To what extent is there a link between prevailing economic conditions and the type of crime fiction that people want to write and to read? It’s an interesting question, although I’m not confident that I know the answer.
The 1920s, for instance, was a time of great economic difficulty, and it coincided – certainly in Great Britain – with the rise of escapist puzzle-fiction, the whodunits of Agatha Christie, Freeman Wills Crofts, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley and so on. One might argue that the light, entertaining mysteries offered people an escape from often grim personal circumstances, as well as the aftermath of war. There were similar books written in the US, by the likes of S.S. Van Dine and Ellery Queen, but this period also saw the growth of the pulps and the arrival on the scene of writers like Dashiell Hammett.
We have, in recent years, had a period of economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, and perhaps this (in part) supplies an answer to the question I posed a while back, as to why modern crime fiction has, in many cases, become so much more gruesome. Possibly, a prosperous society that feels relatively safe looks to fiction to provide it with danger and excitement.
But things are changing for the worse in economic terms, certainly in the UK, and if the forecasters are to be believed, once the general election is out of the way, the next few years are going to be tough for many people, though of course there will be exceptions to the general rule, as there always are. Does this mean that there will be a renewed appetite for lighter, escapist fiction? I’m unsure, but I’d be interested to learn the views of others.