If Fleming, McBain and Simenon could write crime fiction in less than 200 pages, why can’t we?
It’s time to confess. There’s something I don’t understand. People have less and less time to read, right? At the same time, novels keep getting thicker. Forget the monsters of super authors like Stephen King, Dan Brown and the likes, I’m talking about the average crime novel, that is often close to or above 300 pages. In my opinion, too many of them are too long at 300 pages or more; their story arch is simply insufficient, their tale collapsing under the weight of the pages, the characters too thin to carry on to an imaginary threshold.
Back in the days, when books were shown in bookstores only, they needed a certain amount of pages in order to look good, to stand up, to draw attention. Thick paperbacks or hardcovers looked good, they looked strong, they had a convincing quality all of their own. “Jaws” by Peter Benchley would have made less of an impression without its bulky shape. But with the coming of the ebook, there is no longer that particular need.
Thick novels have always devided the audience. Some think Stephen King’s “The Stand” was not long enough, others thought the first hundred pages were quite sufficient. Some people like short novels, some relish endless odysseys on paper. But that is not the point.
The point is that authors seem to be afraid of staying under 200 pages. Of course, pricing may have something to do with it. What’s a fair price for a novel of 140 pages? But even that is not really the point.
The point is, that famous authors proved the popularity and success of the shorter novel ages ago.
“Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming is 188 pages.
“The Man with the Golden Gun” by Ian Fleming is 169 pages (slightly depending on the edition you’re reading).
“Killer’s Wedge” by Ed McBain (famous for his 87th Precinct series) is 188 pages.
“Lady Killer” by Ed McBain is 194 pages.
“Pietr the Latvian” by Georges Simenon is 176 pages.
There’s always an audience for the shorter crime novel. Especially now, with international travel and busy lives, where people can squeeze a quick read in their schedules a lot easier than a huge, epic novel. I believe these are times for shorter novels. Not “only”, but “more”.
I’ve decided to go for the format of the shorter crime novel with my series about the Radio Detective. The paperback of the 5th adventure of my hero, business talk radio host Carl Pappas, is 140 pages. “Acid Asset” is a quick read indeed. I don’t pretend to write stories that can run on for three hundred pages. I don’t even want to because I believe in the future of, what I call, “the light crime novel”.
It’s actually the kind of book I’m always looking for myself, but I can assure you they’re very hard to find. With “Acid Asset“, I’m helping to refill the library of the shorter novel.