Today we are excited to introduce a twice-a-month feature that will be led by my awesome dad! He will introduce it more in this post, but I think you will really love sharing his love of regional mysteries over the next months!
Hi, I’m Art. I’m an active, engaged reader and proud to be Emily’s Dad. Over the last four years, I have averaged reading ten books per month, 120 books per year. About half of those have been mysteries — and most of those have been books in regional mystery series.
I spent several decades being a “serious” reader. I concentrated on non-fiction, biographies and “intellectual” pursuits. I disdained books that were too popular. I might make an exception for Stephen King. But I refused to read mysteries.
Then Jill Miller, UPI’s book editor, challenged me to think outside my narrow box and to review a Robert B. Parker Spenser novel. I found a well-written book, rich in dialog and centered on a moral code, with likeable characters and an interesting plot. I was hooked. And I have never looked back.
First I read all of the existing Spenser novels, eventually expanding to Parker’s other characters (Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, Cole & Hitch). After Parker’s death, each of these series is being capably written by a selected author who is continuing his literary legacy.
Then I chased down every Elmore Leonard novel I could find in bookstores across the South.
Mysteries, which began in London (elementary, my dear Watson), had originally moved to the States in New York and LA. There were noir and hard-boiled characters and series based in each of the two largest metropolitan areas. Noir is a bit darker and more interior, but both feature alienated main characters who are often anti-heroes expert in sex and violence. Think Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Travis McGee and Lew Archer.
But then writers started generating works from Florida, mostly Miami but then the Keys and more statewide adventures, Boston and Detroit.
Now there are series based in nearly every state. I read works based in states from the Pacific Northwest to the Rockies to New England. One of the nice features about these series is they generally include cultural or historical detail to differentiate their unique location.
There are now strong women lead characters (no longer the supporting role of the original noir). The standard sheriff or detective has now been supplemented by forest/park rangers and game wardens; returning veterans; bail enforcement agents and a wide variety of sub-genres. There are also sub-genres featuring Native American mysticism and a wide variety of supernatural influences.
I propose we take a cross-country journey, exploring the regions and their series and characters, making a mystery map together. As we do so, we can keep track of the sub-genres and figure out which ones we like and why.
Since I started with Spenser, I’m going to start the series with Robert B. Parker. Looking forward to talking mysteries with you. See you next time.
What About You?
Are there any regional mystery series you love and want us to cover? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t read a certain genre because you wanted to only read “worthy” books? We can’t wait to chat with you about it in the comments!