Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Appeal of Crime Fiction

Crime fiction has been gaining popularity in recent years, and there are no signs of this trend coming to an end. In 2011 an unprecedented third of titles long listed for the Booker Prize were crime novels. For the first time the Top Ten titles borrowed from libraries were crime novels. Not only that, crime drama dominated television drama.

“Most of us would be hard pressed to say anything in defence of real life crime, so how can we account for the popularity of crime fiction?” is a question I raised in an interview I gave on Crimespree. The truth is that crime in fiction is not the same as crime in real life.

It is disturbing to read about violent crime in the news, but in fiction the rules are different. The good guys win and justice is done. Philip Hensher writing in the Telegraph in 2011 put it like this. “We turn away from the unspeakable, inexplicable horrors of the newspapers, events with no resolution, into a world where a single running policeman can put everything right.” If only real life were like that!

This escape into a world where justice prevails is one reason for the appeal of crime fiction.


Guillaume said...

One word: catharsis.

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, that's very true, Guillaume. Crime fiction lets us follow crimes vicariously, knowing it isn't really happening.