I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Discussion: Crime Fiction

I have been working on a big display focusing on Crime Fiction which goes up on Wednesday.  But what is Crime Fiction exactly?  I am using the following definition from Wikipedia as a guide:
Crime fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred. It has several sub-genres, including detective fiction (such as the whodunnit), legal thriller, courtroom drama and hard-boiled fiction.
At the BPL we have a mystery section, but our very popular suspense, thrillers, psychological suspense, adventure, and romantic suspense is interfiled throughout the general fiction collection.  Many readers who enjoy our mysteries are missing out on some great reads by not straying from the mystery section.

My goal with this display is to focus on the appeal of crime fiction. These are suspenseful stories that pit the good guys against the bad guys.  We see investigators and criminals in a battle for justice.  The reader is drawn into the the investigation, caught up in the plot, and pulled through with an increasing pace and compelling characters.  Like mysteries (which are included as part of crime fiction too), crime fiction can take place anytime and anywhere so readers have a lot of choices in terms of setting.

Some examples of big name crime fiction authors who are not in our mystery section are James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, David Baldacci, John Grisham, J.D. Robb, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. When I went to compile the list for the display, I had 3x more authors than I could ever fit on the display.  Obviously, this is a popular type of book.

In this specific display, I am purposely leaving mysteries out.  The display promises stories that will appeal to mystery readers, but not a single one in from the mystery section.  It is our way to passively remind readers of all we have to offer throughout the entire collection.

Crime fiction is an important heading to consider since the professional review journals like Booklist, now review these genres all together under the heading of "Crime Fiction."  So even though we pull out the mysteries here at the BPL, all novels with a strong investigated element are being grouped together.

I am also beginning to see patrons thinking more in terms of general crime fiction too.  Just about every day now I get a reader who is looking for a new "mystery" author but can't find them in the mystery section. I bring them to the general fiction, show them the books they were looking for, and watch their eyes pop wide as they realize all the books they might have been missing.  This display will increase that response, and is one of the first steps we are taking into merging our fiction collection and doing away with genre sections.

If you want to know more about crime fiction, click here or here

So for today's Monday Discussion, share your thoughts on crime fiction.  Do you have some favorite crime fiction authors?  How do you highlight crime fiction beyond mysteries?  Are your patrons asking for crime as opposed to just mystery?  And, how do you distinguish?

The Monday Discussion Archive can be accessed here.


John BPL RA said...

I have always preferred crime novels that take a more intellectual approach to plot and storyline. The stereotypical crime novel with a hard boiled, ex-cop P.I. as the protagonist is just too played out. My favorite crime series has got to be the Hercule Poirot mysteries of Agatha Christie. I also like the novels of Poppy Z. Brite as they blend crime with horror. The best of these is the serial killer novel Exquisite Corpse.

Mike BPL REF said...


I also enjoy crime fiction. Two of my favorites are John Sandford and his long-running Prey
series and Ed McBain whose 87th
Precinct series ran from the 1950's til his death in 2005. His books inspired such television shows as Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and The Shield. I had the pleasure of meeting him once and he was as gracious as his books are realistic and gritty.

As a reference librarian working
primarily with Non-Fiction, I think crime fiction fans should consider the option of reading True Crime books too. It is one of the most popular sections in our collection. Authors such as Ann Rule and Erik Larson have long waiting lists whenever they have a new book come out.

As you said, Becky, it would be good for patrons to realize there are many fine authors writing crime stories beyond the Mystery section in general fiction. I also
believe that they would expand their reading interests even more if they would browse the True Crime section of their library. They would surely find there that truth IS stranger than fiction.