Crime fiction beats powerful blogs

Lots of excuses to get annoyed, should you so wish, either at The Observer for their list of the 50 "most powerful" blogs, featuring no book discussion; or at The Telegraph (the other week) for their much-pulled-apart list of 50 crime writers to read before you die.

The unimaginative, even lazy, Observer list is the usual mix of gossip, technology and eccentric blogs– Huffington Post at number one, Boing Boing number two, PerzHilton, Techcrunch, Dooce and quite a few I haven’t heard of but won’t be checking out. Like the Telegraph piece, the Observer list is multi-authored, but unlike the Telegraph article, is simply a one-paragraph summary of each featured blog. For me, a more interesting "list" in a mainstream newspaper would have involved a little bit of actual journalism, and rather than being a list of these very well known and/or currently trendy blogs, would have focused on finding niche, "hidden jewel" blogs. It wouldn’t take long, as there are plenty of them about.

The Telegraph article (published on 23 Feb) has stimulated a predictably stormy reaction among the universe’s crime-fiction bloggers. Uriah Robinson posts on Crime Scraps about "Controversy from the Telegraph", with plenty of opinions in the comment thread. The Rap Sheet is drawing up a must-read list of its own, asking readers to nominate suggestions. CrimeFicReader of It’s a Crime! identifies some significant omissions; Declan Burke calls the list "crimes against crime fiction" at his blog Crime Always Pays; "enough to drive you mad", writes Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise; Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders asks "who belongs, who doesn’t"?; and as late as today, Sarah Weinman’s Idiosyncratic Mind ruminated on one omitted author on the Guardian book blog.

Many of these posts have comment threads expressing opinions and suggesting authors: indeed, the Telegraph itself asked readers what they thought of the list, and currently has more than 300 responses (five times as many as those who wanted to quiz Jeffrey Archer, three times as many as those concerned about the rise of China, not quite as many as those concerned about ID cards, and quite a lot fewer than those offering an opinion about whether Prince Harry should be "fighting on the front line"). Although Crime Scraps and its commenters identified that the authors of the Telegraph article weren’t as well qualified as one might have hoped to write on this topic, I’m pleased to see so much response, and potentially, when I have time to visit all these links I’ve just collected up here, to find some good new authors to read. I think the Telegraph article, whatever its original quality, has stimulated a much more interesting discussion than the boring Observer list of "powerful" blogs is likely to do. 

6 thoughts on “Crime fiction beats powerful blogs

  1. I’m so pleased to find that I’m not the only reader who found that Observer piece boring, lazy and a bit of a waste of space. Very much the usual suspects and most of them blogs already too huge to engage with their readers on a personal basis. I didn’t even bother to get annoyed by it – just yawned and moved on.

  2. It’s a pity that The Observer didn’t more properly define “most powerful” as what they appear to suggest is not really backed up with 50 blogs to match the “most powerful” label.
    Girl With a One Track Mind? Sex blogs get plenty of hits and this one is out as a book now. But powerful? In what way? Still, she does represent the UK which appears overlooked. Most blogs on there are overseas blogs and many are US blogs, making it an interesting choice by a team on a UK newspaper. They rate their homeland originated blogs so little?
    Petite Anglaise is also there. A book coming to the store near you very soon, if not already there. Controvesy surrounded this blogger as she dished the dirt on her employer in Paris. They sacked her and she won in a tribunal. Stuff like that gets the media frothing at the mouth. (Abby Lee, author of Girl With a One Track Mind was outed by a broadsheet, no less. Don’t they have better things to do and consider and report upon? If it had been The Daily Mirror or The News of the World, I could understand the interest, but a broadsheet? Oh, come on.) Petite Anglaise also explored her relationships openly. I’m sure that readers who were hooked for this kind of thing stayed the course. But again, I say “most powerful” in what way?
    Sadly, for The Observer, there are plenty of gossip blogs supporting and giving extended life to the queer obsession with celebrity culture. One entry even contains words along the lines of “Didn’t get enough with Heat?”
    Am I about to page mark any of these? NO. Chocolate and Zucchini – a great one to see on the list as it’s a classy, beautiful, well written and well presented blog, now a book too – is already one of my page marks. But again I ask, how is it one of the “most powerful”? It may get people cooking and enjoying food, but it doesn’t have the presence and power of the Nigellas, Delias, Jamies and Gordons of this world as delivered via TV (and then book).
    Seriously missing on the UK political front when it comes to power are Iain Dale’s blog and Guido Fawkes’s. But no surprises there on the omissions as the mainstream media are more than a little pressed by their efforts. Fawkes was recently credited with an 18mth investigation into Peter Hain’s campaign funding that led to the mainstream picking up the baton and Hain’s demise… Both blogs have “broken news” in the UK.
    The Observer has put together a shambolic, little thought out list, in my humble opinion, also badly presented. Who’d want to read such a long list from start to finish with such little information on each blog?
    They say: “From Prince Harry in Afghanistan to Tom Cruise ranting about Scientology and footage from the Burmese uprising, blogging has never been bigger. It can help elect presidents and take down attorney generals while simultaneously celebrating the minutiae of our everyday obsessions. Here are the 50 best reasons to log on [sic]”
    It’s just all too current a focus. Would we care about help in electing presidents if it wasn’t happening now? Do we care so much about other people’s sex and love lives and conditions of work that blogs such as these start a new longlasting culture? I don’t think so. Titillation mainly takes the form of immediate and short-lived gratification with variety being the key to sustained interest. Where is Belle Du Jour now? As an author of a book and a follow up based on the blog, hopefully enjoying the royalties before the dust settles and the books are remaindered. As a real living person, who knows?
    I have to conclude that it’s an odd list which does match its title.
    As for the Telegraph’s 50 crime writers, I’ve said my piece on my own blog and elsewhere. It certainly generated discussion in the crime reading and writing community, which is good. I just think that a British newspaper ought to get together a band of typical readers to come up with their top 50. That would be a bit girlie, as the majority of crime readers are women in the ABC1 category, last time I took notice of the stats. Let’s hear it from the girls! (If anyone is reading and can make something useful of this!)

  3. The Observer piece really was “boring, lazy and a bit of a waste of space”, Juliet is absolutely right. And as crimeficreader shows, the piece doesn’t even live up to its own title.
    How strange it is that journalists so often attack bloggers for their easy recourse to link-logging (which faced with the overwhelming tide of information on the web is often bloody useful) when they themselves so often come up with this kind of garbage. Go to technorati.com and cut&paste — hardly a good advert for journalism!

  4. Yes indeed, Mark, very much a case of “rehash press release, where’s the cheque, ed?”.
    And agreed with you on the usefulness of links in blog posts.

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