Posts Tagged ‘Thrillers’

Crime, Thrillers & Mystery books

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

There is a wide range of book genres, the broadest of which is fiction and non-fiction. Focusing on fiction, these are events that have not occurred in reality, although their plots can be based on things that may have happened in the near or far past. Meanwhile non-fiction involves topics that are based on fact and cover a huge range of information that is disseminated to the reader: from study text books to the ubiquitous DIY manual. Genre is an ideal way for books to be organized in bookshops so that customers can more easily find what they are looking for. Book genre is also ideal for libraries to catalogue their books, following the Dewey Decimal cataloguing system. Each individual genre is not exclusive and, in many cases, books may span a range of genre such as Crime, Thrillers and Mystery.

To make the matter of fitting into a genre more complicated, there is often disagreement amongst the book buffs as to where some books fit – and in which sub-genre to slot them into. This is often the case with Police Procedurals such as the various kinds of detective novels found on the bookshelves. If you are looking at the three genres of Crime, Thrillers and Mystery for instance, you could have a book that fits into each one of those three genres – and into many of the sub-genre attached to those three genres. In cases such as this it is often best to adhere to certain criteria that have been commonly agreed amongst the powers-that-be: if a book fulfils a certain number of criteria for a specific sub-genre then that will be where it will be catalogued: this is particularly true of the Police Procedurals.

Crime, Thriller and Mystery
A particularly wide-ranging fiction genre is the Crime, Thriller and Mystery category which can be sub-divided in a number of lesser groups such as the popular Police Procedurals that features popular detectives such as Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, Taggart and Monk to name just a few that immediately spring to mind. Crime as a genre appeared around 1900 although there were books written in the previous century that could be described as conforming to the Crime genre. The above mentioned detectives all fit snugly into the Crime genre which belongs to the Fiction category covering crimes, the detection of those crimes, the activity of criminals and how the story builds up around their motives. The first recognized crime writer was Steen Steensen Blicher whose novel, ‘The Rector of Veilbye’ was published in 1829. Edgar Allan Poe was also fairly prolific in producing novels that fit into this genre. Paul Feval slightly preceded Arthur Conan Doyle in featuring Scotland Yard and conspiracies surrounding criminals and the detectives in pursuit.

Crime Genre
The Crime genre doesn’t stand alone, however – sub-genre includes the popular Whodunnit, Detective fiction, Police Procedurals, Courtroom Drama novels, Legal thrillers, plus other categories such as that referred to as ‘hard-boiled’ fiction made popular by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and, later on, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, Ross Macdonald plus many other popular writers. This kind of crime novel involves Police Procedurals and detective fiction whose style relates crime and violence in an unsentimental manner. Hikayat al-sabiyya ‘l-muqtula is the earliest known crime story, cleverly blurring the edges across genre as it covers detective, suspense, thriller and murder mystery. This story, translated as ‘The Three Apples’ appears in the tales of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ told by Scheherazade.

Thrillers and Mysteries
The Thriller genre is not a stand-alone genre, but overlaps an array of sub-genre. This category is fast-paced with plenty of action and tends to feature ingenious heroes who overcome remarkable odds to succeed against iniquitous adversaries. As the plot unfolds, the reader is caught up in a maelstrom of political tensions, social iniquities, familial feuds, and psychological suspense which are woven together in exotic locations so the reader becomes engrossed in the activity of their hero/heroine, identifying and empathizing with them in such a way that the reader finds it difficult to put the book down under they reach the end of the story. There is often considerable overlap between thrillers and mystery novels, although there are some distinct differences.

More recently, thrillers have incorporated psychological horror or included sci-fi type monsters that need to be overcome; serial killers, the supernatural, aliens and biological or chemical agents all fit into the genre of the thriller. F. Paul Wilson is an author who is known to incorporate quite a few of these themes throughout his novels. Many authors become known for the specific genre they write in: Alistair MacLean and Hammond Innes are both well-known for their exciting and intriguing series of thrillers. James Patterson, on the subject of thrillers, quite correctly comments that ‘…if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job’. He wrote in June 2006 that ‘one of the genre’s most enduring characteristics is its openness to expansion’. Basically, the sub-genres amongst the thriller category include thrillers classified according to all and every vagary of the human psyche and social condition which, when woven into a fiction drama can enthrall the reader and keep their nose to the book to the very end.

The Mystery genre tends to feature characters, such as those famous detectives above, who solve puzzles and/or investigate crimes. Meanwhile, the Thriller category can also feature the above mentioned detectives but with the story weaving through a theme that has spies who investigate certain events, often at a political level on a global scale. However, because the detectives are featured across genre boundaries, they tend to be slotted straight into a sub-genre categorized as Detective stories. The important thing to remember when attempting to categorize more difficult plots is that groups are often loosely defined, with the categories’ parameters often quite flexible – it may even be necessary to refer to literary technique, content and tone, as well as the length of each novel in order to place books into the most appropriate category.