Sometimes I teach groups of adults who want more crime fiction. There is rarely anybody in the room who’s new to it, and there are almost always people who have firm views which they like to share. Or inflict on others, especially if one’s participant audience is largely 65 or older. But, then, the challenge for me is to persuade them to think historically and/or geographically, while offering a range of titles they might enjoy and from which they might branch out. For those who still live where there are public libraries, the range of crime fiction is large, and the waiting lists ditto. My participants are looking for things to read, by authors who appeal to them for a variety of reasons. For television series, they need no help at all. More than that, they are willing to watch TV series from all over the world, even if it means struggling a bit with subtitles.
Thus I come to the question of guides, on paper or e-readers. In recent years academic presses have published books about crime fiction that can be theoretical and replete with jargon. Blackwell’s Companion to Crime Fiction might be just the ticket did it not cost the earth. Introductory (or so-called introductory) books tend to arrive with various kinds of baggage that are not useful. What is the solution? Many would say online magazines, such as this magazine’s web pages, curated by Oldcastle Books, or Shots, http://www.shots.mag.co.uk/.
So, what is to be done? Enter Barry Forshaw, the editor of this magazine. His Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (2007), theoretically out of print circulates on second-hand book sites, and is certainly a book I now refuse to share even with my best friends because it never returns to my shelves. That book had just the right shape for a pocket, a handbag, or a rucksack (kept at some distance from the sandwiches), and was the first to cover the history, the increasing world-wide popularity of crime fiction, and its domination of television and cinema. A little of everything is always precious, and I understand that there will be an updated edition coming in 2019. (Put me down for a dozen…).
For those looking for particular areas of crime fiction, either geographical or generic, Barry provides a choice of about half-a-dozen paperbacks (Pocket Essentials, Oldcastle Books). What makes these urgently recommendable is their engagement with a long list of authors one may or may not have come across, mainly contemporary. The entries are scrupulous about recommendations and reservations, and never commit the cardinal sin of spoiling the plot.