I continue to work out in the bookstacks, separating our fiction collection into five new genres, in addition to the existing ones of mystery, science fiction and fantasy and the West. I am now in the mystery section and am so far west that I am closer to Brad Seibel’s office than I am my own.
Some of you may wonder why I am going through our section of mysteries. Aren’t those books already in a genre? Like passengers on a family vacation in a minivan, you’re no doubt shouting inside your mind: “You’ve gone too far! You’ve missed the exit! We should be there by now! But this trip is not over yet. In fact, the mysteries are proving to be slow going, because I must decide which titles will stay in the mystery genre and which titles will go into our new suspense/adventure genre. And as it turns out, that decision frequently is not an easy one to make.
We have defined books in our mystery genre to include those, such as traditional detectives, police procedurals, hardboiled detectives, or the perennial favorite, the cozy mystery. A crime — usually a murder — has been committed and a professional or amateur sleuth undertakes an investigation to solve the mystery. The focus is on solving the mystery, not on thrills or suspense.
Books in our new suspense/adventure genre are more high octane. The plot typically includes a hero or heroine who experiences peril, danger, obstacles, and maybe violence. These titles are fast-paced and usually take place in a short amount of time. They also include books involving intrigue and psychological suspense.
At this point, you may be wondering why I am whining. The genres appear to be well-defined; making a decision should be easy. But more titles than one might realize contain strong elements of both genres. I must decide based on information found on the book and what I may know about that particular author. I sometimes consult NoveList, an online resource, which does a good job of categorizing what various authors write. But the bottom line is always, “Is the book I’m holding in my hand mystery or suspense?”
The task is complicated by the fact that one cannot always believe what one sees on a book cover. Many books sporting the subtitle of “A Mystery” are clearly suspense or thriller titles. And sometimes books with “A Novel of Suspense” on the cover appear to have more in common with the mystery genre.
More writers than one might write across genres and publish both mystery and suspense series. But I have made every effort to keep an author’s books together in one genre whenever possible.
Page 2 of 2 - The project rolls on. Let’s continue the conversation online on The Window, our new library blog. Visit our website at www.macpl.org and select the Blog option from the menu on the left. Then look for my post on “The Strange Case of the Letter P.”