The Crime Readers' Association

A Cry for the Cosy- Lesley Cookman

16th August 2013

We’re a quietish bunch in the UK, us Mystery Writers. There’s me and a few others, some of whom cross into historical crime. But we are largely ignored by the media, rarely reviewed (except on Amazon) and in some quarters almost despised.

In the US, however, the Cosy is King! Or should I say Queen, because most of them are written by, and feature, women. “Cozy” is what the Americans called the books to differentiate them from the other, darker crime novels, whereas we used to call them murder mysteries, and in the old days (so I’m told!) there was no distinction.

They are the direct descendants of the books by Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth and other doyens and doyennes of the Golden era, including Ngaio Marsh who, in her way, was actually writing police procedurals.

I was told a long time ago when I was still a free lance journalist that no-one read those sort of books any more. Tentatively, I approached the odd agent that I knew, just to see. No market for them, I was told. And then my current publisher saw the first 20,000 words of a mystery I’d written as a dissertation, asked if it could be a series and bought it before it was finished. And neither of us have ever looked back. So someone out there likes “cosies”. Someone out there likes having characters who become friends as you read book after book. The mystery gives form and shape to the book, the characters add the interest. And yes – bodies are kept off stage, and yes – the police get treated very unrealistically. But it’s entertainment, and glorified in the US, where whole conventions are devoted to them and publishers have whole imprints devoted to them.

Another example of their popularity is the plethora of self published titles in the genre. All these people tried traditional publishing and got nowhere (wasn’t I lucky?) so they published themselves via the Kindle Direct programme and others. Some are good, some are indifferent, some are downright awful, but it proves that people still want to write and read them. There is a market out there, despite what the industry might tell you.

So let’s celebrate the cosy, let’s marvel at the mystery. Thousands of people still do – do you?

Lesley Cookman writes the Libby Sarjeant Mystery Series, the twelfth of which, Murder In The Dark, has just been published as an ebook, with print to follow in October.

For more about Lesley and the Libby Sarjean Mystery Series visit her website and blog or follow her on Twitter. @LesleyCookman

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