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Author Topic: Cozy or amature detective?  (Read 38493 times)

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scotfiddle

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Cozy or amature detective?
« on: November 17, 2006, 10:21:44 AM »

The story I'm working on has a ghost as one of the characters, both of the murders take place off screen, and the protagonist is not a police officer.

There is a description of the murder scene, maybe both of them, but not in great detail.

Is this a cozy, or an amateur detective?

Karen

« Last Edit: November 17, 2006, 10:26:45 AM by scotfiddle »
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Kathy Wendorff

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2006, 12:05:43 PM »

Karen, it sounds like it could be both. Not all cozies have amateur detectives -- Agatha Christie is the classic cozy writer, and she featured private investigators like Hercule Poirot and police officers like Inspector Battle. I can't offhand  think of any recent cozies with police or PI protagonists, but it's not impossible -- as long as the story doesn't feature graphic onstage violence or sex, and nothing truly terrible happens to any characters the reader truly cares about, it would qualify.

Conversely, not all amateur sleuth mysteries are cozies, even if they take place in a small town and feature quirky characters and humor. Kathleen Taylor's series is not cozy in feeling at all. (That "nothing truly terrible happens in a cozy to any characters the reader truly cares about" definition is hers, and it's the best I've heard.) You're the best judge at this point whether your story feels like a cozy.

An increasing number of writers see "cozy" as a pejorative, and use "traditional mystery" instead. Not me, because I'm not ashamed of writing cozies, and think they have just as much socially redeeming value as any other mystery sub-genre.

Does that help, or confuse things?

Kathy W.
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CathyJ

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2006, 03:38:27 PM »

I agree with Kathy.  Cozy and amateur sleuth aren't mutually exclusive.  Many books are both.

Cathy
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2006, 03:59:01 PM »

Karen,

Most "cozy" (or, to use my preferred term, traditional) mysteries are amateur sleuth.  There are exceptions, of course, like those Kathy pointed out, but, by and large, the "cozy" is the province of amateurs like Lord Peter, Ellery Queen, Miss Marple, and Mr. Campion.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:47:30 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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CarolG.

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2006, 07:18:53 PM »

Does having a ghost as a character make it "woowoo?" I've seen that term tossed around, but have never seen it defined...
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Kathy Wendorff

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Re: Hamish MacBeth!
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2006, 10:31:40 AM »

He's the Scottish village constable protagonist in M. C. Beaton's "Death of a ..." series, which is cozy to the core. (Although she hates the term "cozy.") A current non-amateur sleuth.

As for "woo-woo," I think it means any supernatural elements. Doesn't have to be scary.  I'd guess a ghost qualifies.

Kathy W.
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Ingrid

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2006, 01:49:36 PM »

Somebody (I think it's the American author Todd) writes a British police procedural in which the protagonist is in constant (diisconcerting) company of the ghost of his former sergeant whom he had ordered shot during WWI for cowardice and refusing an order.  Jim?

Ingrid
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JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2006, 04:47:23 PM »

Ingrid,

Re your question below:

Somebody (I think it's the American author Todd) writes a British police procedural in which the protagonist is in constant (disconcerting) company of the ghost of his former sergeant whom he had ordered shot during WWI for cowardice and refusing an order.  Jim?

I think you're recalling the Inspector Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd (who is an American, or who at least lives in the US).

I haven't read them but I've heard great things about them.

As I understand it, though, it isn't literally a case of the sergeant haunting Rutledge, so much as a symptom of the post-traumatic stress disorder (or "shell shock" as they so succinctly called it in WW1) Rutledge is still suffering from.

You can find out more about Todd and his work here:

http://www.charlestodd.com

The website has a link to an article, "Justice Long Denied," that you might find interesting, dealing with efforts to obtain pardons for British soldiers executed for cowardice during WW1.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:47:56 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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Ingrid

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2006, 05:22:15 PM »

Thanks, Jim.  The books are interesting.  It clearly is post-traumatic stress disorder (I like that because I like realistic explanations of supernatural events), but the ghostly voice (in his head) is constantly talking to him during his cases, sometimes taking part in the investigation.  A neat trick that does put the character into the "ghost" category, as a sort of incubus, not seen but heard.

Ingrid
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Joyce S

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2006, 08:05:43 AM »

My gosh, I haven't thought of Lord Peter Wimsey for years. I have definitely got to unpack the boxes of books (still packed from my move a year ago) and refresh my memory of those fun novels.

Joyce S
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scotfiddle

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2006, 12:19:11 PM »

Thank you all for your responses. I guess mine is both cozy (I kind of like that term myself) and amateur. The general consensus here seems to be that the lines are blurred between the two.

I love M C Beaton's "Death of a..." series, but have noticed that her protagonist, Hamish, hasn't developed or changed any. He's the same in the last book as he was in the first one.

Karen
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dhparker

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2006, 01:10:02 PM »

I'm with you, Karen.  I like the term "cozy".  Can't wait to read your story, no matter how you decide to classify it.  Sounds like a good one! 

As for the M.C. Beaton series, it's the setting, which is almost a character in itself, that keeps me reading those.   :)

JIM DOHERTY

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Re: Cozy or amateur detective?
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2006, 01:50:17 PM »

Donna (and anyone else),

Why do you like the term "cozy," just out of curiosity?

I'm not a big fan of the sub-genre, so perhaps it's not my place to comment, but, to me, it sounds dismissive.  And my understanding is that it was coined by someone who didn't like them and meant to be dismissive.

My preferred term is "traditional," but I realize I'm fighting a losing battle.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 10:48:22 PM by JIM DOHERTY »
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Elena

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2006, 04:35:13 PM »

I don't like the term 'cozy' either.  Too often I have read reviewers who do exactly what you say Jim, dismiss a book because they equate cozy with an inability (read female author) to write. I hadn't thought of it before, but 'cozy' and 'hard boiled' are sort of gender opposites with much the same reputation among those who cannot discern between something that is different, and something that is wrong.

The Cozy designation means that some excellent writers such as Margery Allingham and Michael Innes get marginalized for not including physical violence.  While other books arrive on 'light mystery' lists because they are considered cozies even though there is a tremendous amount of emotional violence through out the book.  Can't think of the author, but one of the many caterers around today has an ex-husband whose emotional violence actually becomes physical at times and yet she still is on the 'cozy' or 'light reading' lists.

Traditional would be a lovely term to replace it, in that so far it is without gender bias or any other sort of judgment.

Elena
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dhparker

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Re: Cozy or amature detective?
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2006, 04:43:07 PM »

Good question, Jim.  I do like the genre, whether you call it cozy or traditional.  The less profanity, gore and steamy "romance" a book has, the better I like it.  I also like happy endings where the good guys win, thus giving me a cozy feeling.

Having said that, it may also be because I like that word, as a word.

I'll have to think about this more.  Right now, got to finish getting ready for that over the river and through the woods trip to Grandma's.

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