At the national award for light mysteries, the Bony Blithe Awards, a few weeks ago mystery authors considered the differences between traditional or light mystery fare and police procedurals. The Bony Blithe Award is five years old this year so there were congratulations all round including cake and applause for winner Victoria Abbott for The Marsh Madness, Berkley Prime Crime. Two panels discussed the evolving mystery genre.
The first panel involved four authors (Alexis Koetting, Janet Bolin, Eva Gates/Vicki Delany, and Victoria Abbott/Mary Jane Maffini speculating on how they would re-imagine a cozy into a police procedural. Outgoing Crime Writers of Canada president Vicky Delany author of the Lighthouse Library series noted one change would be a change of style. In a cozy there is only one point of view character, in a police procedural the tone would change, there would be more point of view characters hiding a secret and a more explosive ending. For Mary-Jane Maffini, the mother half of the Victoria Abbott mother-daughter writing team, television also has an impact on the approach to writing. In Britain, lots of television series, including Midsomer Murders are based on dark books that have been “cozified” for television, she said. What was interesting to consider was that Agatha Christie was not cozy in her time.
The second panel featured Cathy Ace, Elizabeth J. Duncan, Vicki Delany, and Catherine Astolfo on what aspects of a mystery make it dark. Also, is it easier to write a light or comic mystery than a mystery that explores the darker or more serious side of life? The panelists agreed that both sides of the genre have their conventions. The split between more ‘hard-boiled’ mysteries and lighter fare seems to have accelerated in the past few years.
The Bony Blithe Mini-con organized by Elaine Freedman, 2016 Bony Blithe Chair, and fellow mini-con organizers Caro Soles and Jane Burfield was a great opportunity to consider and celebrate the whole light mystery genre. Panelists agreed: Readers like the light mystery, they develop affinities for the series characters and they want to follow them in book after book. And that’s gratifying for any author.