I was truly delighted to read a terrific and very timely article in today's Independent, telling the story of Mystery in White. Sales of the book are now already at 60,000 - in a matter of weeks. I've talked previously about this extraordinary phenomenon, but I do think that it illustrates that fiction, like so many other things in life, is subject to the vagaries of fashion.
Take Scandi crime, for instance. I was reading Sjowall and Wahloo, and the (still) much less well known Poul Orum in my teens, and remember wondering why so few people seemed to take an interest in them. It's really only in the last few years that a combination of good books, good publishing, television, and a little luck have combined to make Nordic Noir seem to be omnipresent. A reaction is setting in now, possibly, but even as public tastes shift, it will remain true that there are many very fine Scandinavian novels out there - and not just those published in recent times.
In Britain and the US, and to some extent elsewhere, the "Golden Age" between the wars saw an explosion of interest in well-plotted whodunits (and some that weren't so well plotted). Countless people had a go at writing them. The reaction, when it came after the Second World War, was correspondingly severe. Apart from Christie and a few other "Crime Queens", Golden Age auhtors and their work generally fell out of favour.
I've always loved them, though, and I began thinking about the book that eventually became The Golden Age of Murder a good many years ago (so long ago, I kept a card index at one time of my researches; that "system" didn't last!) I suppose the success of the British Library Classic Crime books shows that, if one is patient for long enough, the roulette wheel of public taste will move in one's favour. It's a shame that J. J. Farjeon is not around to see how popular his book has become in the 21st century, but it's nevertheless a heart-warming story - a reminder to authors that the books we write may, just possibly, enjoy a good life long after we are gone.