Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In the Land of Noir

RHYS: I've been in England for the past week, and am pausing a moment for reflection (maybe because it's bloody-well raining!)
The first days were at Crime Fest in Bristol. The setting was ideal--on College Green with the Cathedral next door and the river down below. The one thing that struck me right away was that I know almost nobody. Then that British crime writing is so different from American. I read the bios: her debut thriller is about a serial killer abducting children. ... in her debut novel a child is taken from a primary scheool and... in her brilliant first novel a series of young women are found mutilated and...

You get the picture. Not a cat or a yarn shop or even a cupcake in sight. In Britain Molly Murphy is considered uber-cozy. And Skandanavian crime is the gold standard. Hank, Hallie, Roberta, there were so many good Skandanavian names here. We would have been so impressive at our game show at Malice when we had to name Skandanavian crime writers and you challenged my Ingemar Sigermarsdottil!

So it makes me wonder whether Mrs. Average Briton really doesn't enjoy a good cozy. Whether she laments the vanishing of Miss Marple. I hope so. My books are now being published in UK, so we'll see. But it was a strange feeling being at a convention and not once being stopped in the hall to have someone tell me that she loves my books. Humbling and good for me, I expect!

The featured writer was Lee Child and I was so glad to see someone who came across the room to give me a hug! He is always so gracious at these things. So low key. The event finished with a gala dinner at which they gave awards. The toastmaster was James Runcie, of Granchester fame and he gave a brilliant speech, contrasting the literary novel with the crime novel. So funny and so true.

But it was good to escape and to come down to Cornwall to my sister-in-law's lovely manor house where the spring flowers are blooming on the hedgerows and life is peacefully going on as it has for centuries. We also visited my home town, Bath, and every time I am struck by the incredible beauty of the city and the abbey.

So now I only have to do some copy edits, which naturally arrived the day I left home, and I can realx and enjoy ceam teas and Cornish pasties for a few days. Oh, and get ideas for some more horribly cozy mysteries!

And I've been trying desperately to add pictures to this post and Blogger won't let me. So Im sorry. Bath and Corwall will have to remain in your imagination.


  1. What interesting observations on the cozy in England, Rhys. We should turn that situation around.

    The description of your sister-in-lwa's place is enough so we don't need pictures. And I've been to Bath - fascinating place.

  2. I wouldn't have thought that British crime writing would be so different . . . the vanishing of Miss Marple makes me a bit sad.

  3. I have a confession: all of those blurbs you described, Rhys, would make me put the book back on the shelf. Too many serial killer books, too many violent crimes against children books--it's not that I read cozies exclusively--I don't--but I can't go that far into noir--it's too dark there.

    Glad you enjoyed Bristol--and had some down time, too in Cornwall.

  4. this is lovely Rhys--fascinating about the different world of crime fiction--would not have expected that. I can't imagine what they'd have thought of Jungle red panels!

    Wouldn't your sister sponsor a retreat to her manor home? we'd be very well behaved...

    I have not visited Bath. We had planned to go the year our son rowed in the Henley, but realized we were overreaching with our agenda. Must put that on the list! Safe travels Rhys...and enjoy relaxing...

  5. I would LOVE to go to Crime Fest... thanks for taking us there vicariously, Rhys! They had Lee Child!? How interesting. I think of him as the Cary Grant of the mystery conference world. So incredibly charming and generous.

  6. Jungle Reds Manor Home Retreat!

    Rhys, brava for the post and boo on silly computer glitches that won't let you post pictures. You do such a beautiful job with words that we have pictures in our minds.

  7. Although I read different kinds of mysteries (cozies, thrillers, suspense), I'll put a book back on the shelf if the word "brutal" is used in the jacket blurb. I especially don't want to read about violence against children.

    You might not be able to post pictures, but you've given us the opportunity to use our imaginations, Rhys! (Right now it is cold and rainy here, and I felt like I was right there with you:-)

  8. I'd be on board with a Jungle Red Manor House retreat.

    I think it's funny that folks always credit the US with the ultra-dark stuff, and you go to Crime Fest and it turns out that it's the British (who I secretly think everybody imagines as Miss Marple).

  9. It is interesting that the Brits seem to not love the cozy as much as readers do here in the States.

    I suspect this has a lot to do with the legacy of Agatha Christie. While we do think of her as a cozy, really her books are traditional and close examination reveals some dark stuff, just presented in a "lighter" way - if that makes sense. Let's call it less graphic.

    This could also explain why I am drawn more to the UK authors. It's not that I don't enjoy a cozy, but for me, they are more an escape read, while often I want something that displays the social ills faced by the world. A cozy can do that, but it's still different, somehow.

    I suspect a conference like St. Hilda's (which takes a more academic look at the crime genre) would not fly here in the States.

  10. Oh, SO fascinating! Hope you an tell us a bit more about that speech..

    With you on Lee as Cary Grant. Unfailingly wonderful. And a real role model.

  11. Well, once they start reading your books more, they will all be adding cozies to their lists!

    Thanks for the lovely photos you have been posting elsewhere. I stayed in Bath for several weeks years ago while on a long business trip. It was my first trip to England, what a beautiful place to start.

  12. Rhys, that is so true about English crime fiction, as I've discovered much to my distress over the years. My books are considered "cozy" by UK standards. But I think what UK publishers THINK readers want--and the focus of events like Crime Fest, which puts the emphasis on noir--may not be the whole picture. Look at the success of James Runcie's Grantchester books (much better than the TV series, I think.) And Alexander McCall Smith. And lovely Ann Cleeves (not cozies, but not what I would call "noir" either. Just good detective fiction.) And terrific writers like Elly Griffiths. And Chris Fowler. I could go on and on, obviously. So be not disheartened!

    I would have posted pics of Cornwall and Bath for you!

    Which reminds me, is the UK still in the grip of Poldark Mania??? Coming here soon, so we will all be able to drool over Cornwall--and Aidan Turner--on our TV screens.

  13. Deb makes a good point. By UK standards, some stuff is considered cozy that really isn't (like her books and Ann Cleeves). And if that is the case, then a knitting or cat mystery is probably nonsensical to them. I'm going to explore this more when I see some of my friends from the UK.

    All that said, I don't think they will have any troubles embracing your books Rhys. Not to worry.

  14. Bummer the pictures wouldn't show!

    None of those books you mentioned sounded good to me. Brutal? Serial killers? I'll pass. Give me Molly and Georgie and Evan any day of the week.

  15. I am in the midst of Jeffrey Archer's Harry Cliften novels set in Bristol, and would love to see pictures. Is is still a rough port city? Any pictures of England, any time!!!
    I am so surprised to hear that the British are cool to cozies. You'll show them!!!

  16. Rhys, I have been living vicariously through you via your Facebook postings. It's too bad the pictures wouldn't post here because your sister's manor house in Cornwall is so lovely. You have the perfect place to rest and have tea for a few days, although I think you should give yourself at least a week doing that.

    I cannot imagine a crime or mystery gathering where Rhys Bowen wouldn't be approached by ogling fans. How surreal that must have been. With the publication of your books in the UK, that recognition will quickly come.

    It's so interesting that with all the wonderful cozies set in England, that the country doesn't embrace cozies more. Having read British author M.C. Beaton's cozies with Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth, I wonder if those two series are more popular here than in Britain, even though it says she's the "3rd most borrowed adult author in UK libraries" on her Web site. Maybe Beaton is just the exception, as I'm having trouble thinking of another British cozy writer with that success. And, even though I've enjoyed M.C. Beaton's series, Rhys, your writing is going to knock their socks off in merry ole England. I think, as Debs points out, that books like your Molly Murphy and her Duncan and Gemma books aren't considered cozy here but are in England. Different ideas indeed of what cozy is.

    Like Kristopher, I do admit that I love British authors, which includes Scottish. I am quite the Anglophile, and many of my favorite authors live across the pond, with England and Scotland being my favorite settings for books. Of course, I have many favorites here in the states and love getting to know more about the settings to which I can travel more easily.

    Debs, I'm so glad that you mentioned Elly Griffiths. Her new book, Ghost Fields, is out today and just arrived on my doorstep. For those of you who aren't familiar with Elly, whose actual name is Domenica de Rosa, well, why aren't you familiar with her? Hehehe! She writes the Ruth Galloway series, and last fall published a stand-alone, the fabulous Zig Zag Girl. I met Elly/Domenica at the 2013 Bouchercon, and we hit it off instantly. She will be in Raleigh this year, and I urge you all to read her books and introduce yourself.

    Another British author with a book coming out today is Sharon (S.J.) Bolton. I have adored her books since her first few stand-alones and then her series with Lacey Flint. The current one is a stand-alone. Then, there is Catriona McPherson, who lives in California, but who will always be a Scottish lass. Oh, my, I've turned this post into a favorite British author post. Sorry, didn't meant to do that.

    Rhys, I hope you enjoy the remaining days of your England trip to the max. I don't think you mentioned that your sister's Cornwall house was considered as a location for the Poldark series. I remember you saying that on FB. How great is that! And, if you do have that Jungle Red Manor House retreat, I'll volunteer as a gofer, fetching anything you all need.

  17. I'm pretty sure I'm considered a cozy writer in the UK. And it took my agent forever to place my series with a British publisher - editors kept reading the books and saying how much they liked them...BUT the stories simply weren't dark enough.

    It's interesting to see the converse in the US - it's much more difficult to sell an old-style noir mystery to a major publisher. Of course, the Scandinavians are everywhere - maybe for real success, we Jungle Reds should change our names! Just call me Júlía Jóhannsdottir...

  18. Rhys, you are wonderful and I trust unintimidated by the current differences in crime fiction across the ocean. What a disconnect! I suspect it will level out as things do. And I expect your books may very well help move that along.

    I smiled on reading of that hug from Lee Child. You once walked across a room to give me a hug at a time when I had little notice in a group I belonged to and was, rather, always directed to the back. A gracious action from a kind woman helped me reconcile with being "invisible." xoxox

  19. I abhor too much violence, especially against chidren and women. I love américain cozies and have no doubts that yours will make it in UK.

    I once visited Bristol and Bath and prefered the last one, marvelous city. And after visiting the abbey, I went to an hour of prayers and could feel all the centuries of faith wash over and around me. Never did I have this feeling elsewhere.