Fickle is as fickle does. There was a time when, inspired by Vincenzo Ruggiero’s CRIME IN LITERATURE: A SOCIOLOGY OF DEVIANCE AND FICTION (we read the synopsis, like), we were peddling the theory that the crime fiction genre was a broad enough church to encompass Dostoevsky, Camus, Melville, Shakespeare, PETER PAN and pretty much everything from Diddley-Eye Joe to damned if we know. Basically, if the narrative was fuelled by crime or criminality, it was a crime fiction tale.
But lo! We soon got fed up of that malarkey – mainly because of the number of serious scribes who have no trouble ‘borrowing’ the tropes of crime fiction while pooh-poohing the idea that they are writing crime – and leapfrogged to the other end of the spectrum, faffing on about how the salient issue was one of intent. In other words, if someone was very deliberately crafting crime fiction, with due respect for the genre, then and only then could the novel be considered genuine crime fiction.
Of course, no one gives a monkey’s chuff what we think, about crime fiction or anything else. Which – huzzah! – gives us the freedom to posit another theory on what constitutes crime fiction. And it’s this: if you can pull the crime out of a story and the tale still stands up, then it’s not a crime fiction novel; if you pull the crime and the story collapses, then it is.
Any takers? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.