by | Feb 19, 2018 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 4 comments

by Chris Goff

This is the question being posed to Manuel Ramos, Carter Wilson and me, at the Colorado Book Festival in Denver, March 3rd.

For those who don’t know anything about my colleagues.

Both are bestselling authors, Manuel is a retired lawyer and bestselling author of Chicano noir crime fiction, and Carter writes dark domestic thrillers that explore the depths of psychological tension and paranoia. And me? I write espionage-style international thrillers featuring Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Raisa Jordan.

I figured I’d do a little research to make sure they were still popular. According to a 2015 Nielson study, mysteries (which include all the sub-genres of crime fiction) have actually eclipsed romance as the favorite of readers. 47% of readers read mysteries. 27% of readers read romance. Yay!

But wait! Then why is it that, according to Bookstr.com, Romance makes the most money? $1.44 billion to mystery’s $728.2 million! Hmmmm…  Okay, that’s a-whole-nother discussion.

Back to the question. 

I hypothesize that mysteries/thrillers are popular because they bring a semblance of order to chaos, provide some type of resolution. In international thrillers, the protagonist saves the day—mostly. In murder mysteries, the killer is brought to some form of justice—generally. During chaotic, fraught times, what is better than having a wrong righted or justice served?

Jason Pinter, an international bestselling author and publisher, and a former editor and agent, interviewed a number of reviewers for a Huffington Post article, posing the questions: Do you feel like crime novels are adequately addressing issues in our culture? And do they even need to?

The consensus was that mysteries and thrillers don’t have to, but most do. The panel went on to say, and I paraphrase, crime novels offer insight into how people perceive and react to society’s problems.

Good answer!

Are there pitfalls to tackling issues?

Of course! An author can hammer a point too hard and/or get too preachy on a subject. Doing that will no doubt annoy and alienate some readers. And let’s face it, some wounds are just too raw. But shining a spotlight on issues of the day can garner great interest, and using real-life incidents to launch a story can bring realism.

I’m going to be very interested to hear what my fellow panelists have to say. In Manuel’s last book, his protagonist deals with the gentrification of his Hispanic neighborhood, something that’s happening in Denver. Carter’s new book takes from a real-life incident where a social media cult leader triggers two young girls to kill.

And me? 

What can I say? International geopolitics provides unlimited fodder.

If you live in or near Denver, please consider coming to join the discussion. The Colorado Book Festival is free to the public. The panel is scheduled at 2:00 PM in the Rick Ashton Legacy Room (Summit Room) at the main Denver Public Library.

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  1. Gayle Lynds

    That's absolutely amazing that mysteries have eclipsed romances in sales. It gives me heart! Your panel is going to be dynamite. Wish I could be there! Gayle

  2. S. Lee Manning

    I think you're right. I think mysteries and thrillers offer some kind of order in chaos that makes them comforting. I first started reading mysteries in graduate school while depressed from a pending break-up when I could no longer bring myself to read "literary" novels – and I was getting an M.A. in English, by the way.

  3. Karna Bodman

    Interesting stats on who reads what….especially that more people read mysteries than romances (although I sometimes wonder if some folks just don't "admit" to a pollster that they like to relax with a romance – ?) But I agree that mysteries (and thrillers) are great stories because they DO "right a wrong" — we get a chance to root for the detective hero/heroine who tackles the bad guy and makes us feel safe again – something we sorely need in real life. Thanks, Chris, for a great post!

  4. Leslie Budewitz

    And of course, mysteries are fun, whether they are international thrillers or culinary cozies. Booksellers are saying cozies are especially popular in these chaotic times, and I suspect it's because they reinforce the importance, and the existence, of community. And good food. 🙂