Jul 16, 2007

Thrillerfest mindset rambling and ranting from a lunatic on the edge.....

With Thrillerfest having just taken place this past weekend it got me thinking.

We didn't go because to be honest it was a bit too expensive for us. However having talked to some people who were there they all seemed to have a good time in New York.

But that's not what I'm blogging about.

The term THRILLER is showing up on an awful lot of books, a lot of which quite honestly are not thrillers. It seems to be the latest hot word for books. Some of these books are really good and everyone should read them, but they shouldn't pick them up because they are looking for a great thriller. It seems that by joiing the ITW you are automatically a thriller writer.

When I think "Thriller" I think David Morrell, Lee Child, Gale Lynds, Steve Berry, Barry Eisler etc.
I don't think a book that is obviously a police procedural should be called a thriller. Amatuer slueths are genreally not thrillers. PI books are not thrillers. While they may have thriller aspects they should not be marketed as thrillers. I think it's actually misleading.

For me a big part of a thriller is the pacing. Jan Burke wrote a great thriller called NINE. on the cover: A Novel Of Suspense. it was that too. But it sure had the thriller pacing down pat. Labeling a book a thriller raises certain expectations in my mind and when I read it I expect certain things.

And why label a book at all? Why label so many books as cozy? So many books with that lable are actually not so much cozy as they are "Traditional". Granted, if you have a cat (especailly a talking one), or recipes are gardening tips, chances are it's a cozy. But Denise Swanson isn't really cozy, her books are really more traditional.

Another over used phrase is Noir. I won't even get into the whole waht is noir debate. Old school fans have strict guidelines and charts and graphs, newer fans have a little more open minded view. But here again, a lot of this is being labeled in order to help market books, when truthfully a little bit more broad term might be better.

Its a little like wine or beer isn't it?
A dark pilsner with a hint of Musky European flavor that lingers.
What the F*%K?

Here's another. Sports Utility Vehicle
Anyone out htere actually using one of these bad boys for sporting events?

What am I getting at? I guess I think we need to back off the over labeling of books. Why not let the reader decide what it is? I understand the marketing departments dilema. They feel the need to label it so us moron book buyers know what it is. But readers read, they can look at the jacket copy. Or how about " A novel of suspense"? That covers a lot of ground.

Is there an answer for this ?


Gerald So said...

I agree books are being mislabeled and labels are being overused. I don't think there is a solution because we'd have to throw out existing labels and introduce a new set.

That said, I like the broad terms "character-driven" and "plot-driven." Most single-protag series would be termed the former, and most thrillers the latter.

The difference between a detective novel (in the broad sense including police) and a caper novel is another example of character-driven versus plot-driven.

We can also indicate which characters a book focuses on if novels about thieves, hitmen, and other criminals are called "crime" and police books are called "police procedural."

To me, the term "thriller" doesn't indicate suspense. Suspense is Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. What we call thrillers today might be more appropriately labeled "Global Intrigue," including political, military, espionage, and adventure novels.

Steven said...

I'm not sure about Gerald's Character vs plot, but I like the "Global Intrigue" idea. When I think of thrillers the first thing that comes to mind is a really big story - not a personal story of revenge but more of a story that would affect an entire metropolis -- 9/11 type terrorism. The 24 TV show is a good example of what I'm thinking. Or the Bond movies.

On the other hand, and just to muddy the waters, there are also stories that I accept as thrillers but don't have that kind of angle - the natural disaster flick like Twister or The Poseiden Adventure. Because that's the second thing I think of when I hear THriller - the race against the ticking clock as in Speed.