Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Literary Trends I'd Like To See More (or Less) Of.

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the gals at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Each week there's a new topic. This week it's Top Ten Literary Trends I'd Like to See More (or Less) Of. So, batten down the hatches, here we go.


1) More vintage mysteries brought back to life by publishers such as Felony and Mayhem who do such a great job with many Golden Age mysteries, i.e. the trade paperbacks of Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan books. They are simply delightful to look at and read. There are many MANY worthwhile authors languishing in near obscurity; they deserve another read by today's mystery fans.

I also wish Virago and other similar British reprints were easily available in this country. They mostly publish obscure women writers of long ago - writers who are definitly worth reading again or for the first time.

2) More attention paid to mystery/thriller and other genre writers when Literary Awards time comes around each year. The recent inclusion in the Booker long-list of nominees of two books by authors who might loosely be termed thriller writers, while not exactly a 'trend' is a heartening step in the right direction. In my view, great writing is great writing - no matter where it comes from. I'll never understand why awards committees can't adopt that criteria. (Actually, I do understand it, but since it has mostly to do with snobbery and elitism, I choose to pretend otherwise.)

3) More interest taken by authors in the adaptations of their books so as not to disappoint their reading fans when and if the movie is made.Don't know if this is a trend or not, but maybe we can start one. Many more terrific books have been ruined by bad casting (probably by people who never read the books in the first place) and distorted screenplays than have not.

Case in point: the latest news that Tom Cruise will be playing Jack Reacher, Lee Child's peripatetic knight in shining in armor, righter of wrongs, settler of scores. Reacher is 6'5" tall and 250 pounds. Part of his shtick is physical intimidation. Can you honestly see the diminutive Cruise physically intimidating anyone? The mind boggles. But Lee Child has sold all rights (far as I know and understand) and has no say in the casting. Disaster. This is one movie I won't be seeing.

4) More anthologies of authors who have a huge back-log of books. I currently own several anthologies: Agatha Christie, M.M. Kaye, P.G. Wodehouse, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters and even Nelson DeMille and Janet Evanovich. But I would love to see more and more writers' work published in this manner. It is an easy and accessible way to familiarize yourself with authors' first few books or their more famous works. For readers of series, like myself, they are especially handy. But only if the type is still readable and not so tiny it needs a giant magnifying glass.

5) More funding for Libraries which is definitely and unfortunately not a trend at the moment.



6) Less books with the word zombies in the title. Most especially less classics turned on their heads by zombies running amok between their pages. What a tiresome trend. I could also do with less vampire tales. Another tiresome trend. Not that I read this sort of thing, but they do clutter up the bookshelf space at the store and are sometimes just plain annoying to look at. In this day an age is there still such a thing as a visual insult? Well, that's what many of these books are at first (or even second) glance.

7) Less covers with photos of wistfully winsome, troubled young women (or girls) in distress and titles like, The So and So's Daughter, Wife, Mother, Sister, Granddaughter, Grandmother, Aunt or Cousin. I mean, enough is enough. Less photos of women on covers period. Most especially since they all seem to have been taken by the same photographer and designed by the same studio.

8) Less books told in the present tense. I dislike this writing trend more than any other. I've been known not to read a book, even if by a highly recommended author if this style of writing greets me on the first page. I abominate it. I mean, where am I while the story is taking place? Riding on the author's shoulders? When was the story written? Is it being written as I read? HOW? This sort of writing makes no rational sense, especially in fiction. It's the kind of thing that, to my mind, breaks an implied covenant between author and reader. It is just too intimate. Prove to me that this immediacy, this intimacy is necessary. Can't be done.

9) Less blood splatter on covers. I mean, if I'm buying a mystery and/or thriller, I generally know there's going to be some bloodletting in the story. It's not as if it's going to come as any big surprise. I don't have to be constantly reminded by carrying around a book whose cover is drenched in blood. As much as I love mysteries and thrillers, I will NOT read a book whose cover offends my delicate sensibilities. More dignity, please. Ha!

10) Less Happy Hit Man books. I don't get this trend at all. But it's been around forever and it seems like it's not going to go away, much as I would wish it. I don't want to read about the whys and wherefores of a hit man's life, current job/girlfriend/pet dog/world weariness or rationale. I most especially don't want to read about a reformed hit man. Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no such thing.


  1. I agree, especially with you "less" list. As a frequent library patron (in 3 systems), I am all for more funding for libraries :)

  2. Books4Learning: All we can do is hope. I love my local library and wouldn't know what to do without it.

  3. Hello Yvette:
    Here you let vent, in the nicest possible way, to some of your feelings about books with the result that you raise a number of interesting ideas and topics. We much enjoyed the [possibly] less serious 'Less Of', but thought that you have made some very well considered points when it comes to the 'More Of'.

    We are so sorry to learn that you do not readily have available the Virago imprint for their list, as we suspect you know, is highly impressive and our own reading would be much the poorer without them.

    As for more funding for libraries, say no more. Never a shortage of money in the UK for skate board parks, bowling alleys and such like, but books for a library, well...

  4. Jane and Lance, thanks for taking the time during your travels to post a comment. :) Much appreciated. Yes, I vented. Boy, does that feel good.

  5. I love these thoughts. I wonder all the time why more older out-of-print titles are not brought back from the dead, as it were?

    I don't know if you saw it, but I have a nice little giveaway every month. I'd love to have you join in!

  6. Deb: I was too late for the July Give-A-Way. I'll join in in August once it's up on your blog. I rarely win anything so I kind of forget to sign up when I see Give-A-Ways. I know, I know, don't be a wimp, Yvette. :)

  7. More funding for libraries is a GREAT one! It's sad that so many libraries are seeing their budgets cut and funding disappear. I love my library. Good list!

  8. I love mystery thrillers.
    and anything with Scot Fitzgerald and that time. Thanks for great post.


  9. sasha: Far as I'm concerned, the death of libraries will signal the death of civilization. I'm not exagerating. :(

    I love my library. :)

  10. Yvonne: I love vintage books from that era as well. :)

  11. Hi Yvette - As a graphic designer, I always enjoy seeing what's the latest in book cover design. There seem to be some formulas, and I'm intrigued, for example when well-known paintings are cropped to suggest something entirely different. I would agree that splattered blood is (no pun intended) a copout!

  12. The library has always been my second home so I am all for more funding for libraries!

  13. I agree with everything here. I will respond more fully when I have a chance to write an intelligible answer.

    I don't like "Happy Hit Man" books, nor books written from a psychopath's point of view. Do not care. Don't want to know them or understand them.

    I don't like gratuitous violence. This is a reason I like Rex Stout's books, barely any violence, certainly not on the pages. He could write, so he didn't have to resort to that. I often think writing about all this violence, blood, gore, even car chases, natural catastrophes, and more is all a substitute for good writing.

    I especially abhor violence against women (and children and animals), and covers that depict this. Who are they geared to? The answer scares me. (I've read that publishers ask book designers to do covers depicting all manner of violence against women.) Ugh! Why? Who buys books with those covers?

    One thing I am for is more humor in books, the more the better.

    And here I am laughing again at this post. Such good points to ponder. I will think more about them.

    I have to finish the Inspector Anders book, so I can read Too Many Cooks. I started it and Nero Wolfe is terrified and on a train, with two overcoats packed, already driving Archie batty.

    If only we could win over the world to reading Rex Stout, temperaments would improve as would people's senses of humor.

    And we could all speak using words like "rodomontade."

    And Sjowall/Wahloo wrote gems without much on-page violence. So does Donna Leon and many others. It is definitely possible.

  14. Mark: I love great cover design. (What's not to love?)Occasionally I'll even read a book because its design is so good. Or at least I'll read the first few pages. :)

    Formula seems to be the key word though. So MANY covers with the same 'look' to them that it's hard to tell one book from another.

    I remember when THE ALIENIST was first published with that wonderful evocative and very moody b/w cover - a photo of a caped man walking away from the camera in what looked like an early twentieth century setting - suddenly all historical mysteries had the same look for years.

  15. Pat: That's probably the first thing all know-nothing governments think of cutting. Libraries and the arts. The things that make keep us civilized. :)

  16. Kathy: I agree - all Rex Stout, all the time. That'll cure what ails us. Ha!

    I too wonder sometimes who some of these covers are geared for? It's a scary thought.

    The funny thing is I don't seem to mind the violence on vintage covers. Maybe because it was done with style back then. Style covers a multitude of sins. :)

  17. Great list. Especially the women on the covers. Enough. I'm done with zombies, too. I tried to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it was just kind of a not very interesting story. I've never thought about the present tense, but you're right that it does feel kind of weird sometimes.

  18. Robyn: Thanks. :)

    Yeah, those covers have had their day. It's over.

    What a strange fad that zombie thing was/is. I'm still shaking my head.

  19. What a thoughtful post! Miss Lemon, too, loves the Felony & Mayhem re-issues, though there's such a deep and untouched backlist of authors and novels that they need to work faster. I'm reading a Nigel Strangeways mystery, which would be an excellent candidate for F & M. I'm wondering, re: Viragos, if you've ever been to Persephone Books? An absolute treasure.

  20. Elizabeth: Thanks for dropping by. :)

    Yes, I agree, F&M do need to work faster. But I suppose with the economy in the shape it's in, they're doing the best they can.

    I'm not sure if Persephone books are available in this country. I would love it if they were.

    I'll check the link. Thanks.

  21. Yvette: I have been on our local public library board for over 30 years. It is part or a regional system which is then part of a provincial system. Our province has now completed a process where each library card holder in Saskatchewan can go into any public library in the province to borrow a book and return it to any library. While I wish we had more money for works I believe we have never had better public access to books in Saskatchewan.

  22. You are very fortunate, Bill. Here in this country, library budgets are being sliced right and left. It's enough to boggle the mind, actually.

  23. When I first started mysteries way back in the Middle Ages and read Perry Mason, Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, a few by Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Rey and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, I wouldn't read any book with a cover depicting violence against women.

    And those existed.

    I think that Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane books had covers that were violence, and I can't remember about the Ellery Queen magazines. But I know that I wouldn't even pick up a book with that type of cover design.

    The vintage covers which have been posted here with the very melodramatic covers don't bother me. Some are so melodramatic, exaggerated, "camp" and downright funny that I don't mind.

  24. MORE: Reprints of vintage mysteries. I second the motion!

    Libraries and literacy programs need a lot more attention, I agree. Stop killing arts programs in schools in favor of sports. This drives me mad each time I read of it!

    LESS: Vampires, zombies and any book that casts Jane Austen as a sleuth, vampire or zombie killer. In fact I wish the world could be rid of all books about Jane Austen as a character in a novel and all "sequels" using her characters. That's my big literary pet peeve.

    About the reformed hit man idea. Did you ever see In Bruges? It may make you change your mind. I thought it a powerful movie about redemption and forgiveness.

  25. I bought "Wolf Hall" without knowing it was written in the present tense. I could not get through the first page. I agree with you. The present tense is unnatural. Did Chandler use it? Dickens? Austen? Bellow? Of course not.

  26. Kathy: I agree with you about excess violence against women on covers. But then I don't like excess violence against anyone on a cover.

    The exceptions would be, I suppose, the vintage covers that used such vibrant graphics. For some reason those don't bother me.

    But I am careful when I post vintage not to post the more egregious.

    Glad you like those posts. I do too.

  27. John: I agree with most of what you say. But I still have my doubts about 'reformed' hit men. I read about this film, but it's just not something I'd be comfortable seeing.

    Jane Austen must be spinning in her grave. :)

    Though I don't mind the occasional quality pastiche, like MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK by Lynn Shepherd, most of the rest of them are not my cup of tea. :)

    Far as I'm concerned: libraries and art programs in schools should be at the top of every state's list to receive funding.

  28. Betsy: We're in agreement. I can't imagine a historical novel such as WOLF HALL told in the present tense. Yegads.

    Not for me, thank you. :)

  29. I found myself saying "Yes!" out loud to #1 and #5. I adore Felony and Mayhem and I'm so mad our library is having to go on furlough several days this year.

    P.S. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I need to go through your archives--I have a suspicion that we might like many of the same things!

  30. Lauren: Thanks so much for dropping by my place, as well. :)

    Glad you enjoyed reading my Tuesday Top List. Those types of memes are always so much fun to work on. I'm a BIG list person.

    Yes, Felony and Mayhem should be the inspiration for other small publishers. I believe they're owned by the same talented people who run the PARTNERS & CRIME bookstore in NYC.

  31. Felony and Mayhem is a great publisher.

    One of the women who runs Partners and Crime owns Felony and Mayhem.

    A nice feature at Partners and Crime is the entire bookshelf of books from Felony and Mayhem.

  32. Thanks, Kathy. I thought so, but wasn't 100 percent sure. I'd love to visit Partners & Crime one of these days. Haven't been there in years. :)

  33. I bought L.R. Wright's books at Partners and Crime. She was a Canadian author who wrote a series about a police inspector in W. British Columbia on the coast.

    Felony and Mayhem is republishing her books, 3 so far.

    And I bought the first two Ariana Franklin books there for a friend who loves them. I have to go there and buy her the third one. (She's not a library person, no time.)

  34. Kathy: You are so fortunate to be able to step into Partners & Crime whenever you want to. :)

    Wright's name if very familiar. I'm wondering if I've ever read anything by her. Possibly.

  35. L.R. (Lauralie Rose) Wright won an award in the mid-1980s for her first book in the series, The Suspect.

    Quite good. Partners and Crime has it.

  36. Right. I read that, Kathy. I thought the author's name sounded familiar. Read it but truth to tell, I don't remember anything about it. Story of my life. :)


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