Not for me, but in an article called, “Writing American Crime Fiction in the Wake of Stieg Larsson,” the author suggests the world has changed and offers some advice for those wanting to write crime fiction:
I love a good American reading craze, especially since they seem to be so few and far between. I remember dressing up as Neville Longbottom and standing outside Barnes and Nobel in the freezing cold. As the clock struck midnight the doors opened and hundreds of kids and adults poured inside; ready to devour the newest Harry Potter book. When “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” Stieg Larsson’s final installment of The Millennium Trilogy published in the U.S. last May, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of that magical feeling. Of course times had changed a bit since then, I no longer felt the need to claw my way through hundreds of people to get a copy, and I decided against covering myself in rub-on dragon tattoos. What I did do was pre-order “Hornet’s Nest” off Amazon, as did millions of other fans. Within just a few months the book had sold more than 40 million U.S. copies, along with two film adaptations in the works, and a stack of books in every bestseller section across the country. Not bad for a debut novel only hoping to sell 20,000 copies.
It is now February and I cannot deny that Steig Larsson changed the way we read crime fiction…or at least what gets published, as his books created a public need for raw and gritty novels that reflect today’s culture
So what advice can I offer for writers looking to publish crime fiction?
1. Location, Location, Location
U.S. publishers such as Minotaur Books have been combing the globe for the next Steig Larsson by tracking overseas best seller lists. U.S. publishers are commissioning sample translations like never before from countries as varied as Iceland, Japan, Nigeria and South Africa. If you are unfortunately from the United States, this may sound like the final nail in the coffin of your writing career, but it’s not. You simply have to find a unique or overlooked location for your piece, the blander seeming the better. After all, I though Sweden was a frozen tundra of subdued socialism and Swedish meatballs until I read Larsson’s work. Heather O’Donoghue, a crime fiction critic for The Times Literary Supplement had this to say about it, “an added pleasure for non-Swedish readers is the setting: it’s all Ikea furniture and democratic socialism, just as outsiders would envisage.”
2. Play with Traditional Conventions
Golden Age crime writers like Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, and Raymond Chandler, set the standard for what we knew crime fiction to be: hardboiled tales of murder and corruption in the back alleys of city streets. But the world has changed a lot since then. Larsson’s “Dragon Tattoo” was so successful and refreshing because it reflects the changed world through its unconventional heroin. In fact Salander is something closer to a punk rocker than a traditional P.I., with facial piercings, a disturbed sense of fashion, and malicious if not brilliant computer skills. She enables Larsson to include elements of feminism and the technological revolution into a genre of writing that traditionally ignores such topics.
To give another example of Larsson’s ability to trend set, best-selling Turkish crime writer Mehmet Murat Somer is currently writing a crime series revolving around a cross-dressing detective complete with Audrey Hepburn alter-ego. Now, I’m not saying you have to take it that far but its pretty clear that the traditional Philip Marlowe protagonist is out.
3. Reflect the Times
Before writing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Larsson was an avid opponent of Sweden’s far right groups and was witness to a violent revolution in Eritrea, both events which shaped his and his Heroin’s search for retribution. Contempt for the injustices in society became a motivating force in Larsson’s writing, as well as they are for the actions of his protagonist.
South African writers have found success by including the lingering effects of Apartheid in their writing, while Latin writers have found similar success writing about drug trafficking. Although we have less exposure to such events, I can think of no better climate in which to write crime fiction than here in the U.S., especially when big scandals have been unfolding in front of us on the nightly news. Best-Selling author Michael Connelly is reportedly about to publish a novel revolving around murder, mayhem, and the mortgage crisis.
4. Last…but probably most important…Never Give Up!
Even Steig Larsson was laughed at by friends and family when he said he wanted to write crime fiction. Kurdo Baksi, a personal friend of Larson, declined to look at Larsson’s manuscript saying: “Stieg, I don’t think you’re so good at literature. It’s not your business.” I guess that just goes to show that only you can determine whether or not you will be a good writer.