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Between The Pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins


     Fiction is divided into categories known as “Genre,” meaning style or type. I’m not sure who began this labeling process but it may have gone a bit farther than it was first intended.

    I’ve had quite a lot of conversation with authors, editors, publishers, and bookstore managers on this subject and have encountered varying opinions on the value and usefulness of classifying literary works.

     Using “The Unreal McCoy,” my own first book as an example, it has been called “Hard Boiled” because one of the main characters is a private investigator. And then it has been referred to as a “Police Procedural” because my PI works with a couple of cops to solve the crime. Depending on who you talk to it might also be called a “Mystery” because I don’t directly reveal the identity of the bad guy, yet some regard it as a “Thriller” because I don’t really hide the killer either.

      Now I don’t mind it so much that people have trouble agreeing on how to brand my work but what bothers me is that bookstores don’t seem to know which shelf to put it on. The danger here is that they may decide to simply pass on placing something in their inventory that has such an ambiguous identity. I have heard horror stories from authors who have written “Christian Mysteries” and have been passed over by bookstore managers simply because it wasn’t clear whether the book should go in the mystery section or with the Christian literature.

      Offhand, I can think of at least seven or eight sub-genres in the mystery category alone. And that’s just in the fiction side of the business. Sometimes it seems as if the literary industry is running out of control and making things far more complicated than they need to be.

    I ask myself the question, “Does the reader really care?” I don’t think so.

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