Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crime Fiction: Cure for (a) Depression?

One friend who lost her job told me she couldn’t really face the world just now. She wanted to hide from decisions on what to do next or where the money needed to support her family would come from. So what did she do? Take to her bed with a stack of crime fiction.

Perfect. In an age when malefactors abscond with millions stolen from charity while hard-working souls get laid off, why not escape into the world of crime fiction? In that world criminals get their comeuppance and the innocent triumph. As we turn the pages, we move from balance to disequilibrium and back to balance. Ah, if 2009 America (and Canada and the U.K.) were only that simple.

Not only can a piece of good crime fiction provide the escape we need, it can do so for almost nothing. I sold books at the LA Book Festival alongside my friend Cara Black, who writes the bestselling (and terrific) Aimée Leduc series. She’d say to passersby, “Do you want to go to Paris for $13?” What a pitch in these near-depression times!

So bookstores must be chock-full of eager readers, right? Judging from a few recent conversations with bookstore proprietors here in the Bay Area, I don’t think so. They're complaining about the business lassitude like the rest of us. Here’s my real question then: Why aren’t crime fiction sales picking up during this Great Depression II?


P.S. Hats off to fellow Inkspotters G.M. Malliet and Joanna Campbell Slan. Gin’s Death of a Cozy Writer and Joanna’s Paper, Scissors, Death were nominated for the Agatha Award for best first novel. CONGRATS!

P.P.S. Normally, Agathas are determined by voters at the Malice Domestic Conference May 1-3. Gin is threatening to settle this one via an arm wrestling contest. I just hope it’s webcast live.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Keith, was that an arm-wrestling contest or were we planning a drinking bout a la the way Marian did in one of those Indiana Jones movies?

I need to know fast so I can start training.

G.M. Malliet said...

Correction! It was Joanna who wanted to arm wrestle. I suggested a drinking contest. I believe the exact words used were that we should "drink each other under the table."

I am not sure this is the type of event that can be trained for. Spontaneity is key.

Terri Thayer said...

I'm buying drinks at Malice! Congrats, ladies.

Jessica Lourey said...

Ah, I won't be at Malice, but it's satisfying to see that our group will be well-represented by many drunk and stumbling women.

I heard via another listserv that according to Barnes & Noble, what is selling well now is romance and sci fi/fantasy. When it gets bad, people want to go to a new world, apparently. However, Keith makes a compelling argument for why mysteries are timeless: humans crave justice. Viva la mystery!

G.M. Malliet said...

You're sure? This could get expensive, Terri. ;-)

Keith - to respond to your post, you know what has really gotten me thru the lean times, in addition to books? Movies. Because when you're down and distracted, it can be hard to read anything that isn't a real pot-boiler. Problem is, movies are getting pretty expensive. Netflix to the rescue.

G.M. Malliet said...

Jess - LOL!

Cricket McRae said...

First, huge kudos to Gin and Joanna -- good luck to you both! Unfortunately, it turns out I won't be able to attend Malice this year, so I'll miss all that arm wrestling and drinking.

Keith, I think people ARE reading more, including plenty of crime fiction. But many are turning to used books and libraries to cut costs. I don't blame readers for doing that -- let's face it, it's rough out there -- but my preference is always libraries. Spin a Wicked Web isn't even officially released and there are already used copies available on Amazon. Sheesh.

Keith Raffel said...

After I posted, I saw an article in Forbes that says porn is way up during the downturn. Come on people! Turn to mysteries and thrillers instead. It's more engaging to read about crime than leer at [censored].

Deborah Sharp said...

Good post on books and the economic downturn, Keith .... as for the Agatha noms., Yay!
Real feathers in the cap for Joanna and Gin ... and of course for Midnight Ink, too.
When do y'all get a raise ;-) ?