Saturday, July 25, 2015

Solving the Mystery of the Mystery Genres: A Fun Glossary of Terms

The 2nd Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest will take place August 14-16 at the island’s Marriott Beachside Hotel.

(Key West, FL). If you were to hear the words “hard-boiled” and “cozy” you might think they described a resort-town breakfast restaurant and not genre and sub-genre terms for mystery writing.
In less than a month, the resort town of Key West will be the backdrop for 20 world-class mystery writers here to clue you in on genre genius and other insider intelligence during the 2nd Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest, August 14-16. Below is a quick guide to just a few of the many genre possibilities and a sneak peek into some of the Fest authors who represent them.
Action/Adventure:  Usually categorized together, the protagonist takes a risky turn and typically journeys somewhere epic to accomplish their mission. 
* John H. Cunningham’s Buck Reilly series are against-the-odds stories set against the tropics—including Key West-with a hero we can relate to. 
The Classic Whodunit:  The crime itself is the most important element, and the figuring out of the puzzle is the main focus.
*Michael Haskins’ Key West Mysteries feature “Mad Mick” Murphy, a dark-deeds magnet who gets to the bottom of one mystery only to be pulled inexorably into the next. Murphy’s experience as a journalist is key to his puzzle-solving savvy. Shirrel Rhoades’ “Four Finger Four Minute Mysteries” blend classic mysteries with detective stories.
Comic:  Mystery fused with humor. Expect to laugh. 
*Publishers Weekly calls Don Bruns “Laugh-out-loud funny!” and his work has been described as the “Grown-up Hardy Boys.” David Beckwith and wife Nancy’s Will and Betsy Black series combines adventure with humor as two reluctant desk-jockey amateur sleuths plow their way through adventures and misadventures.
Cozy and Amateur Detective:  Small-town mystery where tension is laced with the possibility of betrayal; light on sex, violence and coarse language.
*While Robert Coburn spins out amateur detective thrillers, Sandra Balzo “puts a 21st century spin on the traditional cozy,” and Nancy J. Cohen, author of the “Bad Hair Days” series tells you how it’s done in her instructional guide, “Writing the Cozy Mystery.”
Conspiracy Thriller: A subgenre of thriller fiction often involving corrupt politicians and/or corporations.
*Laurence O’Bryan’s “Puzzle Series” are “electrifying conspiracy thrillers” that dive deep into research and history to support intricate plot twists.
Furry Sleuth:  The human may take the backseat, with a dog or cat key to solving the crime.
*James O. Born’s “Scent of Murder” is a buddy-team adventure that describes events from the perspectives of both Deputy Tim Hallett and his partner Rocky - a Belgian Malinois K-9 cop.
Forensic/Disabled: Features a protagonist who must use cool logic and intelligence and/or overcome a physical challenge to bring a criminal to justice.
*Award-winning and international bestseller Jeffery Deaver’s novel “The Bone Collector” encompasses all of the above in the tale of quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme and his forensic analysis-based pursuit of a serial killer.
PI/Spy: Stars an investigator who is not a police officer or agent of the government.
*Carolina Garcia-Aguilera is the multi-award winning author of the widely acclaimed Lupe Solano mystery series, which chronicle the adventures of the “sexy, scrappy” Miami-based, Cuban-American private investigator Solano; Chuck Van Soye is author of “Spy Mates,” the tale of a retired engineer whose new career path takes a surprising twist into an undercover world.
Hardboiled:  Gritty PI in a corrupt urban setting.
*Bestselling and award-winning author Libby Fischer Hellmann, a former Washington, DC, broadcast news editor, writes gritty crime fiction in her Georgia Davis PI series.
Noir: “No heroes. No happy Endings.”
*Key West’s Jonathon Woods pens noir with a satirical twist; Mike Dennis’s noir novel “The Take,” is a tale of ordinary people, “caught up in extraordinary circumstances and emotions,” and Vicki Hendricks’ “Voluntary Madness,” is tagged “…a noir erotica classic!”
Police Procedural: Depicts the processes of police agents and officers as they solve crimes.
*Former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent James O. Born uses his personal experience in crime investigation to fuel his mystery thrillers.
Supernatural: Add ghosts and a very strange crime.    
*Bestselling author Heather Graham has penned more than 100 novels in genres from romantic suspense to the occult. “The Cursed” is a supernatural mystery set in Key West, involving a long-haunted B&B, a murder, a B&B proprietor who segues into amateur sleuth, and the ghosts of deceased victims who help solve the crimes.
Suspense/Thriller: Sometimes lumped altogether, sometimes separated, in each type a character is trying to get at the truth of something, or prevent some bad thing from happening.  Typically, the protagonist is in danger, and in Suspense, only aware of it gradually though the reader sees it all along, biting their nails along the way. 
*Called “shiver-rich” and “red hot suspense” by Publishers Weekly, author Sharon Potts’s Miami-based thrillers are about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
Quest Thriller: The hero or hero’s leave ordinary life behind in pursuit of an epic or legendary prize.
*Chris Kuzneski’s “The Hunters” series follows an elite team of renegades as they seek to recover legendary lost treasures.
While each of the Fest authors has their distinct style and genre and often cross over to include other sub-genres in one story, they ALL offer narratives that twist and turn in convoluted ways to keep readers on their toes. No matter the genre - over a three-day weekend of panels, presentations and parties, open to authors, aspiring authors and non-writing mystery-buffs alike - the Mystery Writers Key West Fest authors will clue you in on how they actively engage their audience.
Event registration is $125 and is sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, The Florida Keys Council of the Arts and the Key West Citizen daily newspaper. For more information visit 

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