified as cozy or thriller or romance. There's enough disorder in real life. I want my fictional friends to get their, if not necessarily happy, at least satisfying ending.

I do think men tend to shy away from cozies, and must admit I smile every time I see a review from a guy that says a cozy is "a great book if you can get past the cute cover." Seems like there's a cliche about that...

It makes me sad when authors think they have to downplay the work of colleagues to make themselves look or feel better. As many others have said in this wonderful discussion, a good book is a good book. And as my grandma said: if you can't say anything nice, smile and keep your mouth shut. :)

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ooh, I slip away for the first night of the Flathead River Writers Conference, and look at all the wonderful comments! I'll mull them over in my sleep so we can keep up the smart talk tomorrow! (I'll be back, I promise, but later in the day!)

Charlie said...

Stepping in to say I am a guy who enjoys Cozy, Traditional, Amateur Sleuth (whatever term you like) mysteries. One of the reasons I enjoy them is the style in which they are written. The dialog is usually in what I would term "real speaking". The characters talk the way real people do. I rarely run into people who speak in technical jargon or staccato sentences they way some of the more "hard boiled" authors have their characters.

I am always impressed with an author's research into their characters profession, be it bookbinding, yarn making, collectibles, types of research (library, genealogy,newspapers, etc) I think many people do not realize the time it takes to become familiar with the various professions. I may be wrong but, if writing about drugs, spies and other crimes it is easier to just scan the news and pick up information. Which leads me to another preference for cozies....I get enough dire, ongoing true crime from the news, I don't want to immerse myself in it for escapism.

I think another thing that draws me to cozies is the character development. The people have ongoing relationships with family and friends that can change from book to book. It is a reason I like authors who are not always thought of as cozy as well...such as Deborah Crombie & Elizabeth George. You can become invested in these characters because they seem real. I don't know many people who jump off trains, hang out of airplanes or rappel down cliffs using their belts. I DO know people who work in bookshops, libraries, bakeries, diners and so on.

In the end, a good book is a good book. And, one person's tastes are not another's. Read what you enjoy. Isn't the pleasure we get the whole reason for reading?

Leslie Budewitz said...

Oh, Leslie K -- "snarky cozy"! Love that -- and it captures your voice perfectly!

I don't go as far as some to put culinary, pet, knitting, etc. into separate subgenres, because the story elements at work remain the same, and I think that's what makes a subgenre -- why an amateur sleuth is a different subgenre from a PI, for example. But what about a cat sleuth who cooks? Hmmm...

Elisabeth, interesting point about Louise Penny's books. I don't think of them as cozy, because as you point out, Gamache et al do the investigating, and police procedure is important. But there certainly are cozy elements -- the village, the bistro, and more. Clara and her friends investigate a little, and share some of what they learn with Gamache -- I'm particularly thinking of the one with the quints and Myrna's investigation. But you're absolutely right that ultimately, Gamache takes a role in the community -- even before he moves there -- and sees the necessity of restoring that social order, so a-typical of fictional police. A hybrid, perhaps, and such a compelling approach.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Clea, missed it but I see you linked to it on FB -- thanks. "Transgresses" -- love it!

Pat D -- oh that darned Hamish! He messes up all neat categories, doesn't he? He's a cop, for heaven's sake, but the tone of the books is as cozy as a cat wrapped in a fleece throw!

And Vicki, you make my heart pitter-patter -- thank you! And yes, cozies are great for those moments when you just have a few minutes to read and might be called for your appt any moment. (Or not. I read almost an entire Scrapbooking Mystery by my cousin Laura Childs at the DMV one day!)

Leslie Budewitz said...

Ah, LynDee, thank you! Do you see your series as cozy, even though your lead is a journalist? I sort of do, because of the tone, which is one of things I love about the traditional mystery -- we could identify similar elements in your stories and Hank's, and yet the reading experience is very different. Both so satisfying, but in different ways.

Charlie, thank you for your kind and gentlemanly thoughts! You make a good point about the dialogue, and the chance to immerse ourselves in a gentler world for a while. I joke that when I talk about research, I really mean eat. :) But it IS fun, and sometimes a challenge, to tie the sleuth's business knowledge into the mystery, but that's so important, isn't it?

And I share your love of Eliz George and Deborah Crombie -- they are true artists of characterization.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Reds and Red-heads, thank you so much for a fabulous conversation!!!

Go forth and cozy!

xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments about cozy mysteries. I do not recall anyone disparaging cozy mysteries.

From my perspective, there are different types of mysteries. When I read cozy mysteries, I do not want to see graphic violence. Some books have been called cozy mysteries, though I see them as thriller types than cozy mysteries. I recall a relative loved Dick Francis. But when she was pregnant, she did not want to read about anything too violent. She asked her husband to read the book before she did to check for violence. If it was too violent, she would NOT read the book!

This week I have been reading one of my favorite series again - Constable Evans by Rhys Bowen. So glad I kept them!

Love the maps in Deborah Crombie's books.

I remember meeting Leslie Budewitz at Malice and she autographed one of the Spice series. Love the name Pepper!

Diana