Cozy vs. Noir: Thoughts On Genre

Cozy vs. NoirIf you write or read books under the greater “mystery fiction” umbrella, then you will be familiar with these two popular sub-genres—”cozy” and “noir”. Here is how Wikipedia defines the two:

  • Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.
  • Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist.

I know, I know: Freakin’ Wikipedia?! But they make it so easy. It also seems pretty accurate.

Genre has been on my mind a lot recently because I got invited to participate in an  awesome event on the first night of the California Crime Writers Conference. It’s called “Cozy vs. Noir” and it is sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and hosted by the one, the only, Eric Beetner. I am absolutely thrilled to take part, but the whole concept has got me thinking.

Luckily, I have interviewed some great authors who have strong opinions on the subject. We’ll start with Rob Hart, author of NEW YORKED (out June 1 from Polis Books):

unnamed-1Is NEW YORKED a crime novel in your eyes? How important is genre to you as a writer?

Genre discussions make me go cross-eyed. If I was pressed I’d say it’s a little noir, a little literary. But I’m firmly in the class of: A good book is a good book, and I don’t care if it’s YA or poetry or literary or crime or a cookbook.

(Read the whole Rob Hart INTERVIEW)

And Scott Adlerberg, author of JUNGLE HORSES:

JungleHorsesIs it important to you as a writer to jump between genres?

Is it important to me? It’s not so much important as a question of what works for a particular story. With JUNGLE HORSES, as I was doing it, it seemed to work. The second part, the fantastic part, just grew out of the noirish part, without strain, I felt. I wouldn’t try to force genres together just to be odd or “different.” But what’s fun about genres is how fluid and flexible they are and how you can play around so much with them. There’s a lot of ways to be inventive.

(Read the whole INTERVIEW)

So, if you’re in L.A. on June 5, please stop by. The event is free and open to the public. If not, I will let you know how it went afterward, right here.

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.


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