Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crime In Genres

by guest blogger Angela Verdenius

Crime in books is so varied. It can be savage, shocking, run-of-the-mill, or even…yes, people, it can be funny.  You don’t believe me?  Try reading a Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich and tell me that some of the crimes aren’t funny.  I’ve literally sat in bed with tears running down my face, roaring with laughter.

It used to be that if you wanted a story on crime, you went out and bought a crime novel.  It featured cops and robbers and killers, was a chiller or thriller, and basically was a crime novel.

Not so much now.

You can have crime and romance (romance suspense), crime and the supernatural (urban fantasy), crime and futuristic romance (think J D Robb), crime and horror (slasher), forensic thrillers (Kathy Reich), light crime (mysteries), and even crime in kids’ books.  Come to think of it, crime in kids’ books has been around a long time - think Famous Five by Enid Blyton.  All those kidnappings and robbers…

Crime ranges from the light to the murderous, it all depends what takes your fancy in the reading world.  My own taste at the time depends on the mood I’m in - my reading tastes range across almost everything.

The newest thing to break out in the crime/romance is the terrorism/FBI/SEALS/Elite Forces/Special Ops etc.  Something about a man in uniform fighting against the odds that just tickles our romantic souls.

But then again, I’m also a sucker for a hot cop romance .  (Okay, let’s not go into my particular fantasies…not the kind of blog for that!)

Over time, as real crime gets more shocking and varied, so the story-lines of books follow.  It’s interesting to see how the growth of terrorism and computer hacking is evolving in the crime novels.  Life leading reading matter. 

I write futuristic romances, and a little horror (and just released my first contemporary romance), but I suddenly realised, while thinking about this blog the other day, that I have a lot of crime in my futuristic romances.  Thieves, lawmen, outlaws, bounty hunters, space pirates, murder, kidnapping, traitors, espionage, fights, war, pretty much everything.  I never thought about it before, I didn’t even attempt to write ‘crime’ into my novels, they were a part of the story linking the storyline and characters, but suddenly I thought…hey, there’s crime in my books! 

So I wonder if the authors writing romance suspense ever think of it as that they’re actually writing crime and romance?  Do they set out with that mind-set?  I wonder.  I know I certainly didn’t! 

And where do we draw the line between a straight crime novel, and crime with mostly romance (or horror or other genre).  Okay, I sort of know the answer to that, LOL, I’m just tossing that question into the ring to stir things up a bit!  (I’m trying to sound intelligent here, people, work with me!)

But what attracts us to the crime?  Is it the thinking, trying to figure out the criminal, or we’re lusting after the hero (if it’s a romance)?  Or we like the technology, or the supernatural slant?  The meshing of relationships in the characters involved?  Or are we all just a little gory-liking deep down?  For me, it adds that unknown affect in the book, the impact on characters and relationships, how it affects their outlook on life, on the crime, the impact on their life and where it leaves them in the end.

And because I can close the book and know that it’s all in the writer’s imagination and I’m safe.  Really.  Because it’s just a book, right?

I think I’ll just go and check that the door is locked….

Angela Verdenius lives in Australia where she is ruled by her cats, adores reading, and thinks a perfect day is writing and drinking Diet Coke. Her latest book is Doctor's Delight, a contemporary romance featuring a plus-size heroine. 


Gina said...

Welcome, Angela. I think one thing that draws us to crime novels is the chance to delve into the netherworld from the safety of our reading rooms. Somewhat like the thrill of a roller coaster, without the kersplat into a tree at the end of the drop.

Joyce said...

Crime novels give us the chance to live vicariously through others. Let's face it. Most of us lead rather humdrum lives. Really, when's the last time you chased a killer in real life?

PatRemick said...

Welcome Angela! Enjoyed your post! I'm with Gina and Joyce -- usually we also get to see justice done without having to risk our own lives!

Annette said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Angela. I agree with what both Gina and Joyce said. Plus there's a sense of satisfaction knowing that the good guys will prevail which happens much more often in fiction than in real life.

C.L. Phillips said...


Welcome to Working Stiffs - love your book cover! Can't get that image out of my mind. As for the lure of crime, don't you imagine that there's a sleuth in each of us? That's my attraction factor.

Take care,


Jenna said...

Welcome to the Stiffs, Angela. Someone very smart - I can't remember who - said that murder mysteries aren't about murder, they're about justice. In books, as opposed to life, we usually get to see justice done. The guilty get punished, while the innocent live happily ever after.

For the record, the special forces/SEALS are nothing new. Suzanne Brockmann has been writing about Navy SEALS for fifteen years or more, and done very well with them, too. And to answer your question: yes, romantic suspense writers are very much aware of writing both romance and suspense/crime and just how to balance the two. There's a big difference - in the traditional publishing world, to agents, editors and booksellers - whether something is a romance, a suspense, or a romantic suspense. The focus of the book makes all the difference for the marketing and shelving.

Patg said...

Welcome, welcome fellow Wingie from down under. Enjoyed your post, what's life without a little mystery, and when it is in books, a lot goes a long way.
Puzzle mysteries are the best.