I couldn’t give you an exact date, but I can definitely nail down the general period when I decided I no longer wanted to write crime: late 2012. At that point I’d enjoyed measurable sucess with The Borderland Trilogy (link), and there was significant pressure (which still hasn’t abated) for me to write more of the same. Maybe not set in Mexico, but it had to be crime. The thing is, I didn’t want to write crime, and I had good reasons for that.
Though I’m sure there are exceptions, I feel crime is a genre which revels in misery. How many brooding, alcoholic detectives are there out there, listening to opera or jazz until they have to track down the next serial murderer or rapist? How many tortured or mutilated women have you read about? Or dead kids? Or self-destructive drug addicts? Wife-beaters?
You may notice elements from my own books in there, and that’s because I was hip-deep in the demands of the genre. And I wanted out. I wanted to be able to get up from the keyboard every day without feeling like I had to take a shower. I wanted my characters to have accomplished something at the end of their stories, regardless of how much it might have cost along the way. If crime is the genre of misery, then I was tired of being miserable.
This isn’t to say all endings are happy. They certainly aren’t. Over the last few months I’ve submitted a couple of manuscripts with decidedly dark (or at least murky) endings. But, again, this is not the same as the nihilism posited by so much crime fiction. There’s a point and purpose to whatever darkness exists in these fictive worlds. It’s not noir for noir’s sake, in other words.
Will I never, ever write a crime novel again? I wouldn’t say that. But if I do, don’t expect what you read before. I’m all done with that.