OK, this is officially beginning to drive me kind of nuts. Are there officially recognized divisions within the mystery genre, and if so, what are they? I've heard of the following:

* Traditional / cozy
* Hardboiled / noir
* Police procedural
* Spy / espionage
* Literary / psychological (do these belong together?)
* Thriller (couldn't some of the other types also be thrillers?)
* Historical
* Comic / caper

Are there others? Are some of these redundant? Who oversees these kinds of things? (<-- attempt at humor)


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Man, Jon, I wouldn't call your books police procedurals at all -- but, again, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the genre classification system...

To Jon Loomis:
I guess because the main character is a cop? I'm with you and see them as dark comedies, but I guess the marketing types as more concerned with getting genres assigned than with the accuracy. "Main character PI = mystery. Main character cop = procedural. Main character civilian, but not amateur detective = thriller."

Seems to me if they're going to earn their living--and affect ours--by assigning genres, the leat they could do is make them tell something about the book.

To John McFetridge:

Perp procedural is cool. I wish I'd thought of it. I think of what you (Elmor Leonard, Declan Burke) write as crime fiction and leave it at that. It tells what the books is like wihtout trying to pigeonhole it too closely.
My dream is to write the first "hardboiled cozy," featuring a little old lady detective, who beats the answers out of suspects and other lowlifes.
My flash fiction for one of Patti Abbott, Gerald So and the Mystery Dawg's challenges:

Cozy Noir.
Remember ARSENIC AND OLD LACE? Two old ladies are poisoning people.
You forgot "zoo-dunnits." Not a big category, technically speaking, but there are at least three in print, including (wait for it!) NIGHT KILL by yours truly.
Zoo-dunnits? Animal detectives?
Crimes in zoos? Crimes committed by zebras?
>Literary, to me, is a style of writing that is not firmly definable and therefore doesn't belong in this list. Most publishers don't think 'genre' writing (using the word as they do) is NOT 'literary' writing, and vice versa. My opinion of this theory is not suitable to post here. When publishers declare something to be a certain 'genre' or whatever, their pov is completely marketing, they don't actually care what anything is.br />
From what I've seen, publishers and agents do not think genre writing is the same as literary writing. I heard a very simple definition of literary vs non-literary from an editor of a (literary) journal. Literary is anything that focuses on the "domestic" - the everyday, relationships, family, etc. Genre focuses on plot, what happened vs why. Does that make sense? Literary fiction tends to have less focus on plot, more on character. Genre focuses on the plot, to the point where it has to fit a certain "formula." I'm not sure this is entirely true, I think the line is blurring more and more, especially in crime fiction. However, "Literary" is still a category unto itself. You can have literary crime fiction - see "Billy Bathgate" for an example.
That sounds like an excellent distinction to me -- along with the fact that lines are blurring. The newer mysteries are more about people than plots. A great improvement to my mind from the mere puzzle-solving of the old mysteries.

And if this is true, then I'm writing literary mysteries -- especially in THE CONVICT'S SWORD. Still one reader on Amazon has already complained that he found the plotting too simple. No red herrings and no twisty surprises at the end. I personally don't care for those.
From my research, it seems like there are many competiting definitions, and I've even seen a book described two different ways in the same publisher's blurb ... let us know what you find out!
How about Tech-Mystery? That's how I describe Null_Pointer, my novel about a programmer who investigates the death of a coworker only to find out that the man was killed through his computer. Death by code. It's a blend of programming and sleuthing that I have not seen before.


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