When Does Crime Fiction Become Historical Crime Fiction

I was recent.y looking through a book shop and found that Colin Dexter’s Morse books were in the Historic Crime Section.

Now, I’m not old, I’m sixty this year, and I read The Morse series in the early 2000’s. I didn’t consider them old, in fact I enjoyed the transition made in Policing and technology, and the way Morse struggled with it.

Maybe it’s because the first book in the series was published in the mid 1970’s. I left home and started my first job in the Merchant Navy in 1977 so I had lived the era Dexter had written about.

So. Is it because of that I don’t consider books from that era as being Historic.

My current reading dispels that. I’m reading The Final Shot, by Simon Michael, book seven in the excellent Charles Holborn series.

This series is predominantly set in the 1960’s in London. Holborn is a Barrister who, because of his Jewish background, has suffered bigotry from his fellow Legal professionals, whilst suffering generally because of his association with people in the London Gangland scene. Including the notorious Kray Twins.

This is a series set before I was born and into my infant years, an era I have no association with, yet I don’t consider it historic. Is this because it’s being written today?

My favourite series, which I would consider Historic, is C J Samson’s Shardlake books set during the reign of Henry VIII. Surely by definition historic, but being written today. So my opinion isn’t being swayed by when the book is written.

I tried to look back at books I’d read and consider when they were set, and when they were written.

I enjoyed the near the knuckle writing of James Elroy in his L.A Quartet set in the 1950’s. A harsh read about the decade before my birth. But I don’t consider it historic.

I’ve never been a big Agatha Christie fan, but I have read a few of her books, mainly set in the 1920s, Historic, no, more old fashioned.

In the end I decided on the great Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes books as being the earliest books I would consider as being classed as true Historic Fiction. The series started being written in 1887 and was set in the same era.

That only left me one quandary. Can I really call everything set in the twentieth and twenty first century as Modern Crime Fiction.

That is a huge time span and the more recent modern crime fiction is set against a more scientific, and forensic, background that sets it apart from books that are written about times as late as the mid 1990’s.

In my mind I’ve now separated crime fiction into three groups, and this helps me to know what to expect of a story. It depends on when a book was set, and not when it was written.

Modern Crime Fiction, anything that is set in a time period post 1990.

Nostalgic Crime Fiction, anything set between 1900 and 1990.

Historic Crime Fiction, anything set pre 1900.

I’m sure that there are people who will have their own ideas and opinions, and my categories are purely for my own benefit, but Dexter’s Morse, Historic, I don’t think so.

Author: nkadams999

An avid reader since I was young and have always found time for books through, two marriages (one still current), the raising of a beautiful daughter, who's now a lovely young woman, a short (5 year) career as a seaman, a long (30 year) career as a Firefighter- Officer/Arson Investigator, and latterly as a Lecturer, on Fire forensics and all things Fire related.

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