Joe Queenan, One for the Books
So is Queenan correct in saying that this category of writers has largely disappeared? I think he is. Alexander McCall Smith and Jan Karon are the two contemporary writers who come to mind who might fit the category. Smith's books can usually be found in the mystery sections of bookstores, but I think they are misplaced. Readers looking for an exciting mystery don't really want any of Smith's books. They appeal more to general readers just seeking a good story.
The same is true for Karon's books. At a used book sale in Clearwater last week I noticed scads of Jan Karon books. That tells me two things. Scads of people own these books, and now they are getting rid of them. A decade ago women I knew seemed to be in competition with each other to see who could be the first to read the latest Karon novel. She is still writing books, as far as I know, but the fad seems to be over.
There are plenty of other non-genre, middlebrow writers around, mostly women. They are talented and, up to a point, popular. But I don't know that any of them quite fit the category Queenan has in mind.