This study examines the boom in Swedish crime fiction from a statistical perspective. Theoretical input and methods are derived from the fields of sociology of literature, book history, and bibliometrics. With a quantitative approach, all Swedish crime fiction published in 1977–2010 (just over 1,700 titles) are compiled to identify patterns over time. The main source for bibliographical information and delimitations is “Deckarkatalogen” (an annual bibliography published by the Swedish crime fiction magazine Jury).
Main results: Nearly 2.5 times as many first editions of crime fiction were issued in Sweden in the first decade of the 2000s, compared to the 1980s. The increase was particularly vast in the years following the turn of the millennium. All kinds of publishers have contributed to this expansion, but two types stand out: major publishers and self-publishers. The share of crime fiction written by women increased in the same period of time from between 10 and 20 percent to just over 30 percent. Furthermore, the gender balance among the bestsellers of crime fiction in the 2000s is nearly even. Crime fiction has been extremely dominant on the bestseller charts in Sweden during the 2000s, and the genre outnumbers all other fiction taken together. A few major publishing groups are publishing a growing share of the crime fiction bestsellers. Mostly newer authors are bestsellers in the 2000s, and the time from debut to commercial success is shrinking.
In the conclusion it is argued that crime fiction can be seen as the normal literature – a term coined by Franco Moretti – among bestsellers of fiction in Sweden during the first decade of the 2000s. The study gives insight into the interplay between authors, publishers, and the reading public, and helps us understand how genre, from a sociological point of view, operates on the literary market.