What’s a Thriller?

- by Patricia Rosemoor

Having just attended Thrillerfest in New York, I’m plagued once more by the question–what’s a thriller supposed to be? It’s only natural that I wonder since I think I write them myself.

StealingThunderRomantic suspense covers a multitude of crime novel possibilities–romance combined with mystery or with suspense or with thrills. Or with all three. The way I see it—the puzzle is the mystery, the creepy scenes the suspense, the chase and fight scenes the thrill. Using the first two pieces doesn’t obfuscate the third.

There was a time when thriller was synonymous with espionage. Then the cold war ended and thrillers went in other directions. A lot of directions. Psychological, romantic, religious, medical, legal, police procedural, paranormal, horror.

Why, then, when it comes to recognition, does it seem that the thriller as a genre is male dominated (despite the large number of women who write various forms of romantic suspense) and must sustain a lot of violence—or so it seems to me when I look at the list of ITW award nominees and winners for the third year in a row. I admit I was a judge last year, but not on the paperback panel where I expect most if not all RS entries would be found.  My claim that the RS writers are the red-headed stepchildren of the thriller world has been poo-pooed by many ITW writers.

Obviously the question remains…so, what is your definition of thriller?

One comments

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