It has often been said by crime writers (this one included) that the community of mystery writers is uniquely clubbable, and, while there are one or two crime writers of whom I would use that word in the same way it is applied to baby seals, I think that, generally speaking, this description is true. It may be, of course, given that one or two crime writers are rather fond of a drink, that this reputation owes more than a little to alcohol. When a legend of the crime-writing community throws his arms around a relative newcomer and says, “I love you. I love your books. You’re my best friend!” it’s easy enough for the newcomer to believe all she has heard about what a warm and welcoming bunch mystery writers are and overlook the twelve beers and the bottle of tequila that the legend has poured down his throat.
But booze and the odd bad apple aside, I can certainly attest that, as a rule, crime writers seem to me to be a very decent bunch of men and women. There are certainly fewer crime writers who subscribe to the “in order for me to do well, you have to do badly” approach than some I have encountered in other areas I know reasonably well: television, the comedy industry, and, dare I say it, other areas of the wider literary community.
Someone — it may well have been Ian Rankin — once described crime writers as a “gang,” and that’s not a bad word to use, though admittedly we don’t have much in the way of initiation ceremonies. Well, there is the ancient and much revered Detection Club in the UK, but fear of reprisals forbids me going into that. OK, so there are skulls and candles . . . I’ve said too much already. But in the sense of camaraderie and of existing at what might be described as the periphery of the literary community, gang is a word that will do well enough. I heard an even better description while attending the Ned Kelly Awards in Australia a year or two back, when someone described crime writers as the “smokers of the literary community.” Now, whatever you think about smoking, this seemed and still seems to me to be utterly wonderful.
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