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Trailblazers: Jane Austen and Alexander McCall Smith

Is there a place for the positive in crime fiction? Regular readers of my novels know I believe the answer is yes. We must extrapolate a bit, but it seems Alexander McCall Smith, author of the hugely successful Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series, may agree. In an article published this month titled “Beauty Locked Out” in The New Criterion, Smith argues the case for general fiction, using Jane Austen as his opening salvo.

Jane Austen, Smith points out, is perhaps the most successful novelist of the past two centuries, because: “Her novels seem to fulfill a deeper need in today’’s readers: the yearning for an ordered and innocent world in which violence and conflict are absent.”

I would add, “or resolved in a positive way by the story’s protagonists.”

In short, Smith argues that grit and edge are but one side of the human condition; that there’s room in literature for beauty, calm, humor, and peace as well. Perhaps neither Jane Austen nor Alexander McCall Smith set out to prove this claim, but there can be no doubt they’ve both done so. Because, he says, we readers do not want a diet of unremitting gloom. And you know what? We crime writers don’t want such a diet, either.

In this, both Jane Austen, who died in 1817, and Alexander McCall Smith, writing almost 200 years later, are both trailblazers. As are many crime writers working today.

 

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Monday Mystery Mob ™

Start your week with a little mystery. Match wits with the Monday Mystery Mob™. What’s your solution? #1 – Death After Dinner The Monday Mystery Mob™ had finished their schnitzel, gathered strudel and schnapps. Helga Bittner settled in to lead the after dinner traditional crime puzzle discussion. “We’ve got a good one tonight. You’ll never […]

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Trailblazers 102: Obsessed With Success

The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel set in Jackson, Mississippi, where the author grew up, is this summer’s hottest success story.But perhaps more important is the rest of the story. Do you know it? The film’s tag line promises: “Three extraordinary women are about to take an extraordinary step…” Indeed they did and the film is […]

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Trailblazers 101 – Follow Your Heart

Steve Jobs announced his resignation as Apple’s CEO yesterday. He asked to remain as Chairman and the board quickly agreed. I, for one, am thrilled that one of the most successful trailblazers of our time will stay on. Aren’t you? Full disclosure: although I was late to the game, I’m now a total  Apple geek […]

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Revenge: The Sue Grafton Way

Sue Grafton said she wrote her breakout novel, “A is for Alibi” to fulfill revenge fantasies during a bad divorce. Sue once told me that it saved her sanity to “kill the dude!” She’s now releasing her 22d Kinsey Millhone mystery, “V is for Vengeance,” which leads me to believe she’s still using this technique quite profitably. Reading mysteries and […]

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Do you see what we see?

Ability to grasp the obvious is an essential life skill. Failure to perceive can be fatal. Or, as Judge Willa Carson says, “You never see the bullet that gets you.” It’s no wonder then, that it took me a while to grasp why artists on two continents chose mysterious eyes to adorn my novel covers. […]

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