Re: RARA-AVIS: Realism: HB vs. cozies (was: Those were the days)

From: Chris Routledge (
Date: 09 Sep 2000


I don't think I argued that the things described in hb fiction don't happen, just that they don't happen to many people and even in big bad America they don't happen that often - that's why they make the headlines. Your headlines could apply equally to any day in the UK, too, by the way: the trial of Dr. Harold Shipman finished a few months ago. He was convicted of (I think) twenty murders, but is thought to have finished off at least a hundred of his patients, some of them in his surgery with others waiting outside his office. But when was the last time you saw a newspaper report along the lines of "All but three people in Atlanta not murdered today" or
"Doctor is caring and compassionate professional"? There is a tendency I think for the press to overplay the risks: a report a few years ago noted that Americans are more likely to die a violent death in the suburbs than in the city itself - mostly in traffic accidents. So I just don't buy the idea that hb fiction is any more realistic (for most people) than the cozies, which aren't very - I still love reading it, though. There might even be an advantage in scaring us (Pravda of the Potomac may not be so far from the truth): remember Chandler's point that "A tired scared man can't afford ideals, he has to buy food for his family".

As for the English village: I live in one that has grown to a suburb because people wanted that kind of life. A certain number still behave as if it exists: we have a Bobby on the beat, a vicar who walks up the road in his cassock to a church where the bells ring on Sunday morning, a post office where people go to gossip, and a drug problem at the local school. Er, scratch that last bit.

None of this matters, of course: literature only really works when you disregard questions of verisimilitude :)

Cheers Chris

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