Wednesday, July 29, 2015

For the Love of Crime Fiction

 by: Nina Milton
When I tell people I write crime fiction, the one thing I’m not hoping to hear is, “Oh, I never read crime fiction.”

Not because I want them to buy my books, but because I simply don’t believe them. Of course they read crime fiction. They just don’t know it. No way would I admit what I’m actually thinking, which is, “that’s a whole heap of baloney, pal – the literary equivalent of the excrement of the male cow.”

I belong to a local reading club, ten or fifteen of us discussing the books we’ve loved, and sometimes I get that sort of response when introduced to a new member. “A crime fiction series? That won’t interest me, I never read it.” The second part of their little speech hangs in the air, unsaid but perfectly clear– “Crime fiction is way below my reading standard.”

Even when I overhear whisperings in the reading club shadows, “ah, Nina Milton, she’s a novelist with a big US publisher, you know…but it’s only crime fiction…” I don’t bite. I don’t want to be accused of being a “precious author” who can’t take a critique of their work, I just wait, like a cheetah, poised at the edge of the Savannah eyeing up the wildebeests, for the moment they start talking about books…“I love the work of Charles Dickens…” Or, “I’m very into William Faulkner.”

Then I point out, the smile plastered over my face, that Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist was a story of street kids abused and corrupted by gangs of professional criminals.
Bleak House was a legal thriller that Grisham would have probably been proud to write and The Mystery of Edwin Brood…well, it’s in the title, you fool. As for Nobel Laureate Faulkner, not only did he work on the screenplay of The Big Sleep, but wrote a thriller called Sanctuary.

Edgar Allen Poe
Then there’s Dicken’s friend Wilkie Collins, who’s every novel was a mystery thriller, plus Patricia Highsmith, Edgar Allan Poe and Graham Greene, all writers now studied at college. 

Donna Tartt produces something criminal every ten years or so, to delight serious readers and crime fans alike, recently winning acclaim across the world for The Goldfinch, the story of a stolen painting. And, as if to prove my point, Scottish novelist Kate Atkinson recently won literary prizes for her surprising and memorable book, Life After Life, straight after publishing  her “Jackson Brodie” series about a DI turned private eye. These have already been adapted for British TV as Case Histories, and Shonda Rhimes is developing a pilot called The Catch for the US market.

And did you know that Mark Twain’s Huck and Tom solved a murder and collected $2000 in Tom Sawyer, Detective? Twain was also the first writer to use fingerprints in his short story, The Thumbprint and What Became of It.

We haven’t even got started on the many crime novels which have been showered with accolades from the literary giitterati; writers like Dashiell Hammett, Elmor Leonard, Raymond Chandler,  Steig Larsson, Peter Hoeg, Georges Simenon. And of course, P D James, who, in her latter years, also wrote a mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley.

In fact, it is difficult to write a book, even one that is likely to reach literary heights, without there being an element of mystery within it, without it being thrilling, and without, underneath all of this, some sort of dark secret. I believe it’s the crime writer who best reflects their society, and all shades.

In any case, it’s hard to define exactly what makes a book “good literature”, but I think most people would go with the books which raise questions for the reader, especially about the validity of society’s morals, which is written with style, so that every sentences gets you thinking, and yet is beautiful in its own right.

I don’t pretend to be a literary writer, but I do attempt, right from the start of plotting each of my “Shaman Mystery” novels, to explore the themes I’ve chosen with some depth, and within that, to examine what it is to be human. I do that by choosing crimes that are deeply evil in some way, and observing how people cope, react. In the Moors examines the appalling crime of pedophilia. Unraveled Visions looks at how desperate people seek a better life in a new country to only become exploited. Beneath the Tor, due for release in December 2015, will investigate the “legal hi” problems and mental health issues. Because my heroine is a shamanic therapist with a big heart, I always feature the victims and their families in my books, as well as the law enforcers and the criminals. These are the people Sabbie Dare is interested in helping.

I think P. D. James put it well; A detective story can give a much truer picture of the society in which it’s written than a more prestigious literature…crime fiction confirms our belief, despite some evidence to the contrary, that we live in a rational comprehensible and moral universe.




The 1st Shaman Mystery, IN THE MOORS -“Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year...Milton’s tale is riveting.”—Library Journal (starred review)

The 2nd Shaman Mystery, UNRAVELED VISIONS
“[A] thrilling tale.” —RT Book Reviews
"The depictions of shamanic journeying are vivid and authentic. Reading BENEATH THE TOR kept me up at night much later than I wanted, because I could not bear to miss the next bit."—RONALD HUTTON, AUTHOR OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE MOON, SHAMANS, AND PAGAN BRITAIN
Nina Milton (Wales) has been publishing short stories and children’s books for thirty years. She’s won many literary competitions, including the Crossroads Competitions, Kent Festival Prize, and the Wells Literary Shirt Story Competitions. She enjoys exploring the magical landscapes of Britain with her husband, James. Visit her blog at


J.A. (Julie) Kazimer said...

Great post. I learned long ago about both the judgement people place on genres and my own shortcomings in that department. It would be a lovely world if everyone judged books by content and entertainment value. But I do see that happening any time soon. In the meantime, I'll curl up with my crime fiction and sneer at all those who aren't 'smart' enough to love it.

Nina Milton said...

Well done, Julie, a great judgement on your part. Try some of my crime reviews on

Unknown said...

Always enjoyed Nina's Milton blogs whether linked with OCA writings or Kitchen Table Writers blogs.Bought a few and managed to read most of them fromKTM blogs.I for myself started with a book from Readers Digest by James Hilton called Lost Horizon, Goodbye, Mr.Chips and other stories some years ago; to be honest it was for the Goodbye, Mr.Chips,then I read Lost Horizon..and couldn't wait to see the film! Which I felt a tribble thrill seeing -Lost Horizon twice. Having read "In The Moors" I can not wait ...and keep hope on for a film. Scenery and choice of words and phrases made feel I was there. Got the second one...and had the same problem just like the first one...came out in the thick of my course, the who done it was the very dear Author herself. Now I started reading Nina's second and stopped as I am between level 2 of OCA course and course books to read. However, I must admit was hoping for a Trilogy to come and there it was. So back to Amazon on the waiting basket...ready to budget as I knew satisfaction guaranteed with Nina's writing crime. Then Harper Lee resurfaced from across the seas....and I loved reading "To kill a Mocking Bird" and saw the film with Gregory Peck. So guys I simply had to use the August budget getting her second book " Go Set A Watchman" bought also the DVD of her first one the very original one with Gregory Peck.
Will get the third volume God willing in September-October from Amazon with a list of a couple more books with Ishiguro's latest also.
Willing to explore new openings for my reading experience and "In the Moors" given me this. But I still hope for a FILM to come. I really think the detail in the writing, to my humble opinion spells, and smells of woodlands.
I will never get myself to read horror books nor watch horror movies...too much of this in the News daily, sad to say and see. Now Ghosts are spooky! Vastly and ghastly different. Still remember "The Monkey's Paw" which I had for my GCE exams back home in 1956-57!
Have always kept in touch with KTW and always read, took notes and kept a file on almost all of Nina's blogs. Remained mostly silent until in my assignment now. We had ...Blogs and links...still new for me but refreshing my mind.
Thank you, Nina, for all your hard work, caring for students needs inspiration motivation creativity and persistence.
Wishing you always Success, more writing... with films too! Perhaps?
Warmest thoughts all the way from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Nicholas Poulcherios OCA student.

Nina Milton said...

Do hope you enjoy Beneath The Tor, Nicholas!