Monday, May 12, 2008

Cozies and Geezers

Having witnessed how using “cozy” to describe a traditional whodunit can spark controversy in the mystery world, I’m a bit apprehensive about possible reactions to my “geezer lit” article in this month’s AARP Bulletin. In it, I attempt to describe an emerging trend in crime fiction, which already differentiates between thrillers, suspense, police procedurals, hard-boiled, noir, and yes, “cozies”--
traditional/classic mysteries.

With AARP’s tabloid newspaper delivered to a whopping 22 million households with someone 50 or older, I hope none of them find “geezer” insulting. I don’t want to be the target of a massive “Seniors Aren’t Geezers” campaign. I’ve already seen how upset people get over “cozy.”

That controversy, by the way, centers on how best to describe mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie or “Murder She Wrote”: likable, amateur sleuths solving crimes with no graphic violence that occur in small towns or villages and are unraveled without profanity or explicit sex. Some believe “cozy” diminishes what is actually a traditional, or classic, form of mysteries. Many authors in this genre are female so maybe it smacks a bit of sexism, too.

Personally, I don’t think murder can ever be “cozy.” But I do see how the term generates a certain image, like a tea cozy, just as “geezer” hopefully brings to mind senior sleuths.

Nonetheless, there are some who’d prefer to avoid a “geezer lit” label, such as “Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries” author Cynthia Riggs. She says the age of her main character, 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull, “is only one aspect of her character, necessary only because she has certain limitations or prejudices she must overcome, including rampant ageism.”

Ageism, for those who haven’t experienced it, is “the tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment.” I hope everyone can agree there’s nothing “cozy” about that.

*AARP Bulletin hasn’t posted the small article on Page 6 online yet so here it is:
The graying of America is spreading fast to mystery bookshelves. A genre some have dubbed “geezer lit” featuring crime-solving protagonists age 70-plus is growing in popularity. While publishers have not released sales figures, more and more mystery titles are popping up starring older characters. In Retirement Homes are Murder by Mike Befeler, an octogenarian sleuth suffers from short-term memory loss. Among other novelists contributing recent titles are Cynthia Riggs (Shooting Star), Parnell Hall (The Soduku Puzzle Murders) and Rita Lakin (Getting Old Is to Die For). “We’ve just scratched the surface on so-called geezer lit,” observes best-selling thriller author Harlan Coben, president of the Mystery Writers of America. “It could be the next big frontier in crime fiction.” – Pat Remick"
Here are some links to other mystery authors writing about senior sleuths: http://www.noreenwald.com/, http://babyboomermysteries.com/, http://www.montanamysteries.com/
http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/
http://www.annettemahon.com/
www.geocities.com/CarolaDunn

4 comments:

Ruth McCarty said...

Hi Pat,

I was at a Mother's Day party on Sunday and one of the guests asked me if I belonged to AARP. She'd read your article and wanted to tell me about "geezer lit." It was so cool to tell her "I know the woman who wrote that article!"

Thanks for publishing it here.

Ruth

Anonymous said...

Come on now! To have lived long enough to have earned a moniker like geezer is an honor. I wore the bimbo nick name proudly as a cheerleader on honor roll. If I should make it to be a 70+ heroine I'll put geezer in my hat like a feather. I love it!

Eileen said...

Enjoyed your article. And glad it was in dark ink for these geezerette eyes.

Martha W. Rogers said...

I'm a 70 plus author and I'm working on a "cozy" set in a retirement center where one of the gardners is murdered right in my heroine's flowerbed. Of course she's going to set about solving the crime with her buddies. All are 70 and older. It's fun being a "geezer" and I don't mind it all. There's a lot of life left in us, and we all love to have fun.
Thanks for the article and for your blog.