So the Best Novel Edgar has gone – what a surprise – to Walter Mosley, the second year in a row that a person of colour wins the award.
« Diversity at last » says Twitter.
« Diversity my ass » says I.
There is no denying that starting last year the MWA have begun opening their doors to people and groups long left behind by mystery awards. This is a good thing as far as symbolism goes but does nothing to solve the Edgars’s real diversity problem; actually it may even worsen it.
One of the reasons why America has more mystery awards than everywhere else in the world – there is virtually one for every subgenre, from traditional mysteries to PI stories to thrillers – is that the Edgars favour an extremely narrow subset of the genre (the so-called « literary mystery » preferably with a noirish bent) and flat out ignore the rest. A cosy winning Best Novel, or Best Anything for that matter, would be a bigger revolution than Attica Locke’s win last year, and it’s more unlikely to happen than ever.
Being from the country that discovered Chester Himes and gave him the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière at a time when it still meant something, I don’t have a problem with minority writers getting award recognition – I welcome it. What I have a problem with, however, is the kind of crime fiction they tend to write, which is not the one that I favour. Most of them in my admittedly limited experience tend to write in the hardboiled/noir vein, which makes sense from a sociological and political viewpoint – you don’t get to write about restoring order when said order has been failing you and your folk for as long as you can remember. There may be minority writers of traditional mysteries and psychological suspense, but for what I know they are a minority within a minority.
My biggest fear for the future is thus that the « woke » Edgars mean more and more of the same and less and less of the one diversity that is crucial to me, diversity of genres. The MWA are slowly discovering white people are not the only ones writing decent crime fiction. Fine. May they also discover that there is quite a lot good stuff being written other than the pseudo-literary one they’ve been pushing down our throats for the last decade. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that one.