It doesn't help that mysteries get a bum rap. People think it's improbably plot twists and shoot outs. No. Mysteries are actually the greatest literary genre. They concern the deeper motivations of the human psyche, the frailties, the fears. They can be used to explore social events and the human mind, and because mysteries are set in the everyday world, their reach is more immediate.
You can tell a lot about the world by the current mystery masters. Robert Parker, for example, with Spencer, for example, probably the closest to the detective as Everyman since Jim Rockford. Tough on the streets, but a penchant for intellectual pursuits, he's a lot like us, whose roles in the world don't tell the whole story of who we are. The perpetual following of Columbo, the detective as Anyman, whose appearance and demeanour proved fatal to many people who thought they could outfox this short, mild detective only to find out his tenacity and sharp mind was their downfall.
There can be some wish fulfillment, as elements that make the writer separate from the crowd at large factor in. Who doesn't like writing a mystery that hinges on the specialized knowledge they've acquired? It's human nature. But then there is the other side, creating genuine characters that almost come alive.
Here in the Chicago area, our current expert is the legendary Sara Paretsky. I was a late bloomer where V.I. Warshawski was concerned, first hearing about her in the Kathleen Turner movie. Wasn't impressed. But I decided to give her a whirl. Goddamn, the woman can WRITE. If the movie had only taken its cues from her.
The Mystery Writers Of America has their Edgar Awards in April. And they have announced that Paretsky is getting a special honor. She is to be recognized as a Grand Master. Who else has the MWA recognized as Grand Masters? Agatha Christie. Alfred Hitchcock. Stephen King. Now THAT'S good company.
(Side note: Centuries And Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park is getting a Raven Award, which is for "outstanding achievement in the mystery field in areas other than creative writing.")
I know I keep saying talent means dick in the creative field. Which is why it is so wonderful to see someone deserving actually get high praise.
Congratulations, Paretsky. And may you keep writing as long as you can draw breath.