We’re all advised not to judge a book by its cover, but these days books are bought, sold and marketed according to very specific genre classifications and sometimes even sub-genres. Getting your sociological science fiction mixed up with your near-future science fiction can be almost as embarrassing as confusing your slipstream with your cyberpunk.
I am thrilled to announce my debut novel that released last week, Blues Highway Blues, is a thriller through and through.
There’s a philosophical message behind the book and I’d like to think the prose is engaging, but I have no aspirations to ascend to the lofty heights of literary fiction. A (probably) supernatural figure overshadows much of the story and there are passages I hope will scare readers, but it is most certainly not horror. A puzzle runs through its core, but I never intended its solution to be the reader’s pay-off and so I don’t consider it a mystery. There’s love gone bad and new love blooming, but it is absolutely not a romance. It’s a thriller.
While other writers may set out to induce nightmares or challenge one’s deductive prowess, my sole goal is to take readers on a road trip where I drive too damn fast, through terribly sketchy parts of town, with sinister-looking folks sitting menacingly silent in the backseat.
All of that seems like a perfectly reasonable ambition, but I wonder what that must say about me as a writer or even as a person. What is it that inspires me to write thrillers?
Undoubtedly, a degree of my motivation in writing thrillers comes from the frustrations and general helplessness of living in a world filled with evil. Whether you see it from the front window or in the computer screen, nobody has to go very far to witness the most unspeakable acts of villainy. If mystery is centered around “Who dunnit?” then the thriller is a morality tale focused on answering “Who’s gonna get it?” In a world where bad guys frequently don’t get anything but richer, there is something immensely satisfying in orchestrating a final act of retribution befitting a truly diabolical fiend—like, say, Blues Highway Blues’ Russian Mafioso, who wears the hero’s severed finger as a charm on a necklace.
At the same time, alhough the news is all too frequently dark and depressing; the day-to-day routine of life can still be a little, well, routine. I relish the fact that a good thriller can take a rainy Sunday afternoon and turn it into a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding joyride that leaves you too tired for Monday.
For me personally, however, I think my greatest motivation in writing thrillers comes from the opportunities for redemption that they offer. Like Daniel Erickson, my music promoter hero from Blues Highway Blues, I’m a man of good intentions who’s made (more than) his share of mistakes in life. I like to think that if it were all to hit the fan unexpectedly one day that I am strong enough to rise to whatever challenges might be put to me, that under the most extreme of circumstances I could become the man I’ve always wanted to be. The pages of a good thriller are a blue print to how such a transformation would be possible. And as a writer and reader that fills me with hope and makes me believe that although the road may be dark and twisty, it’s still best to sit back and enjoy the ride.