Sunday, August 15, 2010

Must-read feature on Kiwi crime in Sunday Star-Times

"Crime Wave" - Mark Broatch's excellent large feature on
New Zealand crime writing in the Sunday Star-Times
Take a peek at the book pages in today's Sunday Star-Times (one of New Zealand's very biggest newspapers, and the only weekend newspaper with truly national distribution), and you will find an excellent large feature article written by Books Editor Mark Broatch on the recent rise of quality Kiwi crime fiction, a "small torrent" that needs to be embraced much more by Kiwi readers as he says.

It's fantastic to see locally-written crime fiction getting this kind of coverage in such a major newspaper. Broatch has talked to a number of people in the books industry about Kiwi crime fiction, and in a much more eloquent and stats-supported way, highlights several of the points we've discussed on this blog over the past year, while also providing some great insights from key people in the local books industry, such as Stephen Stratford, head of judges in the NZ Post Book Awards (who apparently is a long-time crime fan), Booksellers NZ chair Hamish Wright, Penguin NZ publishing director Geoff Walker, and Random House Fiction Editor Harriet Allan.

Broatch also got a few comments from a lesser-light, myself. It was a bit weird being on the other side of the interviewer-interviewee pairing, and waiting to see whether you'd come across as a bumbling idiot in the eventual article - which you can read HERE.

Interestingly, the article said 369,000 crime and thriller titles have been sold in this country in 2010 (from a population of a little over 4 million), but only 0.8% of those sales are books classified as locally-written crime. There are probably a few other titles not classified as crime for the statistics that should be, as Broatch points out, but regardless, those stats are dreadful.

I've read previously that generally about 5% of book sales in NZ are local books - which is too low anyway, but just goes to show that we're even worse at supporting locally-written crime than we are at supporting other types of locally-written books.

And that's the point I've been yammering on about for a while - Kiwi readers do love crime fiction (check out the international bestsellers lists), but we've been a little hopeless at supporting our own writers, no matter how good they are (see the Kiwi bestsellers lists).

That has got to change, and hopefully with an increasing amount of quality writers, good coverage from the likes of the Sunday Star-Times, and the establishment of things like the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, the wider reader awareness of our great local writers will improve. It's happened with New Zealand music (which exploded in popularity and support 'across the genres' in recent years), and it can happen with books too.

Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. This has always been the case and I recall when I was making submissions the eventual comment and rejection would return saying how they thought the story was very good but there was doubt it would sell in sufficient quantities to be profitable.

  2. True - but clearly Kiwi readers do buy crime fiction, and they do enjoy it, so it's just a matter of getting them to try the locally-written stuff. Some of that has to do with the media, the publishers, and the bookstores - so the more articles like this, and other things, can happen, the more things may eventually change.

    As I said, it happened with NZ music, and there is no reason it couldn't happen with NZ writing, and crime fiction in particular.