Letter: Morality in the crime novel

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From Mr Andrew Taylor

Sir: There was an unpleasant whiff of artificial controversy about Mary Braid's article "PD James embroiled in PC row" (15 September). Speaking as a crime writer who has no wish to put his dagger into anyone, I should like to add two points.

First, PD James's remark in the radio debate was quoted out of context. To anyone who reads her novels, the suggestion that she believes moral choice to be the exclusive prerogative of the middle classes is, quite simply, fatuous.

Second, this "controversy" is symptomatic of a wider issue: an unpleasant tendency to impose narrow and untenable notions of political correctness and literary worth on the genre of crime fiction as a whole. But post- war British crime writing has been distinguished by its diversity. The mean streets of the hardboiled novel have a favoured position in this fictional landscape - and so does Mayhem Parva (much changed since its heyday in the Thirties, like any other village). The enormous variety within the genre operates to the benefit of both writers and readers. Long may it continue.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Taylor

Coleford, Gloucestershire

15 September