Can a highbrow author go low? Today at Book Expo America, during a panel of thriller authors, Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, issued something of a challenge. Genre writers, he asserted, are as a rule extremely well read and capable of writing in a diversity of styles. “If you asked a genre writer to write a book in the style of Martin Amis, anyone of us could write a good imitation of one of his books. Could he write one of our books? I don’t think so.”
Of course, Mr. Amis has dipped into genre before. His 1998 novel Night Train was a police procedural narrated by a female cop. It was also something of a flop. His highbrow peers Julian Barnes and John Banville have published crime fiction too, under the pseudonyms Dan Kavanaugh and Benjamin Black, respectively. Neither alter-egos have matched the authors’ success under their own names nor the commercial success of Mr. Child, whose real name is Jim Grant.