Rebecca Forster, the best selling independent author of The Witness Series, recently wrote a blog post about "The X-Treme Novelist," naming four of her favorites including yours truly, Anonymous-9, Arthur Levine and Tim Greaton. She classifies these types of authors as those who "shred boundaries" and who are not afraid of market demands upon their creative processes.
Reading the comments under her article, I noticed a post by Frank Bill, author of the short story collection, Crimes in Southern Indiana, so I felt compelled to check out his work as I did the other writers that were mentioned.
After downloading a sample of the Kindle eBook version, which is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and sells for $9.99, I read the first three stories in the collection and made up my mind to buy Arthur Levine's, Johnny Oops, for only 99cents instead. Price had nothing to do with my decision.
From what I could tell, Crimes in Southern Indiana, is to crime fiction what the film, Saw, is to horror movies — a mindless string of sensationalism connected by the thinnest of thematic threads. I felt insulted as a reader by the clipped, non sequitor dialogues and two dimensional characters that reminded me of porn stars. Yet this tripe attracted the attention of a major literary agent and secured Mr. Bill a contract with a giant in the publishing industry. Congratulations to him and sour grapes to those who embrace this new trend.
These authors, who write like Bill and who are featured in popular crime fiction ezines across the web, don't have the stamina to write a full length novel because there is no suitable framework to contain continuous splashes of blood on page after page. But a society numbed by violence feeds upon these stories like frenzied sharks or masturbatory adolescents unable to control their urges or to satisfy their needs.
Sex and death. That's always what sells. Ask any freshman Marketing student.
A collection of short stories, and especially a novel, should be something more. It should construct a world based upon an author's intuition and intellect and impart an observation of the human condition which true art has always attempted to do. Anything less, in my opinion, is better left for map makers and cartoonists who draw brief superficial reflections that momentarily glitter and then, ultimately, become useless when landscapes and topical trends inevitably change.