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Chapter 8 - Facts and Fictions: The Liminal Space Between True Crime and Crime Fiction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 April 2024

Meghan P. Nolan
Affiliation:
Rockland Community College, New York
Rebecca Martin
Affiliation:
Pace University, New York
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Summary

Introduction

True crime and crime fiction are sibling rivals in an increasingly crowded, and often increasingly profitable, publishing market that lures writers of crime-focused material with the idea that crime might pay after all. Publishers also look to crime works for profits and publicity. Readers consume the stories of criminals and their victims for numerous reasons, including satisfying voyeuristic interests of prurience, indulging in Schadenfreude in criminal activities, learning about crime in their communities, and the desire to solve the ultimate puzzle: murder.

Both true crime and crime fiction writing engage with the subject of the malefactor, usually the murderer. Both types of writing have long histories, and both have enjoyed widespread popularity through an ability to regularly update a tried and tested storytelling formula in response to changing reader expectations as well as changing social views on crime and punishment. Both, too, routinely feature on nonfiction and fiction lists of bestselling titles.

These two writing traditions obviously share a genealogical lineage; yet a clear segregation has been developed by writers, publishers, and consumers. This is most overtly seen in labeling practices and in how these works are traditionally separated in bookstores and in libraries.

True crime and crime fiction are generally associated by booksellers and librarians through carefully planned geographical proximities that allow people—be they browsers, buyers, or borrowers—to transition easily from one section to another. Occasionally, neat rows of shelving face each other in a primitive fact versus fiction standoff, almost daring readers to make a choice and commit to either those texts that assert the truth and offer information or those volumes that make no such claims to the real and seek, primarily, to entertain. Clear signage denotes the subject matter of “crime” but while true crime and crime fiction texts, as argued here, are always related, with the boundaries between them often becoming distorted, these works are rarely fully integrated under a single banner of “crime writing.”

This chapter unpacks the liminal space between true crime and crime fiction, looking at how often only a few more facts or a few more fictions can be required for a writer to realign their work, to deliberately remove one crime writing label and effortlessly apply the other.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Crossroads of Crime Writing
Unseen Structures and Uncertain Spaces
, pp. 169 - 190
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2024

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