British Crime fiction has a strong tradition. We have Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. More recently we have a wonderful line up of Brits doing crime; Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson, Mark Billingham, Mo Hayder and many others. Any bookshop will boast its own section of crime books, shelf after shelf.
When I visit schools and talk to young people they are fascinated by crime and mystery stories. They watch loads of crime on television. They know about forensics, private detectives and crime scenes. They empathise with the detective figure, damaged, fallible, driven.
In my talks I usually describe the beginning of one of my stories. My new book DEAD TIME is about Rose and Joshua, two teenagers. One night their parents go out for a meal and never come back. This situation immediately grabs readers’ interest. They want to know what has happened to them. They want to know what Rose and Joshua are going to do about the situation. They want to know what is going to happen next.
This is the heart of crime fiction. Our ordered world is turned upside down and we don’t know why and we don’t know if we’re going to be able to put it right or not.
So if teenagers like these stories it raises a question. Why is there not more British crime fiction for young adults? I have been exclusively writing crime fiction for the last twenty years but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one. Fashions change and we are certainly in the grip of The Hunger Games at the moment but what about the future? Where are the crime stories that could grip young people in the same way that most of the television programmes do? Where are the books that could create that section of Waterstones that I have been dreaming about for years: Young Adult Crime Fiction.
Come on UKYA writers. Get out your daggers and write!
Anne Cassidy has published over twenty teen novels. She is the author of Looking for JJ, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award 2004 and the Carnegie Medal 2005 and was winner of the 2004 Booktrust Teenage Book Award. The Murder Notebooks series, startign with Dead Time is Anne Cassidy’s first book with Bloomsbury.