Books: To Be or Not to Be

Continued Mystery writers cope with the public demand for sequels

In popular myth the conflict between a writer's literary aspirations and the coarser demands of the marketplace besets only the "serious" author. Novelists who turn out the mystery, thriller, police or spy story are presumed to have long since made their peace with the printer's devil. In fact, however, the ranks of crime writers are as beleaguered as any other by the need for compromise. The battle rarely focuses on setting, which may be urban or rural, domestic or foreign, modern or ancient, or on subject matter, for which these days the rule seems to be the kinkier the better. The...