Potato Chips and Mysteries

ImageMost reviews of my books are generous and positive, but one was a scorcher. In the young reviewer’s mind,my books belong to a genre that she dismisses as “potato chip” books.  For the reviewer, the cozy mystery is unimportant, even trivial. To this, I respond: guilty and duh! I doubt that anyone who picks up either Snoop or Murder on Cinnamon Street will finish the book and exclaim, “At last I have unraveled the mystery of life! Thanks to Lyla’s books, I can go forward armed with invaluable and insightful answers to complex questions.”  Though I love the genre, I will never argue that the cozy mystery rivals War and Peace or Remembrance of Things Past. What I will argue is that people who  make time for the lighter moments of life and literature are  frequently happier people.  As a psychiatrist friend wisely told me, “Lyla, all things don’t have to be dark and serious to be worthwhile.” Enjoying yourself with a fun little book is highly worthwhile.

ImageYou may not know this, but Robert Galbraith is one of the world’s best selling writers. Well, maybe not Galbraith, but the author who uses the pseudonym certainly is. The media has been abuzz with the story of how JK Rowling, in order to avoid the critical treachery of using her real name and being judged against her wildly popular and critically-acclaimed Harry Potter series,  released a mystery in the vein of noir mysteries such as those of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, titled The Cuckoo’s Calling. I’m nearly two thirds of the way through it and absolutely love it. 

ImageThe style  and voice in Rowling’s mystery are reminiscent of the authors who gave the literary world its sacred fictitious detectives Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a clever and compelling mystery, but until word accidentally got out that Galbraith was Rowling, it had sold a mere fifteen hundred copies, which I find oddly comforting. Would my reviewer call it a “potato chip book”? Maybe. Especially if she were reviewing Galbraith. But I contend that Dashiell Hammett (shown in the picture on the left) and Raymond Chandler gave us much more than potato chips. They gave us an entire genre of detective fiction which in its day was eschewed by reviewers devoted to more “serious” novels. Today, however, these writers and others of their ilk occupy an important place in fiction and in the hearts of those of us who cut our wannabe-detective teeth on the stories they created.

Though I can’t speak for them, I feel sure that my publisher and fellow authors at Cozy Cat Press (CCP) would agree that  readers of cozy mysteries will not find answers to life’s most complex problems in the pages of their compelling and fun books, but I think my writing colleagues would also agree that their readers will discover one important fact: reading cozy mysteries won’t hurt you, shrink your brain, reduce your deductive or inductive reasoning skills, etc. To the contrary, picking up a cozy mystery and spending a couple of hours with it will provide you with well drawn characters, a solid mystery, and even a little humor and romance. Potato chips? Perhaps. Worth your time? Most certainly. A little starch never hurt anyone. Just be careful not to eat the whole bag.  Cozy mysteries, like potato chips, are highly addictive.



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