Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cozy Thrills

Please welcome Cozy Chicks friend and talented author Camille Minichino (also writing as Margaret Grace and Ada Madison).

I'm planning to lock myself in a bookstore overnight and re-shelve all the books. After that, I'll penetrate the libraries.

It's the categories that annoy me.

Some of them make sense: art, self-help, travel, reference ... but what about the "Fiction and Literature" category? Are fiction and literature different? Is there some fiction that's not literature? Is it IL-literature, then? Is there some literature that's not fiction? We know there is, but aren't those volumes across the aisle in Nonfiction?

While we're at it, let's look at the other bookcases. There's a set, around the corner from "Fiction and Literature," labeled "Mystery."

Hmm. Is Mystery neither Fiction nor Literature? Confusing, isn't it.

We mystery writers like to think we create engaging characters, interesting and complex stories, rich settings, and aesthetically pleasing turns of phrases.

In other words, literature.

Within mystery, there are even more categories. The usefulness of labels such as "cozy" and "thriller" has been batted around for a few years now, and written up very well by The Cozy Chicks, so I won't rehash old arguments.

My 14th and newest book, "The Square Root of Murder" is labeled "cozy." If that tells you, correctly, that you won't be weeping at a tragic ending or blocking your preteen daughter's eyes when Professor Sophie Knowles entertains her boyfriend, I'm satisfied.

What I do want to report is that there were no arguments, no first- and second-class citizens at the ThrillerFest conference in New York earlier this month. It was my first ThrillerFest (I'll be back) and I'm pleased to note that no one suggested I go to the back of the room when the panels started.

I was considered a writer of books with thrills, like all the others in the bookroom. I sat next to Steve Martini at the signing table (an unforeseen advantage of my new pen name) and he was as welcoming as if I'd penned a book where the fate of the planet (or Los Angeles) was at stake.

Booksellers often claim that identifying books in more specific categories makes it easier for readers to locate what they want. Heaven forbid a reader might pick up a book and realize that it's slightly off the formula he or she is used to.

"Oh, no," she'd say. "I wanted a mystery and I got fiction!"

Bam! She'd throw down the book in an instant. So perhaps the categories are for the protection of book spines.

What do you think? Do you seek out a certain category of books or are you open to simply a good read?

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer, the author of The Periodic Table Mysteries. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries). The first chapter of The Square Root of Murder is on her website