I think it is a bit more complicate.
There is a tradition of crime fiction in Germany, both pulpy and high end but it is not part of the literary or cultural world. Because of that there are a lot of "journalists" who write about crime fiction, who have no deeper understanding of the genre, like the one from the Leipziger Volkszeitung. To gain acceptance by these circles crime fiction has to be as literary as possible, but this has nothing to do with crime fiction. The success of Gerritsen et al. in Germany shows that the great divide is not between serious crime fiction and non-serious crime fiction.
Classical American pulp fiction as it is revived by HCC has no real tradition in Germany and readers cannot contextualize the cover pictures of HCC/Rotbuch. And there was a debate in the German blogosphere because Thomas Wörtche, the most renown German crime fiction reviewer hit real hard on HCC. People like him worked hard to get the attention of the literary world for crime fiction, that is not literary but modern crime fiction to the core (whereas HCC is in his Eyes only retro).
“But the Germans have this idea that crime fiction ought to be much more literary and “serious." Apparently this means no explicit sex or violence, just lots of depressed, angst-ridden (male, of course) detectives brooding and contemplating the meaning of life.”
Sorry, a cliché doesn't get any better just because it is retold by an author who wrote a good book and I associate "angst-ridden brooding male detective" with H. Mankell, and perhaps with Scandinavia. One look on the German bestseller list would show that both assumptions are not true. One pillar of the German crime fiction tradition is Tatort a TV-Series running since 1970. Often the films cover social issues therefore I'd say female protagonists are not quite derniere cri.
Thanks for the much needed perspective. Clearly journalists want to create controversy to make for a more interesting interview, so I can’t take their word as the whole truth for an entire country. I was just so genuinely surprised to be asked again and again how I felt about not being taken seriously, since I’ve never once been asked that question in the US. On the other hand, if I based my opinion of crime fic in the US solely on the questions I’ve been asked in interviews, I’d think there were no other women writing hardboiled or noir.
Interesting to think that someone would knock HCC as “only retro” when my book is about as modern as you can get. So is Guthrie’s KISS HER GOODBYE. I wish I could read German, because I’d be very interested to know what this author defines as “retro” and what he thinks is “modern.” It can’t just be about the cover design…?