Gourmet Fiction?

choccakeNo, this is not about foodie books.   It’s about my calling that last book,  Sandrine’s Case,  “literary crime.”   To me,  “literary” is a very broad and ambiguous adjective to be added to a genre, and the term  “fiction” is way too broad to be useful.   So I think of “literary” as being a word like “gourmet,”  and just as I can eat a formula hamburger or a gourmet one,  so too I can read a formula western or a more literary one.    I generally don’t want to go out and eat “gourmet” food –  I want to go out to eat Mexican or American or Californian or Southern – gourmet is an added attraction, or deterrent from,  comfort food.  I can have a Duncan Hines box chocolate cake with canned frosting or I can have a gourmet chocolate cake with a cooked butter-chocolate glaze.  They’re both still chocolate cakes.  Just as gourmet is not a food,  so too,  literary is not a genre and fiction is the equivalent of dessert.  (By my rules.)

I’ve read several literary crime books (I really enjoy these) – Benjamin Black (John Bancroft) is noted for his style,  Sandrine’s Case gets that adjective for the literary allusions and the life-styles of the main characters,  Samuel and Sandrine – Sam’s attitude,  his snobbish intellectual arrogance,  particularly.   Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is also a campus crime novel along these lines.  Josephine Tey’s masterpiece is about crime in history – very different from the conventions.

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are more classic now – I’d say classic crime although years ago they might have been more literary than classic for their changes to the genre of crime novels.

Bottom line I think it’s a book-by-book judgement call.

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