Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Dark Side

I’ve recently gone over to the dark side.

Don’t worry, the only crimes I’ve committed are fictional ones. I’m talking about changing my reading habits. I’ve recently set aside my usual cozy/traditional mystery fare and started reading darker stories. Ones where the protagonists aren’t very likeable, make really bad decisions, and where the endings aren’t always happy ones.

I’ve flirted with the dark side myself in a couple short stories I wrote. I use the term “flirted” deliberately. My stories Meet Market published in Spinetingler Magazine and Annual Marriage Test published in Mysterical-E are a little darker than my usual stories, but they’re still not what I would call really dark. Go ahead, follow the links and read them and see what you think.

I’ve changed what I’m reading because I’m doing a library event with author Sarah M. Chen at the Wiseburn library in Hawthorne, CA. Come September 8th, we’ll be talking about “The Light and Dark of Mystery”. I represent the light side and Sarah represents the dark side. So I’ve been reading her work (my favorite of hers is her novella, Cleaning Up Finn) as well as other similar stories. Mostly in the short fiction category because I can read a variety of authors fairly quickly.

While I’ve been reading the stories, I’ve been thinking about why I prefer to read and write lighter mysteries. I think it comes down to why I read mysteries in the first place. I read them because I want to be entertained and want to escape real life for a while. I also read because I enjoy the puzzle aspect of traditional mysteries. How the emphasis is on figuring out the crime, not on the brutalness of the murder. I also enjoy visiting familiar characters in interesting places. And, most of all, I like that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance in the end, something that doesn’t always happen in the real world.

When it comes to historical mysteries, which I also read a fair number of, I don’t mind things to be on the darker side. I almost expect it. I think that’s because the settings are long enough ago it doesn’t represent real life to me. There’s a certain amount of detachment I can give to them that I can’t to contemporary mysteries.

So, what about you, Type M readers? Do you prefer your mysteries dark or light or both? And why do you read what you read?

5 comments:

sarahmchen.com said...

Thanks for the mention of FINN, Sybil! I've always loved the anti-heroes, the outsiders, or the ones who take the less traveled path. With that said, I tend to shy away from really brutal or graphic violence. I'm not good at writing it. I don't mind reading it but it must be organic to the story and character. If I've read something especially dark or disturbing, then I'll have to follow it up with a light-hearted YA like something from Rainbow Rowell or Kiera Cass. It's all about balance! Great post.

Sybil Johnson said...

I agree about balance. I have to admit after reading some of the darker stories, I had to read a bit of a cozy mystery to cleanse my spirit so to speak.

Eileen Goudge said...

I like both light and dark. Preferably a mixture of the two. I find dark mysteries are best when leavened with some humor, even if it's black humor. The mystery author who straddles the line best, in my opinion, is Donna Ball. Her Raine Stockton series is a standout.

Sybil Johnson said...

I'm not familiar with the Raine Stockton series, Eileen. I'll have to check it out.

Rick Blechta said...

I'm pretty well in Eileen's camp on this. I've read some relentlessly dark novels that have left me depressed for weeks. It says something about the story line and the author's craft that the book has stayed with me for so long, but I have to be in a very special mood to read one like that.

On the other hand, a novel can have very dark sections that are relieved by maybe an off-the-cuff remark by a character that just eases the grit and grimness a tad and makes a book more bearable. On the other hand, a story that is grim but also tries hard for the laughs is usually one I won't even finish.

At least that's my feeling on the subject.