Friday, 1 April 2016

Brain engaged.... and busy!

It's been all go on the novel writing front recently as I beaver away at the latest Esme Quentin mystery. But with so much time devoted to fiction, my writing blog has been sadly neglected....

So until I'm fully back in action, why not take a look at my Family History Secrets blog and read about the sad, amusing, surprising, scandalous and sometimes shocking revelations which inspire my fiction.

Family History Secrets

And if you've some intriguing family history secrets of your own you'd be happy to share, I'd love to read them!

Meanwhile, if you'd like to keep up to date with forthcoming events, offers, give-a-ways and all the latest news, do please sign up to my newsletter.

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Friday, 15 January 2016

S.M.A.R.T. thriller
I've read a lot recently about fiction categories on Amazon, both for a reader choosing a book, and for an author placing books for potential readers to find.

Browsing through the mystery and crime fiction genre, trying to identify the best slot for my Esme Quentin mysteries, I came to the conclusion that there's a case to be made for a new sub-category.

On the one hand we've got hard-boiled, gritty and noir, and at the opposite end of the spectrum we've got cozy. But is that enough?

OK, so there's suspense and psychological, there's murder-mystery and police procedural, there's forensic and historical crime, there's legal thriller and spy. But I think what I have a problem with, is the cozy category. Does that give us enough information? Are we associating it too closely with cosy - comfortable or snug - and missing a trick?


The word cozy is, I presume, a corruption of  cozen, meaning to cheat, defraud; beguile; act deceitfully.  In a Crime Fiction context, Wikipedia defines cozy as, "a sub-genre of detective fiction in which profanity, sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously."
Putting the issue of cozy not being limited to detective fiction to one side for a moment, I'd happily agree that a mix of crime fiction and humour easily fits into the cozy category. But what about downplayed? While any reader choosing a cozy novel can be confident there will be no graphic scenes or excessive violence, has the term become unfairly synonymous with whimsical and lightweight?

Interestingly, listed on the line above cozen in my 1964 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary is the verb, to coze, (a new one on me) meaning to (have a) chat! Is it a coincidence, I wonder, that the marrying of these two concepts - cozea chat, and cosya covering to retain heat in teapot - evokes the very British pastime of sharing a cuppa and a natter on a sofa!

But I digress. Or perhaps I don't. Maybe that's exactly the issue!

Robert Goddard

This sub-genre question is one on which I've pondered in respect of one of my favourite authors, Robert Goddard. Referred to as "the master of the double twist", his books are billed as thrillers but they're essentially intricate webs of intrigue, bluffs and double bluffs. Because the unravelling of the mystery is where the focus lies, any violence is low-key or, it might be argued, downplayed.
But  I doubt anyone, least of all his publishers, would label his novels as cozy.

Robert Goddard was a relative unknown when his early books came out. Fortunately, his publisher kept the faith (not sure that would happen today!) and now he's highly successful. I've often wondered whether having no identifiable sub-genre worked against him. Had he written police procedurals, for example, would he have found his thousands of fans earlier? Even now, his status as a thriller author gives little guidance as to the type of novel he writes.


So, back to the beginning of this post. Is it time to invent a new category (or perhaps several)? And if so, what could they be? An acronym might be the answer.

NEAT might help identify a novel without violence, blood and gore, perhaps, standing for No Excessive Aggression Tale. Or how about CLEVA (pronounced "clever") - Content Lacking Excessive Violence or Aggression? Or maybe COOL? Contains Only Obligatory L... Mmm. I'll get back to you on that one.

But then I realised that each of these was negative - a declaration of what was NOT contained in the book. How much better to champion what was?

So, after chewing my way through my Roget's Thesaurus, I hope the following holds more promise.
Who wouldn't want to read a SMART thriller, denoting that inside the pages lurks a tale of Secrets, Mystery And a Revealing Twist?

What d'you think? Perhaps you've got some ideas of your own?

So, here's the challenge. Let's come up with something so brilliant that the crime fiction fraternity, readers and writers both, can't wait to adopt it.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and any suggestions you have of your own!