One of my favorite podcasts, “The Book Show,” from the Australian Broadcasting Company, had a good interview with Scottish crime writer Val McDermid at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival last month. McDermid, who, in an interview with Deutsche Welle’s Breandain O’Shea a few years ago, memorably responded to literary writers who have disparaged genre fiction by suggesting that some of them “can’t plot for toffee,” spoke to the ABC’s Ramona Koval of her passion for story. In response to Koval’s question about the transformation in crime fiction that’s taken place over the last 20 or so years, McDermid speculated that many present-day crime writers might be writing “literary” fiction if that genre hadn’t been usurped by those more interested in the theory of writing than in engaging with readers through storytelling.
McDermid said that in the United Kingdom and Europe, and to a degree in the US, that change in literary fiction took place around the 1980s. With last year’s Man Booker Prize having been awarded to a whacking good story from the historical fiction genre, Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” I’m wondering whether storytelling and plot are regaining ground and whether genre fiction is gaining more respect.
Do you agree with McDermid’s observations about literary and genre fiction, or is she overstating her point?