Crime Writing

Guest Post by JK Rowling

The Guardian informs us that the adult novel being prepared by the author of Harry Potter may prove to be a crime novel.

Perhaps JK Rowling will agree to write for this blog.

Then again perhaps not. Because she clearly already has her own outlets into the web-o-net. The Guardian quotes something she “tweeted” in its article. It also quotes tweets about her book-to-be from Ian Rankin and Val McDiarmid. Compared to the world of Twitter, this blog is a venue for ivory tower philosophizing and Tolstoyan word counts.

I haven’t yet read the Potter series, because (a) my oldest child is four years old and I hear that it might scare him and (b) because I resist all things hyped and therefore was not among the adults reading it on the train on the way to work a few years back. Still, JK has been one of the few elements of publishing in the last decade to have been hugely profitable, keeping the industry sort of afloat, much like Dan Brown. (I have read Dan Brown, and I certainly hope JK’s books are better than his…)

Perhaps her move from children’s fiction into crime is an attempt to gain literary acceptance by the lit fiction snobs, while also producing a book that more than three dozen people will want to buy? After all, John Banville writes mysteries under another name (and I bet they sell better than “Doctor Copernicus,” his excellent, erudite and moderately unfathomable novel about the Polish astronomer who developed the concept of the heliocentric universe, didn’t have much sex, and was quite nasty to his family.) Ian McEwan’s “Saturday” is a crime novel, though fewer people get slashed in it than in his earlier literary works, like “The Comfort of Strangers.”

The Guardian speculates that, as a declared fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, JK is likely to turn in a manuscript that’s a “Poirot-esque” cosy. I assume they refrained from writing “Wimsey-esque” because no one but JK Rowling reads Dorothy Sayers any more and therefore wouldn’t connect her to Lord Peter Wimsey or even know who he was. They might think it was a misspelling of Wimpy-esque and wonder why JK was writing in the style of an old British hamburger chain or a company that builds housing for the lower-middle-class.

I think it unlikely that JK’s book will be Wimseyesque. I’ve only heard a little of the plots of Harry Potter, but I suspect she’ll be far grittier, more startling and even rather scarier than any of the “Golden Age” novelists.

That doesn’t mean I expect Greg Iles-style psychos probing toddlers with power tools. But the crime will have to be pretty nasty. After all, given the kinds of gruesome shit that goes down in contemporary crime fiction, if the villain isn’t a total sicko, who would even notice that it’s a crime novel?

3 thoughts on “Guest Post by JK Rowling

  1. Ms. Rowling, rather than writing an adult novel to gain literary acceptance, talked about writing a mystery while still in the midst of the Harry Potter series. Considering her success from that series, I suspect the last thing about which she worries is the opinion of the literary snobs.

  2. I suppose she is, indeed, beyond the realm of pressure from agents and editors to write a particular style or subject…But you never know: the last few years there’s frequent talk of a crime novel eventually winning the Booker Prize, because of a diminishing of snobbery around the prize and also because crime novels handle deep social issues…JK for the Booker?

  3. That would be lovely, but only if she deserved it. There are a number of very fine women crime fiction authors. I certainly don’t think Ms. Rowling would be writing a mystery just for that reason. As I say, writing an adult mystery is something she’s talked about for years.

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