News From Across The Pond – Thrills and Chills

Derek Thompson at one time swashed buckles for a living, before discovering that the pen(zance) is mightier than the sword

Derek of Penzance counting the number of spy thrillers he has written, mesmerizing the crew

According to the BBC, British readers are devouring psychological thrillersof all persuasions, from authors in the UK and North America. There could be many reasons for the genre’s popularity and here are some of my thoughts.

  1. A strong showing of female authors

It’s often been said that women buy more books than men, so it would seem logical (or intuitive, if you prefer) for women to enjoy a great read by someone who speaks to them. Not that authors are limited by gender or background, but all writers draw on personal experience – whether that be situations, emotions or characters. (Irritate or intimidate a thriller writer and you’ll likely wind up dead in a story somewhere – I’ve done that twice so far.)

 

  1. Psychological thrillers focus on individuals

Both protagonists and antagonists are usually finely drawn, flawed human beings. Perhaps we see ourselves in them; more likely, we see aspects of people we know. Who hasn’t raged at the car in front for not moving away fast enough, or wanted to serve summary justice to a bully?

 

  1. People love tension

Stress and release – we see it in stand-up comedy; first the set-up and then the punchline.  We ride the roller-coaster (well, you might but I’m a wuss with a full stomach), have our chills and spills, and then live to tell the tale. Thrillers take us into uncharted, albeit eagerly anticipated, territory. The creaking floorboard when no one is upstairs, the mysterious neighbour whose partner disappeared five years ago, the person out walking at night when a voice calls from up ahead… We read on, adrenaline and dopamine running through the pages like silken threads, pulling us deeper into the author’s malign world. We hope for heroics and we fear for safety.

 

  1. We live in uncertain times

Most thrillers make sense. There may be horrific violence, duplicity, and terror, but there will be some sort of logic underpinning it all. In real life we don’t always get to see behind the curtain to learn the causes of the effects we witness. A good book may provide escapism but it can also shed light on the outer world, re-examining topical themes and adding to debates of the time – such as crime and punishment, ill or will, or how to navigate the morally ambiguous challenges of the workplace or world politics.

 

As a spy fiction author, I try to play with the familiar structures and tropes of the genre. Given my love of Raymond Chandler, Thomas Bladen could easily have been a private detective instead. Only he had other ideas. Although much of the Spy Chaser series is set in London (in part because of the 2005 London Bombing that is the catalyst for Book 5, Flashpoint), my lead character hails from further north in Yorkshire. I wanted to place his upbringing somewhere that made him an outsider, giving him different take on London and its people, as well giving me another location for the action to take place.

It seems that the publishing industry itself is also looking to diversifyaway from London. In the end, we need more voices and different voices, whether that’s in the industry, from authors themselves, or on the page / screen.

A Word with You Press has been ahead of that particular curve since its inception. An open door, a global outlook and a willingness to enter into debate, challenge and exploration all make us a strong and vibrant writing community.

When you’re next looking for a book, or want to recommend an author or publishing service, please think of us.

 

Derek Thompson is a British author with some North American sensibilities. He writes about Thomas Bladen and his work for the UK’s Surveillance Support Unit.

You can find out about his books here:

https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Thompson/e/B0034ORY08

He’s also on Twitter – @DerekWriteLines

8 comments

  1. Avatar
    Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    …and two of the best in the field: Josephine Tey and Ellis Peters. To read them is to be gifted, in one seamless experience–great entertainment and a master class in the craft of fine writing

    • Derek Thompson

      I think it’s a really exciting time to be a writer (and a reader too!). There is far greater access to an audience, numerous opportunities to share ideas, and you can enter the market at virtually nil cost.

  2. Avatar

    rather taxing…that is to say, Derek chose to post this on April 15th, tax day in the Colonies, ironic for a Brit to do as it was taxes that compelled us to begin the noble experiment in democracy whose crowning achievement (irony–crowning? monarchy?) is Donald Trump. I have read Stand Point., the pirated version he gave me a while back when I visited Derek and Anne in Penzance. The lad can write! Anyone who leaves a review on Amazon and buys a book will automatically be entered as a finalist in our current contest. Anyone who buys all five, especially if they entered the contest, is a guaranteed winner.

    • Derek Thompson

      Thank you for the ovation, Thorn. And also for reminding me that I have two get my own tax return together, with no fiction therein!
      A Word with You Press has given me confidence as a writer, as well as publication in the Coffee Shop Chronicles anthology. Wherever we are – and whoever we are – if you cut our quills do we not bleed ink?

        • Derek Thompson

          It’s an interesting debate, Sarah – art versus commerce. I’d propose that there are compromises to be made if we want to meet the needs of an audience, unless we are fortunate enough to hit the spot for the audience, right off the bat, because they and we are on the same wavelength. I think that art and commerce are often reconciled (peaceably or painfully) during the editing process. There’s some truth in the adage that the first draft is for ourselves and then every other draft is for the publisher and the reader. Maybe it all comes down to how we see ourselves – artist, commercial writer, and all points in between.

  3. Avatar
    Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    Writing as a lady who is your devoted friend & grateful for the news updates you afford me to the lands I actually love first namely the UK & your artistry of quill with chills second, let me congratulate you on your several successful launches. Your genre requires logic, that narrow line between revealing too much & too little, passions that humans are inherent to & character likabilities while remaining original & realistic as to how such operatives covertly proceed. Thus, your genre is a mosaic carefully placed together. Look at one tile close up & the answer is not there, but back away at a distance & the picture becomes clear. I am a fan.

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