Rant: What Happened to Mystery and Suspense?
I thought I was the only one. But then I started talking to my friends and quickly began to realize I wasn’t alone. In fact, I seemed to be in the majority, because every time I casually bring the topic up, the conversation gets heated. Where are all the good books in Mystery and Suspense?
I grew up on steady diet of Nancy Drew. I read them until I was far too old to still be reading them under the dinner table while everyone else was having a normal discussion about their day. I kept reading them not because I loved Nancy so much I couldn’t bear to seperate myself from her world, but because there wasn’t anything to move up to at the next level.
I’ve found a few series over the years… they were ok. Good enough to wet my appetite. But years, YEARS, pass between finding series I can sink my teeth into. I satiate my thirst for a good mystery by drifting into other hot genres from time to time. Paranormal, Romance, Historical, Sci-fi… they’re all good for a thrill. But they aren’t a good, old-fashioned mystery.
I troll the aisles of the book store, I scan the endless sea of titles online, and all I can find are police, murder, rape, and gritty crime. Am I looking in the wrong place? Are they hiding all the books I’m looking for in a new, hot category I haven’t heard of yet? (Side note: stop making up new categories. You just confuse the hell out of the readers. Call a spade a spade and stop trying to rebrand genres.)
I’m not looking to get depressed or grossed out. I don’t want to see women as victims. I’m sick of seeing women needing to be rescued as if it is the only way to include women in story arcs.
And I don’t have anything against all of those male protagonists out there. I have found and liked quite a few of you. But I miss the hell out of women. I am one, I like to see a reflection of myself on the page. Not as a sidekick. Not as a convenient lay. Not as the victim. But as a fully-fledged, interesting protagonist driving the plot.
WHERE ARE THEY???
When I talk to agents, editors, and writers I keep getting the same runaround. Suspense isn’t hot right now. They publish what works.
Riddle me this, Batman… If they publish what works, why isn’t Suspense hot right now? If they publish what works, then why are so many of us desperate to find something to read?
It seems to me Mystery, Suspense, Thriller (any, all, I don’t really care which genre we’re talking about, I used to like them all…) might not be publishing what people want to read. Maybe, just maybe they should try publishing something, I don’t know… different?
I’d like to curl up on a rainy day with an intellectual puzzle, dynamic characters, and an interesting plot without being grossed out or terrified. And while I’m all for suspending some reality for a good story, please keep the extreme, over-the-top super intelligence and cheese factor to a minumum.
I’d really like publishers to stop telling me what I want to read and start listening to what I (and a ton of other disenchanted readers) are saying. Unfortunately, we’ve been driven so far away it will probably take a lot to bring us back. But we’re here, waiting and watching.
In the meantime, It is a rainy day here in central Florida. I think I might pull an Agatha Christie off the shelf and get lost for a few hours.