The Crime Readers' Association

Quentin Bates – Sex

13th June 2014

I thought that might grab your attention.

What’s there to say about sex? To start with, I’m given to understand there’s a lot of it about. We humans (men, anyway) are supposedly hardwired to think about it every nine seconds, and something like nine-tenths of the internet seems to be devoted to various aspects of it. Sex, and its more respectable sidekicks, love and romance, are fairly central themes of fiction all round. There’s not much these days that doesn’t feature one or the other, or both, or all three.

It’s a while since I came to the decision that too much sex is normally best left out of the work in progress. It’s not that I have a problem with a bit of horizontal jogging in my fiction, I’m no prude in that department. It’s more that it’s just so hellishly tough to strike the right balance and write about sex in a way that doesn’t raise a laugh or an embarrassed groan – or both. One reader’s sizzling seduction scene is another’s custard pie slapstick, and there’s a fine line to tread between the two. There’s a lot to be said for those three dots… indicating it’s time for the reader’s imagination to be brought in to take up the slack.

My arrival at crime fiction was by a roundabout route that certainly wasn’t headed that way to start with and I’d looked carefully at other things before deciding to head for the then relatively sparse uplands of Gloomy Nordic Crime Fiction. Fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, I was tapping out my first (published) novel just around the time that Stieg Larsson’s was making its arrival in Sweden, so my arrival on the bookshelves was right behind his – and since then Nordic Crime Fiction is everywhere. That’s no bad thing, as far as I’m concerned, the more the better.

A couple of years ago I asked an editor what I should be writing, wondering what the next big thing would be. Nordic crime fiction was already here (hopefully, to stay) by then and vampires were starting to take over the world, not for the first time – so it was already too late to join that particular party.

‘Not sure, darling,’ this editor mused, describing forays into gay erotic vampire fiction that she had been working with and unexpectedly predicting the return of the old-fashioned bodice-ripper as the coming thing.

Well, she was partly right. Bodice ripping appears to be back with a vengeance, but not in a way that anyone suggested. Three bodice-shredding volumes of Fifty Shades of Grey soon took the publishing world by storm, spiced up with some spanking and made commuter friendly by your e-reader, and branded as erotica rather than whatever you might want to call it.

So is it too late? That particular bandwagon has probably already rattled into the sunset by now. Or has it? Maybe there’s a publisher out there desperate for a series featuring an irresistible Nordic crime-fighting vampire who pings the buttons off well-filled bodices with a single smouldering glance?

I may be some time. There’s some bodice-related research that needs doing and then I may have a proposal and some sample chapters to write. Do bodices have buttons?


Quentin Bates escaped English suburbia at the end of the 1970s for a gap year in Iceland that gradually turned into a gap decade, going largely native in the north of Iceland for much of that time and acquiring a new language, a family and an unexpected profession at the same time. He returned to England in 1990, Icelandic family in tow, and has been here ever since.
After a good few years at sea and having trained as a ship’s officer, the shift into writing for a living began, through a series of coincidences, as a journalist for a marine trade magazine. Fiction was something he had always seen as a complete mug’s game, so of course had to give it a try. The advice was to write about what you know, so Iceland was the ideal backdrop.
The first novel (Frozen Out) was published in 2011 in Britain and US, and there are three more since then, as well as translations into German, Dutch, Finnish and Polish. Find out more 

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