A few months ago I wrote an article for the 'Soapbox' section of the New Zealand Book Council's excellent quarterly publication Book Notes, about New Zealand crime fiction. In the article I noted that local readers do have a large appetite for crime fiction, but traditionally we have been pretty poor at reading local authors in the genre. "When will New Zealanders embrace locally penned tales of murder, mystery, and mayhem?," I asked.
Since I wrote the Book Notes article some of the things I addressed have been further evidenced by specific statistics and other comments and observations in excellent articles by Mark Broatch in the Sunday Star-Times (read here) and Philip Matthews in Your Weekend (read here). In particular, I found it very interesting that my comment about the popularity and dominance of crime fiction on New Zealand's international bestseller lists as compared to how much we buy and read our own authors was borne out in Broatch's article by Neilsen Bookscan statistics showing that crime was probably the most popular type of fiction reading for New Zealanders last year (taking more than 30% of the market), but less than 1% of the crime novels sold here were written by locals.
This is an appalling statistic, especially given the quality of some of the crime fiction being produced by local writers. But what might be some of the reasons for this shockingly low level of support from the buying public? Is it the way our writers are publicised? Cultural cringe from the readers? Or something else. In my Soabox article in the Winter issue of Book Notes, I took a look at some possible reasons, and the reality behind the perceptions.
The article can now be read online. Click here to view the article.
Why do you think New Zealand readers haven't yet truly embraced our great New Zealand crime writers? Are things improving? Is there a realtive lack of support for crime writers from the books industry, or at least some parts of it? What more could be done? Is this even an issue/should we care? I'd love to read what you think about all of this. Please share your comments.