We asked first-time novelist Tyler Dilts to tell us about his new mystery,A King of Infinite Space,which goes on sale today. Read on to find out what Tyler thinks about so-called genre fiction, literary snobbery, and how James Lee Burke inspired him to become a writer:
I don't like to admit it, but I used to be a literary snob. As I prepared to enter graduate school for a master's degree in English, I believed I'd put genre fiction--mysteries, science fiction, the whole lot of it--behind me. Literature with a capital L, that was the stuff for me. But when I happened upon a review of James Lee Burke's novel In the Electric with Confederate Dead, everything changed. The article piqued my interest, and when I headed down to my local Bookstar (remember them?) I sought out the book. It only took a few paragraphs to turn me into a convert. I tore through the rest of Burke's novels, moved on to Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series, began to discover the hard-boiled classics, and haven't looked back since.
What I discovered that summer was that I had been wrong about genre writing. James Lee Burke and those other extraordinary writers I discovered that summer showed me that mysteries could be every bit as literary as any other kind of novel. In grad school I even discovered a considerable body of literary criticism on Hammett and Chandler that helped me to reconcile the conflict between my affections for literary and genre fiction. The two categories, I was thrilled to discover, were not mutually exclusive (no matter how strongly many of my professors argued that they were). From Burke's lyrically elegiac descriptions to Chandler's searingly vivid depictions of Los Angeles, there is no arguing the literary merit of the best of the mystery genre.
As I was studying literature, I was also beginning to take my own fiction writing more seriously. I dabbled in short fiction in the Raymond Carver mode for a surprisingly long while before it occurred to me to try my hand at mysteries. But when I did, I never looked back.
When I'm asked about the beginnings of A King of Infinite Space, I can't help but think about the review that sent me out in search in James Lee Burke and the discoveries that followed. Would I have ever come across them without it? I don't the answer to that question. I probably would have, but I'm glad I don't have to find out.