Sunday, 15 June 2008

Instant gratification

On Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, I was a spectator at two very different events. The first was a 20twenty international cricket match at Old Trafford, between England and New Zealand. The second was the traditional May Queen procession in my home village of Lymm. I much enjoyed them both, but they also gave me pause for thought.

20twenty cricket is an instant brand of the game that was first invented, in England, about five years ago. Since then it has taken the world by storm, with massive crowds. On Friday, we were able to do a day’s work and then watch the cricket in the evening sun – much more appealing to many than investing a whole day watching a segment of a five-day Test match. This week saw the announcement of a million-dollar prize, winner-takes-all match to be staged later this year. Cricketers, so long sport’s poor relations, will soon become multi-millionaires (or at least, the elite few will.) The inflow of money is good for the game – but it’s bound to change its character.

The May Queen procession also took place in gorgeous sunshine and was good to watch. It's just the sort of tradition that featured from time to time in Golden Age detective stories in the era of people like Gladys Mitchell and Victor L. Whitechurch. My daughter, when younger, used to love participating in the parade. Yet I sense that each year, this tradition is attracting fewer and fewer people prepared to devote the time and hard work to it.

Almost all of us are attracted to easy, instant gratification, whether it’s in reading crime novels, watching sport, or anything else. I’m certainly no exception. Yet I remind myself that, with books as with many things, the greatest rewards tend to come from reading novels that demand both time and commitment from the reader. I enjoy breezy thrillers, but there’s also enormous pleasure to be had from a really elaborate crime novel – for instance some of the books of Charles Palliser. There’s room for all types of entertainment. It would be a shame if the thirst for instant gratification makes it increasingly difficult to find a commercial publisher for books that are not instantly accessible.


Anonymous said...

Naturally, I agree. I have just finished an excellent book, Stratton's War by Laura Wilson, which I imagine is just the sort of book you are writing about. A fully rounded novel with crime in it but much else besides, including real characters.
I enjoy thrillers too, but I think that books like Laura Wilson's are more enduring. Room for all, though.

Martin Edwards said...

Interesting - I haven't read Stratton's War yet, but all the reviews I've seen so far have been very positive. I did very much like Laura Wilson's earlier wartime book, The Lover.