Auden remarked that to read pornography in any other way than as a sexual stimulus is to be bored to tears. Crime fiction is similar: you read it for the story, and literary pretensions are unwelcome. The right style is spare, understated. You don’t want philosophy, psychology, political reflections, purple passages or digressions on the Battle of Waterloo. You don’t want displays of authorial learning, other than accurate-sounding details about the CIA, offshore banks or organised crime. Scenery and portraits should be sketched, not painted. You don’t even want long sex scenes – they’re best interrupted by a midnight phone call or a sharp knock at the door.
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