Thursday, December 9

Why are there so many subgenres within the crime novel?

Dashiell Hammet, Agatha Christie, Stieg Larsson, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, PD James and Fred Vargas.

Dashiell Hammet, Agatha Christie, Stieg Larsson, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, PD James and Fred Vargas.

‘Cozy crime’, ‘nazi crime’, ‘domestic noir’, ‘femikrimi’, ‘true crime’, ‘gastronoir’, narcoliteratura, ‘noir’ sobrenatural, ‘tartan noir’, ‘country noir’… The black and police genre can be compared to a great mother who does not stop bearing children populating the literature with subgenres, trends and labels, many of which are born by the geographical origin of authors and plots. Remember if not the Nordic ‘boom’ from the Stieg Larsson phenomenon or the no less powerful Mediterranean footprint that Andrea Camilleri or Petros Márkaris followed from Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Álex Martín Escribà and Jordi Canal i Artigas were commissioned to review the history and terminology more ‘noir’ in the two-volume essay ‘A point blank’ (Around), of which this year they launched the second (in Catalan, ‘Trets per totes bandes’).

Martín Escribà and Canals break down the phenomenon for this newspaper after the new titles of the genre set in World War II and especially during the Nazism or before the ‘revival’ that seems to be living in Spain the ‘cozy crime’, the friendliest police subgenre, with heirs of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple who have given it a twist, like David Safier (turning Angela Merkel in detective by accident), SJ Bennett (doing the same with Elizabeth II) and Richard Osman, with his ‘troupe’ of restless elderly investigators.

Label explosion

The reason for the explosion of labels is due, according to Martín, writer and editor of Alrevés, “to the genre’s capacity for fusion and hybridization, which has known how to reinvent and adapt to the new times. Its chameleon, mestizo side, has caused it to cease to be genre literature and to become generalist literature. In this way, symbiosis as interesting as ‘cyberpunk’ or ‘steampunk’, products of revolutions and experimentations, have appeared “.

Unavoidable labels

Jordi Canals, a scholar of the black genre and creator of the L’H Confidencial award, thinks that “labels are unavoidable“.” We find them in art, music, also in literature. The classifications establish differences between the works that the genre encompasses. On the other hand, both in libraries and bookstores and in the world of digital commerce in which we live, sales platforms are used to target specific consumers. It is evident that some of the labels are commercial and are destined to have a short life, while others will go down in the history of literature. ” In any case, the appearance of so many labels related to crime literature is surprising when it moves towards ceasing to be a genre literature “.

Two logs

In his study they go back chronologically to the beginnings of the crime novel (Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett) and the detective or mystery novel (Poe, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie). Because those are the two original trunks of which over the years labels and trends have been born, although they are often used interchangeably to identify the entire genus as a whole. “There is consensus that they must differentiate themselves – explains Martín -. In our country they continue to be confused and everything is called a crime novel. The police force is of European origin, the hieroglyph solves, it is the novel of stability and happy endings, of magic tricks and mass supermen. The crime novel does not solve anything, you have unhappy endings and it is usually starring losers, whether they are detectives, citizens or criminals of all kinds. Therefore, the crime novel offers questions, the detective novel answers “.

The debate

In other countries they are clear about the name that encompasses the genus. In France it is the ‘polar’, in Italy the ‘giallo’, in Germany the ‘krimi’. Not so in Spain. Paco Camarasa, the disappeared bookseller of the now-defunct Negra y Criminal, a specialist in all things ‘noir’ and the first curator of the BCNegra festival, proposed in his book ‘Blood on the shelves’ to call it a black-criminal genre, although Canal clarifies that in reality, “the crime novel already includes the black one“.” In the 1980s, specialists such as Javier Coma or Salvador Vázquez de Parga proposed a criminal novel, but it did not work. Lately there is also an excess of use of ‘noir’, when in Spain since the 1950s ‘roman noir’ is called a crime novel. I guess they find it more ‘chic’. Surely, “he concludes,” the most accurate thing would be to call it a crime novel or crime novel. “Be that as it may, his ‘children’ continue to multiply.

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