Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mysteries, Thrillers, Crime Fiction, Police Procedurals: The Suspense is Killing Me!

What with Bouchercon, the crime-and-thriller fiction convention, all wrapped up, now seems like a good time to ask why is it that we find tales of murder so captivating. Is it just the suspense of a good mystery, the need to uncover the truth that a skillful writer keeps just beyond our reach? Or is there something deeper at work? Many crime writers have had various opinions on the subject throughout history:

"The conventional view of mysteries, as explained by Auden, for example, is as an essentially conservative genre.  A crime disturbs the status quo; we readers get to enjoy the transgressive thrill, then observe approvingly as the detective, agent of social order, sets things right at the end.  We finish our cocoa and tuck ourselves in, safe and sound… But what this theory fails to take into account is the next book, the next murder, and the next.  When you line up all the Poirots, all the Maigrets, all the Lew Archers and Matt Scudders, what you get is something far stranger and more familiar: a world where mysterious destructive forces are constantly erupting and where all solutions are temporary, slight pauses during which we take a breath before the next case."  --David Gordon

"I am talking about the general psychological health of the species, man. He needs the existence of mysteries. Not their solution." --John Fowles

"I have never felt the slightest inclination to apologize for my tastes; nor to shrink from declaring that mystery or detective novel boldly upholds the principle, in defiance of contemporary sentiment, that infinite Mystery, beyond that of the finite, may yield to human ratiocination: that truth will “out”: that happiness is possible once Evil is banished: and that God, though, it seems, withdrawn at the present time from both Nature and History, is yet a living presence in the world—an unblinking eye that sees all, absorbs all, comprehends all, each and every baffling clue; and binds all multifariousness together in a divine unity… Thus, in emulation of God, the detective aspires to invent that which already exists, in order to see what is there before his (and our) eyes.   He is the very emblem of our souls, a sort of mortal savior, not only espying but isolating, and conquering, Evil; in his triumph is our triumph." --Joyce Carol Oates

"The most curious fact about the detective story is that it makes its greatest appeal precisely to those classes of people who are most immune to other forms of daydream literature. The typical detective story addict is a doctor or clergyman or scientist or artist… I suspect that the typical reader of detective stories is, like myself, a person who suffers from a sense of sin… The phantasy, then, which the detective story addict indulges is the phantasy of being restored to the Garden of Eden, to a state of innocence, where he may know love as love and not as the law. The driving force behind this daydream is the feeling of guilt, the cause of which is unknown to the dreamer. The phantasy of escape is the same, whether one explains the guilt in Christian, Freudian, or any other terms. One’s way of trying to face the reality, on the other hand, will, of course, depend very much on one’s creed." --W.H. Auden

Makes me feel kinda lame for reading old hardboiled detective stories because I like the way they talk. Reasons regardless, we've got some great crime fiction to offer, including A Dangerous Return by Rique Johnson, A Job to Kill For by Janice Kaplan, and A Drunkard's Path by Clare O'Donohue. And your customers can read them for any reason they want.

Current (June 11, 2013) best sellers (me selling to my customers, that is) include:

William Kent Krueger
Boundary Waters

Harlan Coben
Best American Mystery Stories 2011

Benedict Carey
Poison Most Vial: A Mystery

Mary Higgins Clark
The Lost Years

Qiu Xiaolong
When Red is Black


Paula L. Woods
Stormy Weather: A Charlotte Justice Novel


Timothy Hallinan 
The Fear Artist


Stan Jones 
Village of the Ghost Bears: A Nathan Active Mystery Set in Alaska


Susan Wittig Albert
The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies
Cleo Coyle
Brew to a Kill
Daniel Suarez
Kill Decision
Jesse Kellerman
Jan Wallentin
Strindberg's Star
Laura Childs
Postcards from the Dead
Nancy Martin
No Way to Kill a Lady
Lyndsay Faye
Gods of Gotham
Adam Mansbach
Rage Is Back: A Novel
Lee Goldberg
Mr. Monk is a Mess
Carol O'Connell
The Chalk Girl

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