If you were to walk into any bookshop or library, and run your hand across the shelves before randomly stopping, the likelihood of you selecting a book belonging to the crime drama genre would be exceptionally high.
We live in a society that just loves a good murder (no matter how oxymoronic that sounds). And this popularity has gradually led to the construction of an elaborate and complex labyrinth of sub genres, archetypes and plots that is still expanding to this day.
I’m guilty (pun intended) of reading an abundance of literature in this genre too, having read many novels that trace lone wolves, dynamic duos and loyal teams in their quest to bring justice to the wronged.
And since working with David J.Grunter on his new book I'm A Killer my guilty pleasure has gone through the roof.
If you’re looking for a morally flawed, highly controversial character, with twists and turns galore to reignite your love of the genre, then you needn’t look much further than this book.
Why do we love crime drama so much?
This question has been a hotbed for critical debate for years, and the reasons appear to be endless.
After a little bit of research and personal reflection, I’ve pinpointed four ideas which I believe to be some of the most inherent components of the successful formula that is literary crime drama:
1 Places of experimentation with literary style, genre and narrative structure
From Victorian novels such as Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, with its innovative narrative structure (being one of the first to be written in the format of first person letters, journal entries and transcripts) to the creation of modern day sub-sub genres such as the controversial Nordic noir genre (expanding the [spider’s] web even further), crime drama has always been, as its themes suggest, an area where boundaries of what it means to have some humanity are pushed to the limit.
2 Catharsis - Bakhtin and the carnivalesque
This psychological theory is a really interesting concept. It is traditionally associated with the purpose of tragic plays, which depending on your reading, can be seen to have close parallels with the themes and characters of crime dramas. In short, the theory suggests that reading texts where ‘socially unacceptable’ activities are played out enables audiences to purge subconscious emotions such as those of pity and fear within a safe environment. Meaning reading and writing is a lot more than just a way of passing the time it reaches deep into the murky depths of our psyches.
3 Places of experimentation with characterisation, gender roles and identity
The literary crime drama landscape is saturated with iconic characters, from Conan Doyle’s world-famous super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan plus so many more fascinating characters. The genre isn’t short of complex, morally flawed heroes and villains. Opportunities for writers to explore issues of identity, including those of gender, race and sexuality are thrown wide open within this genre, so if you’re considering writing a crime drama novel yourself, don’t hesitate to go all out. Sherlock Holmes was the world’s first, and ‘only’, consulting detective remember, with supernatural powers of deduction, sociopathic tendencies and a chronic opium addiction. There aren’t many creative routes that are closed off to you in this genre.
4 Fictional security in dangerous times
Security has always been something humankind has sought. In an era where threats of terrorism, climate change, and political upheaval are the stories of the times we are currently living in, reading texts where the heroes aren’t perfect, but where justice is restored (usually), a perfect source of illusory comfort can be provided in these kinds of crime drama stories.
Lesley Atherton is an author and the founder of Scott Martin Productions Community Publisher
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You can read more of her author blogs at lesleyathertonauthorblog.com
David J. Grunter's I'm A Killer is out now in our shop