Rankin lifts lid on jealous authors' feuding
Ever since Ben Jonson's snide suggestion that William Shakespeare could improve his style by writing less, authors have waged tempestuous feuds, and even thrown the odd punch.
Yesterday, Ian Rankin, the best-selling crime writer, lifted the lid on a seething contemporary rivalry.
Asked if he found encounters with other authors stimulating, Rankin replied: "No. More than that, there's a lot of bitching and backbiting.
"Writers, by their very nature, are solitary creatures who don't like competition."
Speaking to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle before attending the Cologne literary festival LitCologne, he also claimed that literary novelists were jealous of the success of the crime writers.
"Without a doubt there is some jealousy over the sales. I mean, (crime fiction) is a popular genre. It sells by the millions," he said.
Literary novels have, historically, been seen as the books that win prizes, while crime novels have been dismissed as airport fiction.
But that distinction has long since disappeared, says Rankin.
"I think some of the best crime fiction is literature. And some of the best literature is crime fiction," he said.
Philip Kerr, the award-winning crime novelist who has just returned from a (amicable) literary festival in Adelaide, Australia, said the solitary nature of writing led some to become paranoid.
"If you spend all your time on your own, it does tend to make you feel solitary and neglected, and it's easy to perceive slights when none exist," he said.
Andrew O'Hagan, the critic and writer, suggested some writers felt spats kept them in the thick of the action: "Norman Mailer once told me backbiting kept one young." (©Independent News Service)