was a pleasure to find myself moderating a Crimefest panel featuring some of my
favourite writers. From the left it is Christopher Fowler, me, Jill Paton
Walsh, Helen Smith, and Martin Walker. The subject was 'The Contemporary Cosy:
Is there Life Left in the Golden Age?' and I asked everyone if they considered
themselves to be a 'cosy' writer and if there is even something a little
perjorative about the label? I'm not altogether happy myself to be classified
in that way. It makes me feel like a maiden aunt. I hope there is a bit more
edge than that to my writing.
Walker's novels feature Bruno the chief of police in a small town in the
Perigord region of France and there is something hugely reassuring about the
country setting, and the wonderful descriptions of food. But he's not afraid to
tackle contemporary issues. His new novel, Children of War, for
instance, opens with an undercover Muslim cop is found dead.
Smith's witty novels, peopled by eccentrics, are, she told us, written purely
to entertain - and they do. She avoids avoid sex, drugs and swearing
altogether and in that respect is happy to be considered cosy.
Paton Walsh is perhaps the closest of us all to the Golden Age as she was
actually invited to finish a novel by Dorothy L. Sawyers, Thrones
and Dominions, by Sawyer's son. Her most recent novel, The
Late Scholar, takes Harriet Vane and Peter Whimsey up to the 1950s. She wants
to provide readers with an escape from mundane reality, but the restoration of
moral order is important, too.
Fowler's marvellous Bryant and May series have an element of the macabre, but
part of the charm of his novels lies in the way they draw on the traditions of
the Golden Age. His suggestion that 'traditional mystery' might be a better
term than cosy is a good one.
Labels: Christopher Fowler, cosy mysteries, Helen Smith, Jill Paton Walsh, Martin Walker