I want to take a break from revisions today to talk about a book I read at Barnes and Noble on Friday while I was procrastinating from doing revisions. I don’t have $30 to drop on a book right now, let alone one full of thriller stories when I’m not a big thriller fan. But I was eager to read a couple stories in it I’d heard about elsewhere.
The first was J.A. Konrath’s Phin Trout story “Epitaph.” While I’ve not been a particularly big fan of Joe’s early novel work, he is probably one of the best short story writers working in the field currently. Phin is a hitman, but that title does very little to describe the actual character. he’s actually quite a good guy and is very complex. The story also has a great opening line.
The other story was a Repairman Jack story from F. Paul Wilson called “Interlude at Duane’s.” In it, Jack has to foil a large robbery scheme using only the available items in a Duane Reade drug store. For anyone who’s ever lived in New York, you know that there are LOTS of fun things to kill people with at a Duane Reade. And the screwy layout of the stores in actually a major plot point. Great stuff.
But it got me wondering what it was about these two stories that hooked me while the other thiry-odd stories did not. Probably because these were the most character driven and voice oriented stories in the batch. When i do get around to reading the occassional thriller, it’s usually because I loved the voice it was written in. Case in Point is the Andy Carpenter legal thriller series by David Rosenfelt.
Then there’s also the larger issue of my reading influences growing up. As I read through the biographies of everyone in Thriller I noticed they all tended toward the same influences as each other, most of which happened to be authors I never read. In this new crop of thriller writers on the horizon John Sandford seems to be popping up as the official inspiration much as Robert B. Parker was the official inspiration for my generation of PI writers. So because I started with Parker, I read through his inspirations and his contemporaries and by the time I had built a foundation of inspiration for my own work, its no surprise I turned to PI novels. The same for those weaned on John Sanford.
I guess the moral of this is that you have to write what you like to read. Just because thrillers are popular now doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon and write one just to sell it. It won’t ring true and it wont be unique. The same thing goes for sci-fi and horror hybrids of mystery that also seem to be selling hot right now. I’ve never been interested in that so I’d never think of attempting to write one.
You’ve got to love what your writing to stick with it through the horrors that are inevitable during the almost year long process (or more for some) it takes to complete a novel. That said, I don’t think you should just stick to one specific category or genre. Read widely, read as much as you can outside of your chosen field. It will help you gain a fresh perspective and make your own unique contribution to the field.
I don’t want to just write PI noveles. I’d love to write some noir stuff and my big goal is to one day write a heist or caper novel. I’d also like to take a crack at a humerous cozy series like Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbar series. I’d also like to do some stuff with religious overtones that doesn’t fall back on the crappy standards of current “Christian” fiction.