I would like to welcome Andrea Jutson to my blog. Her book, ‘Senseless’, the first volume of The James Paxton Mysteries was published in paperback and as an eBook last month by Williams & Whiting. Andrea has written a guest post which I hope you all enjoy.
Pick Your Poison – The Many Flavours of the Crime Novel
What I love about reading – and writing – crime is that, as all crime readers know, there’s no such thing as “the crime novel”. When I set out to write my first crime novel, Senseless, choosing my genre wasn’t as simple as going ‘I’ll write a book with murders in it’. I had to fight really hard to keep my writing and my characters on track, with just the right level of humour to keep it from being the sort of dry police procedural I’d grown tired of, but not so funny it headed into screwball territory. I spent some time reading the kind of authors I aspired to be, and thinking: “What would Mark Billingham sound like here?” Or conversely, having to murder my own best lines, in agony, because the punchlines ruined the punch.
It made me really think about how much crime, as a supposedly single genre, really encompasses all sorts of different conventions that each require their own skills. There’s cosy, there’s Sherlock Holmes-style detective, there’s the eight-minute hardboiled, and six-minute with a few soft bits, there’s darkly funny, the serial killer thriller, there’s police procedural, spy novel, historical – and that has as many sub-genres again – screwball caper, psychological thriller, supernatural…the list goes on. Despite all the genre-blending and bending that goes on, the hardest thing for me as a new writer doing a serial killer thriller with elements of the supernatural was staying on my side of the road. Or even finding the road.
Oddly, the amount of detail I spent describing people’s meals also seemed to come highly loaded – too much detail, and it sounded like a cosy American novel where everyone always seems to eat delicious meals of lobster or linguine with garlic-buttered dinner rolls hot from the oven and pie for dessert, but too little and it came out Lee Child. This seems like a pretty firm rule, and yet while Canadian author Louise Penny is always describing her characters’ gourmet meals – so far, so cosy – the books are somehow psychological studies. Likewise, Andrea Camilleri’s novels can spend chapters on the seafood and pasta dishes Inspector Montalbano stuffs in, and they’re hilarious, but they’re also as political as all hell. The very best crime novelists – hello, Stuart MacBride – can play very close to the edge, regularly veering off into farce while still managing to shock the hell out of us. Rules, it would seem, are meant to be broken.
It makes me shake my head when I see pages of reviews devoted to supposedly “proper” literature, when crime is reduced to just a sidebar. To me, crime is the most multi-faceted genre of all, and it’s definitely the hardest to write. Not only do crime authors need to give you plenty of clues – often more than the real police get – but like the anti-Christmas present, the clues should only be recognisable once they’re all wrapped up. Many’s the time, while pondering how much to reveal at any given moment, that I wished I’d started something easier, like a doctorate.
Now that I’ve had some time to let my own voice develop, the battle’s become easier. I’ve got to understand my characters better, and who I am as a writer. If the flavour of my books matures along the way, that’s fine with me. The wonderful thing about subtly changing your formula is that there are always plenty of readers with tastes to match. (Although the one sub-genre that stubbornly fails to excite me is the psychological thriller – I’ve never been super-keen on unpleasant protagonists! Unless they’re funny…)
About my books
Senseless and The Darkness Looking Back both feature barman and reluctant psychic James Paxton, an Englishman who tries to escape his reputation back home, but ends up hunting murderers in his adopted city of Auckland, New Zealand. The twists and turns are spiced with dark humour and the beautiful Auckland setting (if I do say so myself). They are now available for the first time in the UK, and are intended to be read, first and foremost, as crime novels, with a tinge of the supernatural.
Here’s the blurb to Senseless:
A small park in a nice Auckland suburb is the least likely spot to stumble across a body. The discovery of a man recently bludgeoned to death shatters the illusion of midwinter calm. But unfortunately for James Paxton, death is nothing out of the ordinary. Suspicion falls all too easily on the Englishman who’s hiding a secret. Not only did Paxton find the dead man – he spoke to him, too. Gifts he wished he never had are called into play when Mark Bradley begs him to track down his killer, for the sake of his daughter. Paxton’s carefully constructed new world threatens to crumble as he is sucked into the hunt for a predator, while the police snap close at his heels. And the corpses keep on mounting, one by one …
A darkly gripping mystery with an other-worldly twist.
Paxton’s story continues in The Darkness Looking Back. No matter which flavour of crime novel you prefer, I hope you’ll enjoy them!
‘Senseless’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-
About Andrea Jutson
Andrea Jutson is a writer from Auckland, New Zealand. She has written two crime novels featuring reticent medium James Paxton, the first of which is Senseless, and is at work on a third. In her career, Andrea has been a bookseller, journalist, collections librarian, book buyer and journalist again, and once spent almost a year selling tickets at a heritage site in London. She now works at a public relations agency, and lives in South Auckland.
To find out more about Andrea Jutson’s books visit – http://williamsandwhiting.com/