The long-term health of the crime fiction genre depends on a number of things, including the willingness of publishers to bring out the work of new writers – and to keep publishing capable writers for more than a couple of novels. All too often, there is a tendency for new or newish writers to be picked up on, say, a two-book deal and then dumped thereafter if the figures don’t look good. I understand the economic reasons for this, but short-term thinking has major downsides in most businesses, and I doubt if publishing is an exception. Authors need to be supported over a number of years if they are to develop the confidence to make the most of their talent.
A good example of a small publisher which nurtures new, or relatively little-known, writers is Crème de la Crime. Their books are paperback originals, and thanks to the good judgment of Lynne Patrick, who runs the company, they have introduced a number of very talented writers to an appreciative readership.
Two of their recent novels sound interesting. Roz Southey has just produced her fourth book , Swords and Song, which carries praise from that accomplished writer Sarah Rayne. Southey is a musicologist and historian, based in the North East of England, and her interests inform her historical mysteries. In this one, her musician detective Charlie Patterson finds that a young woman he knows has been murdered and he becomes (as series detectives are wont to do) drawn into the mystery.
The Broken Token by Chris Nickson is another historical mystery, this time a debut. A map of the historic ‘town’ of Leeds, where the action takes place, is helpfully provided. I do like maps in books. Here, Richard Nottingham, Constable of Leeds, discovers a murdered man and woman. He knew both victims – the woman was a former housemaid of his – and so, as with Southey’s book, he has a personal stake in solving the mystery.
The idea of a detective having such a personal stake in the investigation is a very familiar one – I used it in my own first novel, All the Lonely People, in which Harry Devlin’s wife is killed – but it’s effective nevertheless. I look forward to reading these books.