Great crime fiction makes us see ourselves differently—more darkly, more luridly—and examine our own potential to do good or evil. It urges us to be more honest about who we are. It’s no wonder then that LGBTQ writers, who have fought to be honest with themselves and others, have been drawn to crime fiction and played an important role in developing the genre.

My hope is that this column will promote quality crime stories written by or about our community; explore what makes them powerful vehicles for addressing social justice issues; and discuss the complex moral questions that they can sometimes pose. It will consider the origins of crime fiction and how LGBTQ crime writers have adopted structures of the various subcategories—cozy, hardboiled, police procedural, etc.—in inventive ways, and it will discuss how those subgenres might have evolved. Further, it will analyze the potential literary quality of crime fiction. The sheer popularity of the genre and its adherence to a formula has often kept it from being taken seriously as “important” literature. This perspective has been changing as skilled crime writers have brought style, innovation and richness of character to these stories, as scholarship of crime fiction has increased, and as critics have begun to realize that the strictures of a formula, much like those in formal poetry, can inspire great instances of creativity.

So, what specifically will comprise “Blacklight”? At times, it will address an individual work or author, and at other times, a question that hovers over the genre. It will also facilitate commentary from other LGBTQ crime writers, as a collection of voices and perspectives is more powerful than a single voice. It’s a space for exploration, not pontification, informed by readers’ interests, not just mine. For that reason, feedback, book and author suggestions, any thoughtful remarks, and any writers interested in collaborating on a topic are welcome and encouraged.

Let’s use this space to learn and support one another, and to build a greater awareness of LGBTQ writing within the larger crime fiction community.

So, why “Blacklight”? The title conjures images of raves and blood-and-semen-splattered crime scenes, a noir-ish chiaroscuro. It’s also an oxymoron, suggesting the necessary and paradoxical relationship between good and evil. But my true affinity for it goes back to my childhood fascination with how its cool glow in Halloween haunted houses transformed the collar of my T-shirt, the enamel on my teeth, and the whites of my eyes—traits of myself I didn’t usually pay attention to, helping me see myself in a new and unsettling way, much like most compelling crime fiction can.

Photo courtesy of John Copenhaver

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “Blacklight: Commentary on the Past, Present, and Future of LGBTQ Crime Fiction”

  1. 14 August 2015 at 10:13 AM #

    As a crime and mystery reader and writer, I welcome what promises to be a much needed column. But I had an eyebrow raising monent at your “blood-and-semen splattered” reference near the end of the article. I do hope the column doesn’t skew heavily gay male. We have many fine crime and mystery authors on the Lesbian side of the house.

    • 14 August 2015 at 3:03 PM #

      I just want to echo Ann’s comment – very excited about this new column and hope that it explores the breadth and depth of the genre.

  2. 14 August 2015 at 5:15 PM #

    Ann and Raymond, thank you for your comments! There are SO many wonderful lesbian crime writers—as well as trans crime writers—and I hope to have the chance to write about them and review them. That being said, I believe The Review does need wider coverage of crime fiction to do with gay men (not always by them), so you will see some of that too. The “blood-and-semen” line has more to do with forensics than any implied slant to the column on my part.

  3. 14 August 2015 at 5:44 PM #

    I love the idea of this new crime fiction column and especially, ” My hope is that this column will promote quality crime stories written by or about our community; explore what makes them powerful vehicles for addressing social justice issues; and discuss the complex moral questions that they can sometimes pose.” So much of what we read in LGBT lit today and there’s a lot of it out there–good and bad–seems to happen in a vacuum without any connection to contemporary LGBT issues or to historical events in our past. BRAVO. I’m looking forward to John’s new column.

  4. 14 August 2015 at 6:10 PM #

    I am excited to see this column come to life. I’ve missed having a source dedicated to the LGBT mystery genre since the loss of GumShots (of which introduced me to many incredible writers of the genre over the years). I am an avid reader of the crime fiction, as well as a writer in genre. I’m looking forward to the exposure this column can provide to an expanding genre that has ventured into a variety of sub-genres popular today as a result of the incredible path (and popularity) of quality prose paved by such greats as Hansen and Stevenson. Congrats, John!

  5. 28 August 2015 at 2:41 PM #

    Backing up the comments re lesbian crime. Can you name any homosexual bigger in the genre than Patricia Highsmith? Strangers on a Train, the Talented Mr. Ripley both made into hit movies with major directors and stars. As you reviewed here last time, another of her stories (The Price of Salt) coming as the movie “Carol.” Yeah, let’s include women.

Leave a Reply

Please fill the required box or you can’t comment at all. Please use kind words. Your e-mail address will not be published.

Gravatar is supported.

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>