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Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Young and the Restless 

Maureen Corrigan opens her roundup of mystery reviews with the following question:

Aren't there any cute young mystery writers you can introduce me to?" This cheeky question came from a 20-something student of mine during the recent National Book Festival on the Mall. This singleton had come to hear noted mystery writers speak about their craft and to hear her professor introduce them to the crowd. But clearly she was disappointed in seeing some of her favorite writers in the flesh. While a few of the mystery writers in attendance that day could conceivably be labeled "cute" (depending on one's tastes), none was enjoying the first flush of youth. Is mystery writing a fossil's game?

Well, there's a couple of issues here that are mixed up with each other. I'll go with the more serious one first: while it's true that the average age for a debut crime novelist is somewhat older (late 30s/early 40s seems to be a reasonable consensus) than for literary fiction, there are a number of writers who got an early start. Corrigan brings up Karin Slaughter (first published at age 30) and Ayelet Waldman (now 39, first published 3 years ago) but there are a number of crime writers who are still "young" (under 40) who have several books under their belt, including Greg Rucka, John Connolly, Beth Saulnier, Danielle Girard, and Simon Kernick. Upcoming are debut novels from twentysomething Blake Crouch and 21 year old Michael Koryta, whose SMP/PWA contest winning novel will be published later in 2004. The point being, I wouldn't count out the youngsters quite yet. Or perhaps it just takes more time to perfect such skills as plot, pace and characterization that aren't necessarily as important in literary fiction....

As to the second, more frivolous question, the twentysomething in question might want to consider attending one of the many mystery conventions that take place throughout the year. Because as I mused to myself earlier today, there really aren't that many young female singletons out and about in the crime fiction world, so any additions would, I'm sure, be more than welcome to those writers who are on the make. But be careful--the cute ones aren't necessarily the available ones....

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