Friday, April 24, 2015

Been There, Going Where?

Frankie, here. Finally, getting a chance to sit down at the keyboard. This week has been busy, and that brings me to my topic for today's post.

Yesterday, I was a guest lecturer for a series on genre fiction being offered at a local college. The attendees were all adults who were there because they were interested in the topic. I had two hours, and I decided to focus on the evolution of crime fiction and how that overlapped with the evolution of the criminal justice system. I started with our friend Edgar -- Poe, that is -- the "father of the mystery short story". I talked about his contributions to crime fiction as a genre -- from the brilliant, but eccentric, detective and his narrator to "hide in plain sight".  I told them about "The Mystery of Marie Roget," his fictional detective's investigation of the real-life murder of Mary Rogers, "the beautiful cigar girl" using accounts found in the "penny press".

I followed the evolution of crime fiction from Poe to Doyle to the "Golden Age" writers. I used Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder to move from country houses to "mean streets." I paused to discuss the real-life Ruth Snyder-Judd Gray murder case and what James M. Cain did with that case in Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice and how that influenced film noir. I moved on to the birth of police procedurals, and then to the impact of the Civil Rights movement and women's rights movement on crime fiction in the 1960s and after. I ended with the rise of the thriller. Along the way, I talked about crime fiction and theories of crime, the FBI, and modern forensics.

I packed a lot into those two hours. After my whirlwind tour through the evolution of crime fiction, I turned to writers and the changing industry. We've talked about the challenges here on Type-M and they come up during panel discussions at any writers conference. The challenges include finding an agent, finding a publisher, keeping a publisher. With new technology, we have to decide whether to continue with our efforts to traditionally publish or consider self/independent publishing or maybe become a hybrid. We worry about creating our "writer's platform" and then how much time to devote to maintaining it and making sure that all of our parts (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are all working together to ensure we reach a maximum audience. We worry about the time social media takes away from our writing. We think about how diversity and multiculturalism -- now being discussed -- affects us and the characters we create.

My audience was make up of people who read mysteries. They recognized the writers and titles I mentioned. And -- in case you're interested -- when I asked about use of social media, only 3 or 4 people out of an audience of around 50 said they use Twitter. On the other hand, I know some readers have found me on Twitter when a reviewer tweeted a link or a blogger mentioned my guest post. Something to ponder.

But, right now, I've got to run.

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