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Author Topic: Cozy or amature detective?  (Read 38492 times)

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Ingrid

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2006, 06:06:49 PM »

Yes, I think "cozy" sounds dismissive, and traditional doesn't. But "traditional" sounds oldfashioned. In any case, I'm not thrilled with cat detectives and cooks/caterers with recipes included, and books written for people's hobbies etc.
Dorothy Sayers is very good. Maybe oldfashioned now, but I wouldn't want her books to be called "cozy." And then, of course, there's Evanovich, a sort of combination of chick-lit romance and Kick-ass female detective. She researched the reader appeal of such a book to reach the largest possible number of book buyers.  Worked, too!

Ingrid
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Susan August

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2006, 08:12:41 PM »

I have been reading mysteries all my life and I have to acknowledge that I was blissfully unaware of all these distinctions of cozy, hard-boiled, etc.  It was less than a year ago that someone asked if my WIP was a cozy and I really didn't know!  Well, actually I'm still not sure, though I think it has some of those characteristics of an amateur sleuth and not too excessive violence...at least not so far!

I find it hard to add to this discussion, since I only know of 3 categories for me, and they are applicable well beyond the mystery genre.   :-\

These are: 
1. can't wait for the next one
2. might try the next one, and
3. no way do I want to read another one

And maybe it's just me, but I don't find a disproportionate number of any mystery sub-genre in one v. the other categories.  I may not like gratuitous violence, but I sometimes love the book/author in spite of it.  Likewise, cozies often bore me, but at the same time, I will devour the whole series of certain ones.

Susan
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2006, 09:24:51 PM »

Susan,

I'm a little better at differentiating between sub-genres, at least according to my own lights.  FWIW, here's how I tend to break them down:

1) Traditional (aka "cozy" or "soft-boiled")
2) Hard-boiled private eye
3) Police procedural (usu hard-boiled)
4) Spy (usu hard-boiled)
5) Criminal protagonist (usu hard-boiled)
6) Undefined (doesn't fit into any of the above-named categories)

I tend to define by the type of protagonist rather than by the type of plot.  Hence, an "inverted" story, a fair-play whodunit, or a "thriller" plot can be found in any of the above-named delineations, though obviously some plots predominate in specific types of stories (hence, most traditionals are also fair-play whodunits, and most spy stories are also thrillers).

However, like you, while I have my preferences, and while I have very definite ideas of what constitutes one particular sub-genre, I can find something to enjoy in any of the sub-genres because very good writers have chosen to practice in each of them.  Dorothy L. Sayers never wrote a hard-boiled PI and Dashiell Hammett never wrote a cozy, but they're both top-flight writers that anyone going into this business should check out.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:48:47 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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Poisonguy

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2006, 03:54:57 AM »

Hey Jim,

To me it seems this system tends to differentiate subgenres based on the protagonist's profession more so than anything else. The way I read it, if the protagonist is not closely related to law enforcement (excluding the spy), then it's a traditional (cozy), or is it in the undefined?
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Kathy Wendorff

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #19 on: November 20, 2006, 07:32:27 AM »

I don't mind the term "cozy" because it does give the feel for that type of book.

You generally find a small closely knit group of characters, a basically affectionate (and often humorous) look at their foibles and faults, and an essentially hopeful view of human nature. Good cozies offer social commentary or play with language or give you an inside peek at some world you're unfamiliar with, all of which leave you with a comfortable satisfied feeling when you close the book.

"Tradiional" is really not as precise. There are traditional mysteries (Kathi Taylor's series as a prime example) which are not cozy at all.

The fact that the term was coined as a pejorative makes me dig in my heels and hang onto it. In my youth, the ultimate insult (to males or females) was to say you did something "like a girl." As if being a girl was ipso facto second-rate. Among teens today, a common insult seems to be "That's so gay." Again, as if being gay is a bad thing, in and of itself.

I loathe that mindset.  I am a girl -- well, was  a girl long long ago -- and do many things like a girl, which I think is a great way to do them. I don't happen to be gay, but I think it's just as great (and varied) as being heterosexual. I read and write cozies, and think good cozies are just as admirable as other good genre fiction.

And I thnk Otto Penzler is a jackass.

Kathy W.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2006, 08:07:41 AM by Kathy Wendorff »
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Ingrid

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2006, 01:33:44 PM »

Well, I'm # 6 on Jim's list.  For that matter, my protagonist is not an amateur, not a P.I. (though he qualified a couple of times), and not a policeman. I don't do cozy or hardboiled. I don't do traditional because my protagonist has a private life that plays an important role in each book. Hmm.

Cozy will probably sell better: more buyers.

Cozy readers will buy my books, but they come up with complaints: like "how come his wife doesn't have more of a role?" "such and such a scene was really horrible," and probably in the future: "Oh, my God, why do you write about the death of a small child?"

Men buy my books.  :)

Having said this, I'm gratified to report that BLACK ARROW (not yet released) is nevertheless # 5 on Poisoned Pen's Ten Best Selling Mysteries  for November.  I suspect the cozy readers don't know that this one is a swashbuckler. And that's another thing: my books aren't all the same sort of thing.  It rattles readers who want, say, RASHOMON GATE (which happened to have some romance in it) over and over again.

Ingrid
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2006, 03:21:36 PM »

Poisonguy,

Re your comment below:

To me it seems this system tends to differentiate subgenres based on the protagonist's profession more so than anything else. The way I read it, if the protagonist is not closely related to law enforcement (excluding the spy), then it's a traditional (cozy), or is it in the undefined?

Not necessarily.  It's at least as much a matter of approach as it is the profession of the hero.  Charlie Chan and Roderick Alleyn are both cops, but you wouldn't call their stories procedurals. What sets the procedural apart is the authentic depiction of the profession of law enforcement, not simply the fact that the hero is a member of that profession.

Similarly, Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes are both professional private detectives, but you wouldn't call either of them hard-boiled.  In fact, the original hard-boiled stories were reactions to, and to some degree against, the kind of character that Poirot and Holmes represented.  What makes a hard-boiled private eye story hard-boiled is a tough attitude and a colloquial style.

That's four characters, all of whom are professional detectives of one kind or another, who are, despite the "cozy" tending to feature amateur sleuths, are all more identified by the "cozy" or "traditional" label than by one of the other sub-genres.  That's because the tendency to feature amateur sleuths is more of a general trend, than a hard-and-fast rule.  In fact, when it comes to the "cozy" or "traditional," hard and fast rules are hard to come by because of the way that kind of mystery developed into a separate sub-genre.

In the beginning, mysteries weren't divided into sub-genres.  There were just "mysteries."  The sub-genres, hard-boiled PI, police procedural, etc., all developed in reaction to, and to some degree against, the prevailing trend, and, consequently, developed a more easily defined set of characteristics.  What was left over, the mysteries that continued that formerly prevailing (and, to some degree, still prevailing) trend came to be called "cozies" or "traditional mysteries" or, according to one critic (San Francisco's Lenore Glenn Offord), "soft-boiled."

Hence, it's easy to talk about trends in the cozy, but equally easy to come up with exceptions.  And it's hard to come up with characteristics that are the cozy's alone, to the exclusion of the other sub-genres.  Cozy/traditional mysteries tend to be fair-play whodunits, but not always, and not all fair-play whodunits are cozies.  Cozy/traditionals tend to feature amateur sleuths, but not always, and not all amateur sleuths are in cozies.  Cozy/traditionals are invariably  less gritty, and tend to have a sunnier, more affirmative view of life, but one can find non-cozies with similar atmospheres and attitudes.

That's why, in the end, it's difficult to come up with a definitive answer to the question "What is a cozy?" but it's easy to recognize one when we see it.

« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:49:08 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2006, 03:25:13 PM »

Ingrid,

Re your cooments below:

. . . my protagonist is not an amateur, not a P.I. (though he qualified a couple of times), and not a policeman. I don't do cozy or hardboiled. I don't do traditional because my protagonist has a private life that plays an important role in each book. Hmm.

Stories like yours, that don't fall into any easy to define sub-genre, are precisely why I added that "undefined" category.

More power to you.  I'm sticking to well-defined paths, but people who stake out new territory invigorate the genre.

Who know?  In the end, your Akitada series might eventually come to define a whole new sub-genre.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:49:26 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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Susan August

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #23 on: November 20, 2006, 05:02:01 PM »

I like the "undefined" sub-genre.  But I don't like that name either.  Why don't we create a new sub-genre?  I propose we call it "original" and include there all mysteries that do not fit elsewhere.  Or are there other good name ideas that would provide appropriate recognition to those who write without a category in mind?  Ingrid, clearly your books belong there!  I also think it would be a good genre to aspire to join.  Maybe someday I'll get there!  ;D ;D ;D

Susan, who resists being defined  ;)
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Ingrid

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #24 on: November 20, 2006, 05:21:38 PM »

Well, thanks.  I'm not particular.  Mostly people call my mysteries historical. I'm more concerned with just writing as good a book as I can while reestablishing justice after a messy crime or two.

But the issue of having the right label is a serious one. Some of the people in the business have preconceived notions of what should happen in one's book.  They complain (or reject the book) if the novel doesn't fit that notion. I happen to think that Akitada's wife has no business meddling in criminal investigation.  For one thing, it's just not likely for a woman of that time to do such a thing.  But the influence of women's liberation and the success of cozy (or tough) female detectives now makes it difficult for me to stick by my decision (as in recent complaints from my editor). I take note that Laura Joh Rowland apparently decided to involve her protagonist's wife. I, on the other hand, am just as likely to kill off Tamako if she gets me into that sort of trouble.

Ingrid
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Susan August

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #25 on: November 20, 2006, 05:29:42 PM »

Stick to your guns, or more to the point...to your convictions, Ingrid.  Of course, I know you will!  You can't edit an 11th century Japanese story because of a 21st century attitude.  With Black Arrow doing so well pre-release, you may find you have a lot of influence before too long.   ;D

Susan
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Poisonguy

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2006, 03:14:08 AM »

Hey Susan,

My vote goes for "avant-garde" mysteries to replace the "undefined" category! LOL

And thanks for the explanation, Jim. I was looking more at the "influx" than the "outflux." You list law-enforcement types moving into the cozy category. I was looking for the reverse--the non-lawenforcement types that can be found in the more law enforcement categories. For example, by your definition, my WIP would be considered cozy, but I'd like to think that my ER physician protagonist driven schlock is more "procedurally" driven (I don't think some of the themes are all that cozy).
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All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy. -Paracelsus

Susan August

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2006, 08:19:18 AM »

Here's another idea: the "defiant" sub-genre...defies categorization.  LOL, just don't spell it with a 'v' instead of 'f'.

Susan
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2006, 12:48:06 PM »

Poisonguy,

Re your comments below

And thanks for the explanation, Jim. I was looking more at the "influx" than the "outflux." You list law-enforcement types moving into the cozy category. I was looking for the reverse--the non-lawenforcement types that can be found in the more law enforcement categories. For example, by your definition, my WIP would be considered cozy, but I'd like to think that my ER physician protagonist driven schlock is more "procedurally" driven (I don't think some of the themes are all that cozy).

When Anthony Boucher first coined the term "police procedural" to describe a mystery in which the details of law enforcement were authentically depicted, he was, obviously, talking specifically about cop stories.  And, in a relatively short time, "procedural" was commonly understood to be simply a shortened version of "police procedural."  In other words, if you used the term "procedural," the modifier "police" seemed redundant.

However, William DeAndrea, in his Encyclopedia Mysteriosa, used the term more generally to describe any mystery that was dependant on the authentic depiction of some profession, whether or not it was a profession involved in official law enforcement.  Hence, Joe Gores's DKA mysteries were "private eye procedurals," because they made a point of depicting what real PI's do an how they do it.  The spy novels of Ted Allbeury or David Hagberg, both trying to depict the world of cloak and dagger authentically, might be described as "espionage procedurals," because both authors (intelligence professionals at one time) try to depict the details of espionage with realism and accuracy, and are in marked contrast to the work, at least the later work, of Ian Fleming, and writers who followed his lead, who went for the Sax Rohmer-style melodrama (for all that Fleming also had a background in intelligence).  Robert Irvine's novels about a news division at a local TV station might be described as "journalism procedurals" (Irvine was, IIRC, a TV newsman himself). 

If you want to get out of the mystery genre altogether, Herman Melville's Moby Dick could be described as a "whaler's procedural," the military novels of Frederick Marryatt which had such an influence on Forester and O'Brian could be described as "naval procedurals," and, of particular interest to you, the medical novels of Frank G. Slaughter as "physician procedurals."  I single out these three because Melville actually was a whaler, Marryatt actually a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, and Slaughter actually a doctor, all of whom made an effort to depict their professions with accuracy and authenticity.

As a cop, and a fan of police procedurals, I kind of like claiming the term "procedural" exclusively for law enforcement, so I'm not sure I'm ready to embrace DeAndrea's contention that "procedural" describes any work that is dependant on the accurate depiction of a particular profession, whether or not that  profession is police-related.  Plus, as I said earlier, the unmodified term "procedural" seems to be generally understood to mean a story about law enforcement by most people in the genre, rightly or wrongly.

However, whether using the term for your work is correct or not, I would certainly suggest that any mystery, or any novel for that matter, built around the accurate description of the workings of a hospital ER certainly has the same sort of appeal that a police procedural does.

If I was you, and I was pitching my novel to an editor or an agent, I'd certainly use the term "procedural"  in my pitch to get across the idea that a good part of the interest was the accurate depiction of hospital operations.  And, of course, I'd allude to the popular TV series created by Michael Crichton (a mystery-writing physician who's made use of his medical background in books like the Edgar-winning A Case of Need).
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:49:42 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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B L McAllister

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2006, 12:53:06 PM »

1) Traditional (aka "cozy" or "soft-boiled")
2) Hard-boiled private eye
3) Police procedural (usu hard-boiled)
4) Spy (usu hard-boiled)
5) Criminal protagonist (usu hard-boiled)
6) Undefined (doesn't fit into any of the above-named categories

To the "egg" categories, add
7) scrambled (the plot can't possibly be followed)
8) fried (that's what the alcoholic detective always is)
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