And then today Crime Scraps touches on a parallel subject in What Makes a Novel feel Right?
So what can go wrong if a writer decides to straddle two genres? Reginald Hill tried something similar last year with A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES when he combined crime fiction with a tribute to Jane Austen. Both his Dalziel & Pascoe followers, and Jane-ites, expressed feelings of dissatisfaction, and it did seem as if he had not pulled it off for all.
I think the problem with trying to write historical crime fiction is that the author can go astray on at least two counts.
- First of all those who love their historical fiction will expect an authenticity that is hard to achieve. As Bernadette says "the writing of it is deceptively difficult". The readers don't want the details laboured or forced, but they do demand that not only the visual elements but the incidental details support the story.
- Secondly those who are reading it for the crime fiction will not be tolerant if the historical stuff appears to get too much emphasis. They want the book to get to the mystery or crime relatively quickly.
A historian by training, and history teacher for many years, I don't actually specifically choose to read historical crime fiction. So my acquaintance with this cross-genre is not all that deep, although I have come across some that I really enjoy.
For example the Charles Todd books that I have recently discovered do a really good job of setting the series in the period just after the First World War. There's a good post on the Todd books over on Mystery Fanfare. There are other authors such as Elton, Greenwood, and Winspear, who manage to re-create that period too.
Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness series similarly seems to me to do a good job with the post war period.
From an entirely different period: Ellis Peters showed just how it could be done with the Cadfael series.
If you are looking for some other recommendations about who does the historical mystery thing well, you might like to follow Sarah Weinman's articles on Barnes & Noble, beginning with Ancient Plots. If you find it hard to get to the next article, go to the last (there are 4 articles) and work back.