Crime fiction belies creativity

I might have mentioned in my article on Fargo that I am usually not keen on crime drama. There have been a number of crime dramas that I have watched with mixed feelings towards. Fargo is by far the best, Breaking Bad was okay but, looking back, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Luther were just dull. They do nothing new from the genre and, as a person who doubts his own work because it borrows from lots of sources, I hate it.

Let’s start by stating that crime novels tend to be the most successful novels and generally sell reliably well. People like Lee Child, Danielle Steel and James Patterson all make pots of money writing them and, while I don’t want to belittle their work nor peoples enjoyment of it, I find them to be formulaic, which tends to be many critics’ criticisms. I can even see why people enjoy them: crime novels have an inherent familiarity and they ape the obvious good-evil divide that intrudes fantasy and sci-fi most notably, but in a modern setting. It’s why I liked Breaking Bad; Walter White can easily be viewed in either light, as can those around him, and it lacks a lot of the rigmarole of the crime genre. Fargo, also, has characters that start off not being “bad” people but change and develop over the series. It’s also worth saying that every single person in the Police force is a boring bureaucrat to my eyes, despite the creators giving them personalities. They were just less interesting than Lester and Malvo and so I didn’t want to root for the people who I thought were boring, much like how I rejoiced whenever Joffrey was on screen in Game of Thrones because it’s so nice to have a villain that is both disgustingly unlikable and well written.

But now we go back to the issue at hand. Following on from the simple good-evil split between characters we have a very predictable story in every iteration of crime fiction. It all turns into a game of “whodunit?” and, while some people might find that satisfying, I feel like there is only so many times you can play Cluedo. I don’t think there has to be a great deal of creativity in it, though being able to keep track of things is a skill you need. From what I understand, when most crime writers are planning, they write backwards, deciding the murder, who did it and what happened and then they string together pieces of evidence and coincidences that are realised that get less and less damning the further away from the end they are.

However, in defense of crime fiction, I do feel like it has a saturated market. There is an awful lot of crime series, films, books, etc. If the roles were reversed and fantasy was always in our face I might have more of a sunny opinion of crime. Every genre has its tropes and it is just unlucky for crime that it is so overused and abused by writers.

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